I had no idea my high school prom had impacted my entire life. Other than a fair amount of mocking by my kids after they accidentally saw pictures of me in my powder blue tuxedo and platform shoes, I’ve never given my prom a second thought. But with the release of Disney’s new movie, Prom, perhaps I should. Is it possible that prom choices made more than 30 years ago have altered the course of my life?
Opening worldwide on April 29th, Prom attempts to elevate the annual dance into a predictor of the success or failure of a student’s future—screw up the Prom, who you go with and how you ask, and you are destined for a life of failure and misery. As the film’s trailer ominously points out, “It’s not about a dance. It’s about who you are and who you are going to be.”
Prom continuously asks the uncomfortable question, “Who are you going with?” It is an important question because, for better or worse, in Prom’s fictional Brookside High School Community, the answer defines you.
As the big dance approaches, the pressure builds. For not only is it important who you ask, how you ask is also a matter of school-wide scrutiny. Under that intense pressure, some relationships are smothered and some ignite. The characters, almost single-mindedly, search for the right date and then stress about how to create the right “ask.”
The intense lead up to the dance is meant to be a sobering metaphor for the teenagers’ unsteady passage from high school to independence. The metaphor is a bit strained, of course. But, maybe that’s the point.
Through the perspective obtained by time and distance, we are able to see how silly all of this is. High school is about more than the prom, of course. And there is little if anything that ties the events surrounding the prom to anything but the prom itself. We all know the absurdity of believing any of this has even the slightest bearing on life beyond the tiny universe of high school. But the characters haven’t yet learned that lesson.
The central story line in Prom is about a classic Type A personality, high achiever and her chance encounter with the high school ne’er-do-well. Nova Prescott (Aimee Teegarden), head of the Prom Committee is locked in a battle of wills as she finds herself attracted to Jesse Richter (Thomas McDonell), the outsider and the one person at Brookside who cares nothing about the prom or its greater significance. Through a series of unfortunate events, Nova and Jesse are forced to work together to save the prom. Not surprisingly, their natural animosity eventually turns to romance.
Other seniors face varying amounts of the disappointment, insecurity, and anticipation that surround one of high school’s most important events. The interwoven stories all come together at the prom and, of course, little turns out as expected.
But why focus so much attention on a high school prom?
“The initial idea was to tell an authentic version of teenage life in high school that wasn’t centered on dancing or singing or the pursuit of a sports championship,” explains Producer Justin Springer. “We wanted a character movie set in high school that is comedic and dramatic at the same time—just like high school is. We decided that by centering the story on prom, the big event became a magnifier that allows teenage emotions to come out.”
Yes, we get it: Prom is NOT High School Musical.
It is true that the film has no singing, dancing or quests for sports championships. Whether that is enough to make it “an authentic version of teenage life in high school” will be for you to decide.
Personally, I think a few powder blue tuxedos would have helped.
Contributed by: John Marchese (NDD#172) John is the DDL Media Relations Blogger.