Bring on prom! Rainbow Prom signals beginning of overall prom season
Bring on the glitter! And the punch! And the plastic, ivy-wrapped columns of questionable balance! Bring on the ill-fitting tuxedoes and Instagrammable up-dos! Bring on the Cha-Cha Slide!
Yes, bring on prom!
Sure, it’s only February and high school prom season — because there is a high school prom season — is more than a month away. But with the fifth annual Rainbow Prom being held Saturday, Feb. 18, at Mesa Theater and kicking off the overall prom season, it’s time to ponder an important question: Why is prom such a big deal?
For many who attend Rainbow Prom, whose theme this year is “Mad Max,” this prom is a big deal because they finally get to attend with the person they want, regardless of gender, which they might not have been able to do the first time around, explained Jon Williams, treasurer of Colorado West Pride, which sponsors Rainbow Prom.
“Even five years ago, there wasn’t much opportunity to bring who they wanted to prom,” Williams said, “so it’s important, especially for people who came out later in life, to come and have a prom with the person they want.”
Which starts to get at the idea of prom as the dance in popular culture, one of the quintessential experiences in high school and on the road to adulthood.
“Understanding proms and the different ways that they are organized, experienced, and defined requires that we look at them as more than fleeting moments in the history of kids’ lives,” wrote Amy L. Best, a professor of sociology at George Mason University, in “Prom Night: Youth, Schools and Popular Culture.” “The prom is a space in which teens made sense of what it means to be young in culture today, negotiate the process of schooling, solidify their social identities, and struggle against the structural limits in which they find themselves.”
Proms even have become a place for students to explore youth politics, Best added, as there have been instances of students pushing to attend with a date of the same gender, or to see other cultures besides white culture represented in the music that is played.
“Located at the intersection of school, commercial, and youth cultures, proms are contentious spaces wherein kids work through central issues surrounding questions of authority, class, diversity, sexuality, and romance,” Best wrote.
Consider this advice from Parents magazine in 1935: “Young people have to learn gracious manners and social good taste just as they have to learn anything else, and well managed school dances and parties provide excellent opportunities for practice.”
For myriad reasons, prom became and remains a very big deal. Consider how it factors into popular culture, particularly movies. On screen, a lot of big things happen at the prom, and may go a long way toward explaining why one dance is such a big deal. For example:
Who is attending prom? Carrie White, a high school misfit with a psychotic mother, a heartbreakingly limited understanding of human physiology and a knack for telekinesis.
But why is prom such a big deal? Because even if you are there with the cutest boy in school, and you’ve got your dirty pillows managed, there’s still time to teach people a valuable object lesson about being nice.
“Pretty in Pink” (1986)
Who is attending prom? Andie Walsh, a creatively attired record store employee from the wrong side of the tracks who won’t let the stupidly named Blane or any of his cruel rich friends break her.
But why is prom such a big deal? Because when else in life can you promenade with a kid named Duckie in a shapeless pink flour sack of your own design? Carpe prom-inum!
Who is attending prom? Bella Swan, the human equivalent of ZzzQuil, and Edward Cullen, a 97-year-old pathological starer.
But why is prom so important? Because what could be a more dramatic setting for your date to refuse to turn you into a vampire, while another vampire is staring all squinty-eyed from the woods and plotting revenge?
“Prom Night” (1980, 2008)
Who is attending prom? Kim, the sister of a girl cruelly taunted out a window so she fell to her death, and Nick, one of the kids cruelly doing the taunting, respectively.
But why is prom so important? Because the rainbow lights glinting off the disco ball really add a sense of sparkle to the ski mask-wearing, ax-wielding killer intent on revenge.
Who is attending prom? A bunch of dim-bulbs who probably should spend more time on calculus than prom, honestly, including Julie Taylor (OK, it’s actually Aimee Teegarden playing someone named Nova, but she played Julie Taylor on “Friday Night Lights” and Julie is The Worst).
But why is prom so important? Because what better place to act like a petulant brat and have a disproportionate reaction to a broken decorative fountain than at prom?
“She’s All That” (1999)
Who is attending prom? Laney, an art nerd who is truly, Superfund-site hideous until she takes off her glasses, at which point she becomes beautiful, and Zack, who is an animate plop of mashed potatoes.
But why is prom so important? Because how else will you realize how much you love mashed potatoes until you attend prom with said mashed potatoes’ weasely friend and have to air horn him when he attempts assault? Youthful hijinks!
“10 Things I Hate About You” (1999)
Who is attending prom? Kat, a grouch who gives feminism a bad name and hinders her sister’s social opportunities, and Patrick, a boy familiar with the oeuvre of Frankie Valli.
But why is prom so important? Because it really is the perfect place to have absurd misunderstandings that could be cleared up with about two seconds of human conversation, as well as prove that iconoclasts such as Patrick will not be pressured into social conventions like hair brushing.
“Never Been Kissed” (1999)
Who is attending prom? Josie Geller, a grown woman (and alleged newspaper copy editor with her own office and assistant; LOL, says everyone who has ever worked at a newspaper) gone undercover at a high school who finally gets redemption for the trauma of her first prom night.
But why is prom so important? Because sometimes you just need a big stage to exact a come-uppance on the mean girls and declare your feelings for the English teacher.