The Student News Site of Buckingham Browne & Nichols School

The Vanguard

The Student News Site of Buckingham Browne & Nichols School

The Vanguard

The Student News Site of Buckingham Browne & Nichols School

The Vanguard

Let’s reinvent prom for the 21st century

Drawing by Sherry Ren

Teenagers often experience prom for the first time through the television screen. Whether through comedies like “Senior Year,” horror films like “Carrie,” or the arguably more frightening TV show “Euphoria,” we are rarely introduced to the tradition through our own experience. As a result, pop culture has cemented a very traditional image of what prom should be in our heads—one that is gendered, outdated, and in desperate need of a contemporary transformation. Some may argue that prom’s traditions are integral to its longevity, but we might consider whether giving people more freedom to break tradition would foster a more modern, inclusive, and exciting prom.

During the weeks leading up to prom, when anticipation builds and rumors fly, there are a lot of boxes that need to be checked in order to have a movie-like experience. The gendered, time-honored traditions of prom, for those who identify as boys, are renting a tuxedo, ordering a corsage and conceiving the perfect pun for their promposal (an objective that many sorely failed at this year, a glance at the class of 2023 promposal Instagram will reveal). For those who identify as girls, the weeks before prom are devoted to selecting that dream-like worthy-of-a-high-schoolmusical-character dress, trying to walk in high heels, or wondering if they will be the sorry recipient of a terrible “perfect” pun.

But, for those who consider themselves members of the LGBTQIA+ community, there exist no such traditions. Also, people from families with lower incomes often cannot participate in these traditions, which demand that they cough up upwards of $200 for a dress or tuxedo. Upon closer examination, prom traditions exclude people who don’t conform to gender norms or fit the profile of a well-to-do student at the school.

In other words, the 1800s called, they want their prom back!

It’s time to acknowledge that these heteronormative traditions troublingly associated with the movie-like ideal prom are outdated. Prom is long overdue for a 21st-century upgrade; the “boy” shouldn’t have to ask the “girl” and we shouldn’t feel pressure to go with someone of the opposite sex. Forget about binary gender and binary dress! It’s high time that we support classmates if they want to reject the dress or tuxedo, boy or girl, and corsage or boutonniere dichotomies. For it to actually deliver the happiness movies promise, prom should have all the pomp and circumstance it has historically demanded, but none of the heteronormative-reinforcing requirements.

Prom, at its best, should be a place for people to enjoy time with their friends and have fun outside of the academic environment. Although prom might not be the place where students find their lifelong partner or make a memory so vivid that it’s burned into their skull, its purpose is to serve as a fun time to kick back, relax, and dance with peers. In some respects, it’s already a judgment-free zone, where kids can break out their worst dance moves and miraculously be cheered on by the crowd. Therefore, it’s an ideal setting for breaking traditions, not upholding them, and it should be a time to celebrate your identity, not alter it.

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