1st Edition

Prom Night Youth, Schools and Popular Culture

By Amy L. Best Copyright 2000

    Best shows us that, while the prom is often trivialized, most kids take the prom seriously. The prom is a space where kids work through their understanding of authority, social class, gender norms, and multicultural schooling. Proms are more than just pictures and puffed sleeves--they are a mythic part of youth culture and, for better or worse, will always be a night to remember.

    Acknowledgments Chapter 1: Introduction: A Night to Remember Chapter 2: Coming of Age at the Prom: Adolescence and Popular Culture Chapter 3: Fashioning the Feminine: Dresses, Jewelry, Hair and More Chapter 4: Romancing the Prom: Boyfriends, Girlfriends and Just Friends Chapter 5: Prom Promises: Rules and Ruling: Proms as Sites of Social Control Chapter 6: The Divided Dance Floor: Race in School Chapter 7: Breaking Rules: Contesting the Prom Chapter 8: Conclusion: Learning to Listen Appendices Notes Referencesndex


    Best, Amy L.

    "[A]n important contribution to our understanding of girlculture and adolescence in 20th Century America." -- Joan Jacobs Brumberg, author of The Body Project
    "[C]harming and revealing. Best's depiction of the prom as the site of conflict between girls--deeply invested in romance, consumerism and the presentation of the body--and boys, for whom the prom is by and large a nuisance, is especially compelling. Prom Night is a good read--a bit like being at the prom with a sociologist on one arm, and a date on the other." -- William Graebner, author of Coming of Age in Buffalo: Youth and Authority in the Postwar Era
    "Rebels without a cause! Proms, as adolescent rites of passage and dress rehearsals for adult life, show us the limits of American conformity and resistance. Prom Night defrocks the high school prom by showing it as a site for the privileging of heterosexuality, whiteness, and class." -- Chrys Ingraham, author of White Weddings: Romancing Heterosexuality in Popular Culture
    "A stunning example of cultural analysis that both affirms and engages the experiences of young people in a society that rarely allows them to speak or represent themselves. In this brilliant work, Best reinvents how prom night is constituted as a site of struggle, resistance, and power. This is an important book and should be read by anyone concerned about youth and the crisis of democracy." -- Henry Giroux, author of Impure Acts: The Practical Politics of Cultural Studies
    "A serious look at a topic which, although often trivialized, continues to reverberate through our popular culture long after the party's over...Best reveal[s] how young people use this coming-of-age ritual to define themselves, and how they, in turn, are defined by it." -- Debbie Stoller, Editorial Director, BUST Magazine
    "Best's study provides insight into the thoughts and dreams of today's youth." -- Booklist
    "Best provides an interesting sociological study of the prom experience that will find a home in American studies, women's studies, and sociology collections." -- Library of Congress
    "Explores prom's cultural significance --an event both dismissed as frivolous and heralded as an important coming-of-age rite." -- Orlando Sentinel
    "Recognized by marketing experts as a bonanza long before scholars realized its significance as a cultural indicator, the high school prom, with its complex commercialism, consumerism, and youth heirarchy, makes a fertile topic for Prom Night by sociology professor Amy Best. Thorough and engaging, Best examines proms held at four public high schools (covering the full socioeconomic spectrum), looking particularly at how they serve as 'the starting point for the formation of a youth politics' and what they about the educational system today." -- Publishers Weekly, 7/10/00
    "Written by a California Sociology professor, this book offers a cultural analysis of a night that reverberates with importance for many of today's high school students." -- Washington Times
    "Best's analysis of the prom not only challenges many of popular culture's characterizations of it, but also serves as an exploration of how youth are affected by adult power and consumer practices...Prom Night should be of interest, both substantively and conceptually, to a broad audience interested in young people." -- Contemporary Sociology
    "This book represents a rich terrain to study and teach about the ever changing gendered, commercialized, conflicted cultural tapestry we know as America." -- NWSA Journal