Whether it was a wonderful experience or a terrible one, if you went to your high school senior prom, I am sure that it was a night to remember. For so many teenagers the prom is the highlight of high school. It is the one thing so many students look forward to. Many see it as a rite of passage into adulthood. For Amy L. Best, the author of "Prom Night: Youth, Schools, and Popular Culture", the prom is a perfect opportunity to explore teen identity and individuality. It is also a place to look at how this event speaks so much about today's kids.
Proms today have changed; they are much more upscale events. They no longer are held in school gymnasiums, but rather in luxury hotels, fancy catering halls, or high class country/beach clubs. They have multi-course sit down meals and are entertained by music professionals. Students no longer borrow their parents' cars; instead they rent lavish cars or limousines. Even the dress is more extravagant, boys rent tuxedos and girls spent a fortune on the perfect dress which is usually an evening gown. Proms are not just a one night thing anymore either. After the prom is over, some students set off to a weekend of celebrating. The weekend is unsupervised and involves both males and females. For some, it is the first time going away without their families.
Amy Best interviews numerous teens about their prom experiences. To better understand today's teens, she looks at the popular media, finding that the prom is an industry in itself. There are magazines dedicated to preparing for the prom and movies and television shows whose themes are prom-oriented. Clothing stores and services (limousines, hair stylists, nail salons, etc.) that also join in on the prom market.
While the prom is often played down, many high school students take it very seriously. For some the prom is a place of struggle, personal and public. It is too often that we hear stories of students being excluded from their prom because of whom they choose to romanticize with. This is common for inter-racial couples and same-sex couples. These students often do not go to their prom, or as with gay teens, have begun setting up "alternate proms." Proms have become more than just a night to dress up and take pictures. It is now a place and time for students to "work through their understanding of authority, social class, gender norms, and multicultural schooling."
There are many themes presented in this book. I will do my best to talk about all of them. I will discuss the popular culture of proms, the fashion involved, the romancing at the prom, proms as sites of social control, race in school presented at the prom, and those who contest the prom.
Fashion definitely plays a huge part in the prom for both girls and boys, more so though for the girls. Best mentions in chapter three that the prom "belongs to the feminine." There are usually high expectations for girls to express their utmost femininity. Girls prepare for the prom weeks, sometimes months...