‘The Prom’: an oversimplified lesson on love and acceptance

January 10, 2021 — by Anjali Nuggehalli and Cici Xu

“Build a prom for everyone! Show them all it can be done!” Emma, played by actress Jo Ellen Pellman, sings while proudly looking at her date Alyssa, played by new star actress Ariana DeBose.

The couple dances and sings in an “inclusive prom” — a celebration earned through Emma and Alyssa’s courage in claiming ownership of their true selves.

“The Prom,” a newly streamed musical and comedy on Netflix, shines light on the LGBTQ+ community while challenging outdated cultural beliefs and highlighting the need for society to move forward, truly embracing American ideals of equality. 

The musical aims to bring awareness to the global issue of LGBTQ+ inclusion as it depicts the story of Emma, a teenage girl in Indiana, who struggles to fit into her highly conservative town. After her high school’s prom is canceled, due to the PTA refusing to allow a lesbian couple into the dance, a group of Broadway stars team up with Emma to build an inclusive prom.

But the musical’s 57 percent on rotten tomatoes reveals its underlying problems. While some audiences praise the musical for its over-the-top style and promising message, some find the musical and the representation of certain populations offensive. 

The musical never fails to keep its audience engaged with its glittery costumes and a grandiose cast, including actresses Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman, actor Andrew Rannellsand actor and comedian James Corden. 

Moreover, the film creates a sense of unity when the actors dance uniformly, which adds relatability and allows the audience to experience the joyful atmosphere.  

The intriguing glamour, however, is too fragile to cover up the musical’s flaws. Even though the message behind “The Prom'' attempts to empower the LGBTQ+ community, the execution of the musical  is unrealistic, oversimplified and superficial. 

For example, in the musical number of “Love Thy Neighbor,” Broadway star Trent Oliver persuades a group of conservative teenagers to support members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

This scene came with heavy criticism, especially from the Christian community. The premise of the song  questions why homosexuality is considered sinful, when one primary lesson of the Bible is to “love thy neighbor.” Many Christians argue the musical number takes the verses of the Bible out of context and misleads the audience.

 The entire conservative community also shifts toward acceptance after a Broadway star preaches that “love conquers all'' through musical numbers. 

While it is heartwarming to watch Emma gain acceptance from her peers, it is also unrealistic to assume people’s viewpoints can be altered so easily. 

That said, “The Prom'' is a cute, fun and relaxing movie to watch on the weekend. The musical does shine light on the LGBTQ+ community and why acceptance is so important, but the reality of being part of the LGBTQ+ community in a highly conservative town has been vastly distorted to fit the dramatic style of the musical.