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She once wore a dress made of raw meat to the MTV Video Music Awards. Then there was her arrival at the Grammys inside a giant egg. But fashion has never been about mere clothes for the pop star. Lady Gaga has always veered toward symbolism. The meat dress was a political statement about LGBTQ+ discrimination in the army. The egg was a “vessel” meant to represent “creative, embryonic incubation.”
What, then, did the oversize golden bird brooch practically flying off her jacket at Wednesday’s inauguration mean? The artist and Twitter held diametrically opposed views.
Online, people had plenty of opinions. But the one that gathered strength as the day went on was that the brooch bore a striking resemblance to the mockingjay pin from the “Hunger Games” franchise.
we’re missing one of our mockingjay pins, has anybody seen it?
— The Hunger Games 🔥 (@TheHungerGames) January 20, 2021
One problem: Mockingjays were created as a result of the failure of an authoritarian regime. Hence, “Hunger Games” protagonist Katniss Everdeen’s mockingjay pin becomes a sign of rebellion against the Capitol. Not a tribute to government power.
The confusion resulted in a cascade of clarifications. "We’re missing one of our mockingjay pins, has anybody seen it?" tweeted the official "Hunger Games" account. The internet concurred: This definitely looked like the mockingjay pin, they thought.
Gaga, however, was going for quite the opposite vibe. Her interpretation stems from much farther back, in biblical times, when Christian beliefs stated that God sent Noah a dove with an olive branch as a message of peace and forgiveness.
"A dove carrying an olive branch," the "Rain on Me" singer wrote in a caption of a photo depicting the brooch. "May we all make peace with each other."
The brooch itself was part of a Schiaparelli couture getup comprising a simple black jacket with a scarlet volume skirt. Daniel Roseberry, the designer of the outfit, shared sketches of the pieces, including the brooch in question. "Oversized gold dove of peace brooch," he scrawled next to the sleek design.
Far from a symbol of resistance (perhaps against the former administration?), it appears that Gaga and Roseberry had intended the dove as a peace offering—a symbol of harmony and friendship.
The accessory echoed one worn by the new White House chief of staff, Ron Klain. At the White House today, he wore a half-red, half-blue face mask with "Unity!" emblazoned on each side.
Spotted at the White House: Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff, sporting a unity mask. It’s the message of the day. pic.twitter.com/n1r3DPCGW5
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) January 20, 2021
"It’s the message of the day," PBS White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor remarked on Twitter.
But not all of America is on board with that message in the wake of the attack on the Capitol by pro-Trump extremists on Jan. 6. Gaga's brooch may have misread public sentiment, not unlike her "rural voter" video appeal just before the Nov. 3 election.
— Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) October 31, 2020
On Wednesday's episode of the New York Times' podcast "The Daily," Brian Keane, a Biden supporter, framed the sentiment to host Michael Barbaro in the form of a rhetorical question. "In order to build unity, I think we have to kind of almost break some of the notions that we assume, which is, 'What is unity?'" Keane said. "Because, quite frankly, to some folks, unity sounds like weakness right now. 'Oh, you know what, we're not going to have unity. How can I stand there with people who have, quite frankly, stood and watched people invade the U.S. Capitol."
"Or incited them," Barbaro added.
"There has to be a punishment first, before we can just be unified. People need to be held accountable before you can say, 'Everything's OK.' And I think that's true whether someone's 5 years old and they broke a window. You can't just say, 'Hey, no, it's OK.' You have to actually show that, no — you have to actually fix the problem before you can say, 'Hey, you're never going to do it again.'"
Less than a week after the violent mob attacked the Capitol, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors-Brignac gave a more direct call to action on Instagram. "No unity without accountability," she said. "End white supremacy now."
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.