Thursday, 1 June 2017

The Mythology of the Prom


There comes a time in every self respecting teen movie's life when the main character is going to have to go to prom. This is a big deal. Or not, depending on who we are following. But prom is a big deal to somebody or we wouldn't keep getting the obligatory prom scene chucked in to every teen movie. What is so mystical about this one night? The night when you can definitely lose your virginity, or the one night you're all on a level playing field, because let's be real, everyone looks just as ridiculous as each other. There's no such thing as brands when it comes to prom dresses, you either all buy from the same store in town or you get a weirdly shaped one off ebay and call it a night. The obsession surrounding the night can only have been heightened by what we see in the movies, was there really so much emphasis put on this one night before? Prom is a pretty new phenomenon in the UK, we just had school discos for a long time, but like Halloween we've been lathered into a frenzy over this decidedly American tradition.

Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II
The biggest draw of the prom scene is the ability for film makers to inject a sense of excitement into a movie without even having to do anything. As soon as prom is announced you know a) there's going to be some good dresses and b) there will be drama. It's a given that a prom has never ended as sweetly as the characters in the film have dreamed. Prom is about settling scores, getting laid and possibly maiming or murdering along the way.

This is no better realised in Jawbreaker, as long suffering bff and like, totally misunderstood popular girl Julie realises that she can take down queen bee Courtney, free the school of her tyrannical rule AND absolve herself of murder in the time it takes to put a crown on Courtney's perfectly coiffed updo. And what a spectacular fall from grace it is. As the most popular girl in school is exposed the fantasy curtain for the whole entire spectral hierarchy of teenage popularity is torn down for that brief moment before another girl can take Courtney's place. The resulting breakdown and shunning of her peers is not only satisfying but slightly terrifying. There's nothing worse than not fitting in.

Isn't that what we all strive for in the end? Even the most unconventional end up at the prom. The Lacey's, the Kat's, the weird Shakespeare girl. For one night only get your picture taken as a princess.

The Loved Ones
Sometimes the need to have a perfect night can be too much pressure for one person. You know how the best nights out are the ones that just end up with you drinking a pitcher of woo-woo in wetherspoons dancing to literally no music, rather than the hen do that's taken five months to organise? Now you see where I'm coming from. In The Loved Ones poor, deranged Lola is so desperate for that perfect prom that she's forced to recreate it at home, an outcast at school it's only in the safety of her own home that she can guarantee she will be prom queen, even if it means abducting a few prom dates here and there. The reliving of this night isn't even a rare occurrence. In Never Been Kissed Josie repeats an entire year of high school to change her fate, stranded and covered in egg on prom night. To be fair, her dress was not hip at all.

Never Been Kissed
In her quest to be popular, to not be the hideous outcast she manipulates an entire student body, and even kids on a teacher that he's in love with a high school student. It's the kind of wild immaturity that would see someone decide to go back to school, but it's reflected through a much more wholesome prism in Romy and Michele's High School Reunion. Despite the duo's infectious optimism that on prom night they will no longer be fat or weird, it takes them ten years to finally make the popular kids eat it. Romy and Michele show that every dog has it's day, and what is a high school reunion other than an extension of the prom? Hook up with your high school crush, marriages are void once you're back at school.

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion
Let's not forget that prom can be terrifying. Your senior prom is your last blow out before college. The jocks will be rendered useless as explained perfectly by Trent McNeely in Can't Hardly Wait, the nerds will have their day. This is the last night of these girl's lives that they will ever fancy someone under the age of twenty, and everyone knows it. 

Mean Girls
Prom night will make or break friendships and that is a fact. In Mean Girls Cady says the tiara is "just a piece of plastic" but that's not quite right, is it? This has never been about a piece of plastic, this is about social standing, dining out on being a princess for the summer, something to help you get into a sorority at college. Only the most fortunate can say the crown is meaningless. It means everything. 

Teen Witch
In Teen Witch Louise is nothing but horrible to her best pal Polly, and this never gets resolved, not even at prom, where Louise is carried off on the stronghold of popularity as Polly is left in the dust to wonder what went wrong. I used to hate that ending, but now it just seems like the movie is telling you the truth about your highschool friendships. You can pretend to be whoever you want to at prom, but where does it end? At the kegger? At graduation? On your wedding day? Life is just full of constant days to look forward to, and really maybe prom is just preparing us for this endless cycle of glitter and bitterness. Maybe Polly is the true winner, as she is able to let go.

Robyn is one half of Bimbo Movie Bash, an avid fan of Angel Delight and a Pee Wee apologist.

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