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Netflix’s ‘The Prom’ celebrates differences, urges equality

Love conquers all

I guess I could point out the production quality, bright set and costume designs or compliment the performances of the star-studded cast, but I feel like that’s too much of a “cookie cutter” review for something as uniquely stupendous as Netflix’s “The Prom.”

In “The Prom,” down-on-their-luck Broadway stars shake up a small, conservative Indiana town as they rally behind a teen who wants to go to prom with her girlfriend.

The Prom” is a 2020 American musical comedy film directed by Ryan Murphy and adapted for the screen by Chad Beguelin and Bob Martin from their, and Matthew Sklar’s, 2018 Broadway musical of the same name. 

The film stars Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Keegan-Michael Key, Andrew Rannells, Ariana DeBose, Tracey Ullman, Kevin Chamberlin, Mary Kay Place, Kerry Washington and Jo Ellen Pellman.

Without revealing too many spoilers I’m going to make an attempt to express what this movie meant to me. Growing up in Northern Minnesota was not easy for anyone who didn’t worship the mining lifestyle or enjoy sitting in a hunting stand on a brisk November morning. Differences were not celebrated there. They were squashed like a bug and treated as if they didn’t even exist. 

Growing up gay in such an environment was toxic to my development. It caused me to look in the mirror with contempt. Church was worse. Every Sunday I would hear of how my feelings towards other men were a sign of Satan’s work, a sighting which “provided proof of his sinful seduction of innocence.” I was convinced God hated me so naturally I assumed everyone else would have too. 

Meryl Streep as Dee Dee Allen, James Corden as Barry Glickman. Photo via Melinda Sue Gordon/Netflix

So I stayed in the proverbial closet. I thought out every action, contemplated every phrase and stifled any form of excitement in an effort to keep myself hidden. I didn’t want others to hate me as much as I was growing to hate myself. 

Then something unexpected happened. I got off the old Iron Range (a chain of iron-ore mining towns in Northern Minnesota) and found out the rest of the world wasn’t so harsh and I came out. I went back home and discovered that my family did, in fact, accept me and I’m still growing to accept myself. 

“The Prom” celebrated all of this. It wasn’t preachy and didn’t attempt to stuff any ideals down your throat. It literally just teaches others how to become more accepting through a show of action. 

James Corden as Barry Glickman, Nicole Kidman as Angie Dickinson, Andrew Rannells as Trent Oliver and Meryl Streep as Dee Dee Allen. Photo via Netflix

In the film, all young Emma Nolan (Jo Ellen Pellman) wants to do is take her girlfriend (Ariana DeBose) to their high school prom. Infuriated, a mob-like PTA, spearheaded by an overly concerned, overbearing mother (Kerry Washington), cancels the prom refusing to tolerate such an audacious act against God. The action attracts national attention. 

Enter Broadway thespians fresh off a disgraced flop. Looking to embolden their self image, actors Dee Dee Allen (Meryl Streep), Barry Glickman (James Corden), Angie Dickinson (Nicole Kidman) and Trent Oliver (Andrew Rannells) seek out a noble cause. Intrigued by the PTA’s decision to isolate a young lesbian from her high school prom, the positive publicity seekers head to Indiana to demand justice on her behalf. 

The forward-thinking performers clash with the self-preserving conservatives when they get there. Heartbreak ensues but so does forgiveness.

This story was the strongest in those moments. When an injustice would take place, the culminating feeling of triumph when justice was served was overwhelming. Tear-felt reunions had me wishing my grandfather and mother were still alive so I could tell them my secret. It was too late for me but I felt as if I were witnessing what our interactions would’ve been like if I had the courage to be myself long ago. 

Kerry Washington as Mrs. Greene and Ariana DeBose as Alyssa Greene. Photo via Melinda Sue Gordon/Netflix

This passionate display that celebrated stark differences and human triumph had my eyes swelling with tears on several occasions, and I hardly cry during any movie. This musical just hit home. Speaking of the music, the soundtrack for this movie was phenomenal. However, I do suggest watching the flick before giving it a listen. 

These emotional moments wouldn’t have been so impactful without the strong portrayals. Every actor in this movie gave such believable executions. I just believed everything. It didn’t even feel like acting. Their performances were so raw, so real and so emboldened. They clearly felt a passion for this project and it showed. 

I’d like to compliment the star performers individually, but to be honest the list would be too long. The entire cast and crew deserves a congratulatory kudos.

It’s no secret that the planet is presently on fire. We’re in the midst of a pandemic, climate change threatens the world and inequality is often treated as a norm. All are serious issues that require change but this movie focuses on the final of the three mentioned. 

 Jo Ellen Pellman as Emma Nolan and Ariana DeBose as Alyssa Greene. Photo via Netflix

This film is definitely needed, especially in countries where noted people breed more hatred and violence than love and understanding. This celebration of diversity and inclusion is truly a life lesson in understanding all people of the globe should retain. 

Each and every one of us are different. We may have a series of things in common but our differences are greater. They are what makes us unique. That’s what should be celebrated. Nobody should feel pressured to hide who they truly are. This movie, this musical masterpiece, definitely recognizes that and praises pride. It’s an excellent inspiration and I strongly suggest giving it a watch. 

Zack Benz

Zack Benz has been a fan of the Daily Planet since he was eight years old. The Daily Planet has always been a beacon of hope for him and it’s his life’s mission to make it shine in a similar light to so many around the world. Zack graduated with a degree in journalism and art from the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2019.

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