So, as we discuss often on this blog, there are many things at play on red carpets for grownups. Some celebrities have spokesperson relationships; some are making bids to set trends; some are quietly promoting the image of their latest work (see: Rooney Mara surrounding Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and some are surreptitiously trying out for parts down the road (see: the half-dozen blonde actresses who walked red carpets this year dressed like Veronica Lake). And it’s important: nail or bomb the Golden Globes or the Emmys or, above all, the Oscars, and that outfit will have a long tail that you may or may not want. Occasional red carpet walkers are genuinely stylish, and you can see that, too.
But then there are red carpets like the MTV Movie Awards, where attendees’ outfits are separated less by the success of the fashion than by how seriously their images need to be leveraged for a demographic whose awards categories include Best Kiss and Best Fight (or as the Oscars usually call them, Best Production Design and Best Sound Editing).
And things got pretty serious! For some weird and Machiavellian values of serious. Values of serious that Kerry Washington cannot even believe are ruining her actually-amazing dress.
(I am not actually sure why Kerry Washington was there, though I appreciate how hard she’s working this pretty awesome cut. If you’re going to go with a high-low hem, GO WITH IT, I guess? I don’t know if that’s good advice for everyone, but I really love it here.)
Kerry, the MTV Movie Awards equivalent of Dame Helen Mirren, is sort of in a class by herself. The other divisions are sorted by the directions given to the stylists by the publicists and managers of these famous people who generally still aren’t old enough to rent cars by themselves.
DIVISION ALPHA: Movie or mostly-movie stars who have been prevailed upon to show up; often promoting a project, occasionally just in it to attend what’s probably a hilarious afterparty.
Zoe Saldana, looking more formal than most of the dresses here, while still showing more leg than almost any of them. That’s some skill.
Melissa McCarthy, in a slick black pantsuit and rocker boots that she seems to like a lot more than her red-carpet standard, making me wish it was more standard to have pants on the red carpet.
Edide Redmayne, whose Blue Steel look here literally made me laugh out loud even before I got to the part where someone handed him a chambray shirt and said, “No no, this won’t look dated at all in three years, just put it on!”
Chloe Moretz, who thinks that dress is a lot funnier than I think it is.
Quvenzhané Wallis, in perfect-for-this-carpet sneakers, carrying the cat purse she saves for casual occasions.
DIVISION BETA: They’re on an MTV show or recently starred in an MTV Studios feature film that has traction with young people. They should look really good! Fancy but youthful, sexy but classy. They are tentpoles of the MTV scripted-drama brand, and should look extremely employable.
Crystal Reed, looking as though she carelessly tore away the long skirt of a ballgown and was left with only this coltish yes lovely cocktail number. Good Girl chic.
Anna Camp, Girl Good Grown Up, in an outfit that would not look out of place at the Emmy Nominees Brunch. That’s on purpose.
Brittany Snow, in a cocktail dress with thousand-dollar shoulders and five-dollar fabric.
Holland Roden, who wanted to look sexy but not TOO sexy, in a great black dress, killer jewelry, and shoes that look like she stubbed her toes on the Marshmallow Curb on her way in.
Jordana Brewster, who looks confused to be here. Is Dallas secretly an MTV show? They do kiss in the rain a lot, but there are hardly ever party scenes. Mystery remains!
Hana Mae Lee, worried her picture wouldn’t get taken, going for broke.
DIVISION GAMMA: Reality TV stars, who always know their job more than people think they do, and dress accordingly.
RuPaul, looking amazing in a silver lamé suit, because of course RuPaul looks amazing, with an extra dose of subverted expectations that I enjoy.
Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, who’s apparently famous enough to be lent a dress, but not famous enough to be allowed to hem it.
DIVISION TREBLE: Musicians! MTV sometimes remembers to invite some.
Kylie Minoque, in a dress from Thunderdome’s Etsy store, looking game for everything.
Ke$ha, who spent weeks holding up up a picture of Diane Keaton in Annie Hall and a picture of Janis Joplin, looking at one and then the other. “God,” she thought, “what can I do? If only there was some sorcery that could combine them in a way that’s not appealing in the least, and then top it off with the most amazing laquer lipstick ever seen?” Yes, Ke$ha, dreams can come true.
Macklemore, having accepted an invitation MTV will probably regret in five years, in an outfit he will probably regret sooner than that.
And Selena Gomez, who has navigated her professional image with Atreides-level under-the-radar PR, emerging from the very last of her teen-idol days in a glitzy mini, hair punky yet polished, and hundred-inch heels, because she is DONE with Wizards of Waverly Place, and she is DONE with teen romance, and whatever she’s doing next, based on this outfit, you are probably not going to be able to handle it but will also be paying money to find out what it is, and if that’s not the spirit of the MTV Movie Awards, I don’t know what is.