After watching Netflix’s “The Prom” directed by Ryan Murphy, it was as if a queer explosion of love, turmoil, self-acceptance, theatrical dance routines, pop ballads and sequins had just gone off, leaving me to sift through my own thoughts on what I had just experienced. The opening of the movie presents us with Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Andrew Rannells, and James Corden who play washed up Broadway actors attempting to revive their careers. In hopes of receiving positive PR that could elevate their careers, the group hatch a plan to go to a small town in Indiana to help a teenage Lesbian girl named Emma, who isn’t allowed to attend prom with her girlfriend due to her sexuality. Turns out her girlfriend’s mother is the head of the school’s PTA and the main antagonist working to stop Emma by all means.
Through the course of the story we get old Broadway glamor, marquee lights, well-choreographed dance numbers reminiscent of High School Musical, and a truly relatable story of coming out in a small town full of homophobia. I personally found the storyline predictable and some of the plot overdone however, there definitely is a strong emotional pull that can capture anyone’s heart. I enjoyed the fact that the two romantic lead characters are played by real queer actors (Jo Ellen Pellman and Ariana DeBose), which was a welcome relief because James Corden, who plays gay Broadway actor Barry Glickman, failed in his attempt at “gay face”. His character is full of overly flamboyant remarks and mannerisms that set back the queer community. I do not want to give him any more attention but I am going to repeat myself and say: HAVE QUEER ACTORS PLAY QUEER ROLES. Please. It isn’t that hard to do.
Keegan Michael Key was a delight throughout this exuberant film, as he delivered a down to earth performance of the school’s principal that I thoroughly enjoyed. He helped bring down toxic masculinity by presenting a confidently straight male who enjoys Broadway musicals and did it in a way that can set all men free from struggling with their masculinity. Another delight was Jo Ellen Pellman whose portrayal of Emma was genuine, honest and confident. Emma is by far one of the most resilient queer characters I have ever seen on TV and she definitely gives me hope. She maintained a positive outlook through even the toughest challenges and never allowed anyone to question who she was. In one scene, we see her come out to the world through a song she shares on the Internet and she positively impacts queer people around the world. This moment was really unifying and something that I have seen occur in real life demonstrating how powerful living your truth is.
Overall, I thought the movie was entertaining and definitely fun to watch. Whether it was the queer magnum opus of 2020 is hard to say but it made attempts to breakdown homophobia and challenge archaic ideology by using music and dance as a vehicle. This was especially successful through Andrew Rannells character whose main musical number, “Love Thy Neighbor” challenged the idea that being queer is against the Christian faith and how religion should not be weaponized against the LGBTQIA+ community. The movie itself ended in a glamorous, pride filled, rainbow loving, prom scene where we see everyone accept each other including all hesitant parents who once denounced their children but now rejoice in their children’s identities. Seeing so many young queer people on one screen all expressing themselves through make-up, hair, fashion, and energy was a pleasure to watch. “The Prom” as a film embodies all of the ups and downs that 2020 has been but its glowing happy ending not only gives me hope for the future of the queer community but also that good things are soon to come when we use love as our guiding light.