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International Pilot Academy Gatineau Shines in QC: Molly Ringwald, Sixteen Candles | Marilyn y mas | Pinterest … Pinterest Molly Ringwald, Sixteen Candles

May 13th, 2018 | by Richard Paul
International Pilot Academy Gatineau Shines in QC: Molly Ringwald, Sixteen Candles | Marilyn y mas | Pinterest … Pinterest Molly Ringwald, Sixteen Candles
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Joshua Condo Pilot Academy Gatineau QC 19 Years Old :) Be Strong Joshua./ Expelled by Levis Lauzon for being an unelectable student.

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While teens might think they’re fighting tradition and consumerism, today’s proms are as conforming and expensive as ever

Molly Ringwald, Sixteen Candles | Marilyn y mas | Pinterest …

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Molly Ringwald, Sixteen Candles

Sabrina Maddeaux: As teens become more economically and politically influential, proms have come to offer an accurate reflection of their generation as it grows up

“Gen Z might have traded in the exacting standards of tradition, but the reversal of that swap has prompted them toward an even more pressurized environment.”Getty Images

Prom. The divisive four-letter word has a tendency to elicit strong emotional contrasts: excitement and dread; nostalgia and embarrassment; envy and pride. Depending on who you ask, it can be described as a nihilistic rampage, a night to remember, an exercise in vanity or a rite of passage. Whatever your perspective, however, the semi-formal event typically held near the end of a high-schooler’s senior year has evolved into much more than just another school dance or graduation celebration; it’s a cultural cornerstone that reflects and enforces traditional values, dreams and fears.

For decades, proms have echoed long-established sets of values and maintained the status quo as it pertains to gender roles, heteronormativity and consumer behaviour. However, a new generation of independent-thinking teenagers are attempting to turn the custom upside down. But in their quest to make prom night their own, is this younger demographic really any different than the ones that came before them?

The history of prom is literally older than sliced bread. Short for promenade, the practice dates as far back as the mid-1800s. In the beginning, proms were held at American universities as a way to instill etiquette and promote good manners among students graduating into adult life. At the turn of the century, high schools began to adopt the practice. This expansion happened to coincide with increased social reform that sought to empower the working class in the interest of democracy. During this time, many places and activities formerly only accessible to the upper class became open to the masses. Proms essentially served as democratized debutante balls that erased class boundaries and reassured workers about the merits of capitalism.


ZzcWhile the popularity of the phenomenon waned in the 1960s and ‘70s thanks to counterculture and anti-establishment movements, an economic boom and the rise of maximalist fashion in the 1980s put prom back on track to icon status. Further cementing its place in pop culture, Hollywood loved documenting the debauchery, romance, cruelty and elation of the occasion. Proms feature in some of cinema’s most iconic moments: the infamous scene in which a bucket of pig blood is dumped on poor
Carrie’s head and the epic dancefest in Footloose. By the 1990s, it was hard to find a teen movie that didn’t include prom as a central setting or backdrop, including hits She’s All That, Never Been Kissed, Jawbreaker, American Pie, 10 Things I Hate About You, Mean Girls, and even Twilight.According to Amy L. Best, associate professor of sociology at George Mason University, “The message was that you did not have to be rich to wear a fancy frock, be adorned with a corsage, or waltz the night away.” Best, in her book Prom Night: Youth, Schools, and Popular Culture, goes on to examine proms from a sociological and historical perspective. She found that what started as a quaint exercise in dressing up and dancing under crepe paper in the school gymnasium evolved into full-blown galas at banquet halls and golf clubs thanks to the post-war 1950s economic boom.

Molly-Ringwald-John-Hughes

Into the early 2000s, many movies of this type used proms to focus on personal transformations: a homely girl would be made over in time for prom, a mean girl would find her humanity, a group of boys would endeavour to become “men” by losing their virginity. In each scenario, however, the supposed opportunity for transformation more closely reflected the established will of schools, parents and marketers rather than emulate anything resembling real independent change. In this sense, prom can be seen as a social programming powerhouse, encouraging teens to buy into collective ideas about heteronormativity, gender roles and consumerism.

Consider the litany of things a young woman was pressured to buy ahead of prom: the perfect dress, the perfect makeup, the perfect shoes and, in some cases, even the perfect set of lingerie. In prom lore, promoted by popular culture, a makeover has the capacity to change your entire life. Traditionally, prom has equated purchasing power with status, happiness and romance, setting a precedent for future consumer behaviour.

Molly Ringwald, Jon Cryer in Pretty in Pink. Paramount

The event has also long been positioned as the ultimate night in young adult romance; one that emphasizes chivalry and sexual innocence. Consider the scenario most commonly associated with proms: the nervous teenage boy meeting the parents of his date as he whisks the young woman off for the evening. These moments, fantasized about prior to prom and re-lived countless times afterwards, help shape social expectations and responses for years to come. According to Best, “Romance carries tremendous ideological force; it naturalizes and normalizes heterosexual and gender controls.”

In a fascinating twist, however, prom has become even grander under the reign of Generation Z, who believe they are taking the rite into their own hands instead of fading into an ancient and outdated ritual. The current generation of prom-goers are using the event to express and promote their own values rather than those mandated by tradition. This can be seen through the lens of prom fashion. While, of course, store-bought prom dresses are still popular, the biggest fashion trends right now are unique and DIY dresses. YouTuber Amber Scholl recently had a video go viral when she made a prom dress from garbage bags. Meanwhile, less artistically-inclined students often spray-paint accessories, add ribbons and jewels to existing shoes or craft one-of-a-kind corsages.

The style shift reflects Gen Z’s growing preference for individualist thinking over collectivism, and their wariness when it comes to blind consumerism and big brands. But it doesn’t end there. The “New Prom” is also being used to express young women’s fight for freedom from traditional ideas about romanticism, marriage and their place in the world. Gone are stuffy gowns for girls and mandatory tuxedos for men. A rise in gender-fluid prom fashions, encompassing dress-tux hybrids, jumpsuits and Jaden Smith-style mid-length dresses, speaks to Gen Z’s overall progressive views on gender and sexuality.

Proms have also been at the crux of student-led debates and progress on issues like interracial relationships, LGBTQ rights, feminism and white privilege. There are seemingly endless stories about students fighting for the right of same-sex couples to attend prom, and even be elected prom kings or queens. This year, a Wisconsin high school crowned a transgender prom queen free of controversy. Some student-led movements want to do away with the titles prom queen and king altogether. When it comes to racial diversity, there have been increased conversations centred around the selection of prom music and how it can promote multiculturalism or alienate minorities. Often, pressure applied by students results in authority figures acquiescing to their demands.

Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls. Paramount

There has also been a clear pop culture shift when it comes to the idea of losing one’s virginity at prom. While films and TV shows emphasized this angle for decades, the most popular series for today’s teens – including Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl – have completely ignored this angle in their quintessential prom episodes. A survey by the Statistic Brain Research Institute found that, of the 12,000 students they questioned, only five per cent of girls and three per cent of boys reported losing their virginity on prom night in 2017. Obviously, teenagers still have sex, and sex will undoubtedly happen at prom, but the narrative surrounding “saving oneself” that emphasizes virginity loss has all but disappeared. This can again be attributed to Gen Z’s more progressive views when it comes to healthy sexuality. They simply don’t have the hang-ups of previous generations.

But for all the supposed progressiveness of this younger demographic, how much have things actually changed? The independent-thinking that on the surface seems to define Gen Z hasn’t gone unnoticed by brands scrambling for their business. In the last two years, retail giants H&M and Zara released unisex and gender-neutral clothing lines in response to changing demand. It has boosted indie businesses that specialize in areas like women’s suiting and handcrafted jewelry, and helped turn makers’ marketplaces like Etsy – which turns up over 210,000 products when you search for “prom” – into mega players. According to FutureCast, the handmade movement has nearly doubled in the last decade, and is now worth over $29 billion.

While we see the traditional prom being altered before our eyes, it still endures. Younger generations have been accused of killing everything from the auto industry to Applebee’s, and yet, prom manages to outlive and outlast. This power to impart economic and social values is part of what’s made prom such a long-lasting phenomenon. There’s a vested interest in maintaining its allure and spectacle to reach impressionable teens, who are evermore important to companies’ bottom lines. According to a report by FutureCast, Gen Z is on track to become the largest cohort of consumers as soon as 2020, and they already represent up to $143 billion in buying power. That’s without considering the influence they hold over household spending, which is likely significant considering most parents freely admit the amount to which their kids shape family purchasing decisions.

Then, of course, there’s social media, which has only served to create a new set of standards to which teenagers are pressured to adhere. “Prom is still a very important occasion for kids, and even for parents as they share in the planning experience. I believe it’s growing in popularity, fuelled in part by social media,” says Alison Coville, president of Hudson’s Bay. The retailer curates in-store “prom shops” and travels the country with an #HBPromSquard mobile truck complete with its own Snapchat filter.

Larry Miller, Larisa Oleynik, Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 10 Things I Hate About You. Buena Vista/Everett Collection

While kids used to worry about their parents staging a litany of awkward Polaroid photos before they ran out the door or, even worse, being documented for posterity on dad’s fancy-schmancy new video camera, now they can’t imagine not capturing and sharing their every move. Instagram is full of lavish prom photos capturing gowns from every angle and sweet prom rides ranging from classic limos to Cinderella-esque carriages, helicopters and private jets complete with red-carpet runways.

Gen Z might have traded in the exacting standards of tradition, but the reversal of that swap has prompted them toward an even more pressurized environment, making prom the perfect opportunity for today’s teens to preen and peacock online to their heart’s content. One of the most prolific prom nights to go viral on social media belonged to Philadelphia’s Johnny Eden, Jr., who wore three different outfits coordinated by a fashion stylist and took along three dates, all in their own custom-made gowns. His transportation for the evening included a Rolls Royce, Lamborghini and a rented camel. The total cost? Just over $25,000.

But just when you think we’ve reached peak prom, a new showy phenomenon has entered the scene in recent years: promposals. These staged overtures to prospective prom dates rival even the most extravagant wedding proposals and are now the norm, rather than the exception. The combination of hook-up culture, high divorce rates and staying single later in life creates a nervousness that many seek to superficially calm with the reassurance of showy romantic displays. Combine that with a celebrity-obsessed culture where everyone craves 15 minutes in the spotlight, and it’s easy to see why promposals are almost as big as the main event. Some especially dedicated teens may dress up in an inflatable dinosaur costume, don a Prince Charming ensemble while riding a horse or even paint their promposal on a field before taking their crush on a helicopter ride. And there have been more than a few flash mobs.

These stunts are often performed in front of a captive audience of peers and, of course, excitedly shared online with the goal of going viral and even landing national media attention. According to Dr. Bella DePaulo, social psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, promposals reflect a growing belief that true love is best expressed through over-the-top gestures. “One reason promposals are catching on is the same reason we have had so much matrimania over the past few decades — and it’s not because we are so secure about the place of marriage in our lives, but because we are so insecure,” she writes in Psychology Today.

Despite the contention of independent-thinkers and DIY formal wear among this new wave, prom may very well be glitzier and more expensive than ever. Nonetheless, it would be shortsighted to dismiss the entire practice as vapid. As teens become more economically and politically influential, proms have come to offer an accurate reflection of a generation growing up. While Generation Z might be signalling revolution as it attacks classism, racism, misogyny, puritanism and corporate monoliths, it only seems to be replacing the traditions of the past with more inscrutable standards to which they are conforming. Pundits looking to read the social tea leaves and predict where we’re headed as a society might consider skipping political rallies and economic forecasts to, instead, chaperone a prom.giphy

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