It’s time to reevaluate our view of school dances

PROM QUEEN AND POPULARITY, but at what cost? Carrie

Brooklyn Staab | Opinion Editor & Publicity Manager 

September 19, 2021 

Defined in classic teen movies that we’ve all seen—She’s All that, Carrie, Geek Charming, Mean Girls, and so many more—Homecoming and prom queen are titles that hold great significance, supposedly showcasing the girl the school admires most. Even in movies where the characters may not care so much about the title itself, school dances commonly mark a larger metaphorical moment in teens’ lives, as seen in movies such as Perks of Being a Wallflower and 10 Things I Hate About You. But what is it about these school dances and plastic crowns that carry so much weight in our social lives? 

School dances, though admittedly fun for many, hold such a large impact due to immense societal expectations. With constant reminders that our high school years are fleeting, there is no wonder why teens are hyper-focused on having the perfect dress and perfect date, right? We only have four tries to “get it right,” and even less for most current high schoolers due to the pandemic. There is an undeniable pressure put on students to go out and have the absolute time of their lives on these four homecoming nights.  

But what about those who don’t fit in? Would spending time with a bunch of people who you don’t like, or who don’t like you, be worth it? Objectively, no.

Thus comes the desire to be well-liked, and, perhaps, even the most admired at school. Winning that crown—which represents all the fame and glory amongst peers—would probably make one of these four nights perfect in the moment. 

As a whole, students care so much about high school popularity because almost all people possess an inherent desire to be liked. Who really wants to be hated, anyway? Maybe Kat in 10 Things I Hate About You, but that’s besides the point. As humans, we want to belong, and we want to win. The desire to win homecoming queen makes sense when viewed from this perspective. 

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER Prom Scene from High School Musical. Disney

So many of us are victims of romanticizing those before-mentioned movies.

High School Musical, a series that shaped high school expectations for many of us growing up, emphasized what was supposedly most significant in high school. In the final movie, titled A Night to Remember, the setting is—surprise!—centered around prom.

When you think of prom, you might think of Mean Girls and the value attributed to the school’s “Spring Fling.” In this more popular example, the movie’s entire plot revolves around popularity, symbolized by the Spring Fling crown. Cady, the sweet, smart protagonist who is corrupted by her popular yet rotten friends, confronts the greed and shallowness behind the desire for a silly, plastic crown. Ultimately, she breaks the crown into pieces.

As corny as it may sound, the movies we hoped to live up to as young children—especially for young girls—continues to affect our perceptions of high school today, explaining why so many care about our approaching homecoming court.

“It’s difficult because as girls we spend so much time getting ready and prepping days, even weeks before,” senior Sophie Vollebregt said. “We get our hair, nails, and makeup done just to look good for a quick picture or to impress our dates if we have one.”

In addition to the idealized standard set by childhood movies, social media has added to the toxic expectations of what we should look like, how we should dress, and so on. 

Heavily inspired by social media influencers, taking photos has become more about creating “the perfect Instagram post,” and not just capturing a memory. The stereotypical school dance pressure, therefore, intensifies. Not only will our school be seeing what we look like, but these meticulously chosen pictures will be permanently showcased online as well.

Most SCHS students cluster at Pines Park and attempt to get perfect snapshots of the event, and sadly, many students find it incredibly nerve-racking. “I get super worried about how I look in other people’s pictures,” Vollebregt said.

“It is hard enough to exist on social media, being overwhelmed by the same body type being praised, and everyone else hiding away,” senior Bethany Padilla said. “But, when dances come around, everyone around you creates a massive anxiety over whose dress will be the most unique, and potentially the most expensive. As a low-income student, it is always a struggle to find a dress that I like for my body type that won’t cost me an arm and a leg.” 

So, as the top fifteen is announced and homecoming pressure builds, we shouldn’t go into panic mode about how we look. Instead, we should embrace ourselves and our friends who support us unconditionally. 

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