Can someone please explain to me why we, as a society, continue to support the myth of Prom as Profound Teenage Milestone? Take the new Disney movie PROM (yep, that's the whole title and, yep, it's in ALL CAPS), for example, which couldn't paint a dreamier picture of the tradition if Cinderella showed up in an enchanted carriage to be crowned prom queen. Are teenage girls still falling for this crap? Did they ever?
In the trailer for PROM, we're introduced to the usual cast of characters: The shaggy-haired heartthrob with a motorcycle who's too cool for school (and/or school dances), the heart-on-his-sleeve nerd who'll try every stunt in the book to get a date, the baby-faced blond ingenue who just wants one magical night ("Graduation is for the parents ... prom is really just for us," she explains thoughtfully to the camera).
It's all very sweet and harmless, but is anyone's prom either sweet or harmless? I can only assume that the target demographic for PROM isn't even in high school yet -- I'm thinking only tweens could still be starry-eyed enough to watch this propaganda (prom-a-ganda?) without gagging. It's like the prom issue of Seventeen magazine: When we were in junior high (I'm sorry, middle school), my friends and I pored over every page of that annual glossy as if we were cramming for a test. We even convinced our mothers to drive us to Lord & Taylor so we could try on our favorite styles, all for a dance that was still years away. By the time our actual prom rolled around, the quest for the perfect dress had taken a backseat to, well, the quest for the perfect backseat. That was if we were even romantically interested in our dates to begin with.
Believe it or not, the most authentic prom scene I can think of in recent cinematic history is the one at the end of Twilight. Okay, Bella's date is definitely a fantasy, but at least she's openly uncomfortable with the "rite of passage," as Edward puts it. No wonder she's ready to give up her humanity by the last dance.
What do you think prom means to teens today?
Image via YouTube