High school students ready for their prom.
When I was in my final year of secondary school, we had what was the British equivalent at the time of a prom, a dinner dance. We all got dressed up, although the dress code was somewhat confused. Most girls opted for some kind of elegant evening dress but others were more casual (although a close friend of mine hired a seventeenth century style dress and looked like something out of Marie Antoinette!). In fact, that dress was the most memorable part of the occasion. We were driven in a coach to a country club, where we ate a lacklustre meal and after dancing for a bit to a fairly dire DJ, we sat outside and chatted.
This was just over ten years ago; today, proms are a much bigger business. Its season is short, only lasting for four weeks between mid-June and mid-July but it was worth £80 million last year. Considering the UK is still in the grips of a recession, this seems like an extravagant cost.
So what has happened in the ten years between my dinner dance and the new prom season? We could point the finger at the continuing rise of celebrity culture. Dr Caroline Schuster, a chartered psychologist, believes that the appeal of a red carpet prom comes not just from US sitcoms and reality shows but a wider world where young girls measure their lives against those of celebrities. They want to experience that fantasy world, even if it’s just for one night.
Personally, I think having some kind of celebration when you finish secondary school is important; it’s a chance to spend time with your friends before you start to drift apart to college or work and to celebrate the end of an important part of every teenager’s life. But is such extravagance over the top? It encourages the near-worship of celebrity and material culture that reduces a person’s worth entirely to how much they are able to spend. Is this really the message we want to be giving teenagers before they enter the working world?
Girl Museum Inc.