The Biggest Differences Between Hollywood Prom And Real Life Prom

Have you ever noticed how obsessed Hollywood is with high school prom? Seriously, I dare you to name a teenage movie that doesn’t at one point or another focus on prom or some other major dance. Okay, okay, I don’t dare you, because of course there’s exceptions to every rule. But more often than not, prom wiggles its way into our teen movie plot lines.

The funny thing about Hollywood’s obsession with prom, is that the dance is almost always portrayed in a way that’s nothing like real people prom.

I know pretty much every young actor and actress is home schooled, so it’s not really their fault that they don’t know how prom works; usually, they don’t get to go. But come on, the actors aren’t the ones write the scripts. Did every Hollywood writer also not get to go to their prom? Because either their memories of high school prom are drastically different than my own, or they’re just a big old bunch of crazies making things up as they go.


For starters, there’s the fact that in Hollywood, everyone always gets asked to prom in a super-romantic way. In 10 Things I Hate About You, even Julia Stiles’s not very important friend whose name I can’t remember/probably never knew gets a poem and dress with her prom invite. Sure, some kids did decorate cars to ask each other to prom at my school—and really, what’s more romantic than getting into an accident on the way home from school because someone’s painted “Will U Go To Prom With Me?” on your back windshield—but no big romantic gestures.


Then there’s the part where you actually get to the dance. In Hollywood, pretty much everyone dances at prom. And I don’t just mean grinding on each other like awkward teenagers who don’t know how to do anything else. I mean like real, coordinated dancing! Remember Grease (okay, maybe that’s a bad example) and She’s All That? Did anyone else have an epic dance scene where everyone knew all the moves at their prom, because at good old Roosevelt High School, that was definitely not a thing.


But perhaps that most inaccurate notion about prom in Hollywood is that it’s a place where lives magically change. Like in Mean Girls, when it’s at the big high school dance where Lindsay Lohan not only gets the guy who recently called her out for being a total Regina George but also makes peace with the entire student body. Or in Never Been Kissed when Drew Barrymore uses prom as the perfect time to reveal she’s not really a student, but actually an under-cover reporter, and BTW, there’s a big world out there that has nothing to do with high school. Let’s be real, social hierarchies don’t change at prom.

Don’t get me wrong, I had an awesome time at my prom. But I didn’t really have any big life epiphanies. Or choreographed dances. Or a super romantic invite. So, either my life sucks, or we can just add prom to the very long list of things Hollywood lies to us about.

You can reach this post's author, Anna Sims, on twitter.
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    • MellyG

      I don’t know about anyone else – but at least in the school district i was in, prom was NOT at the school. Homecoming dances were, but prom was at a banquet hall with seating and a meal. Not a high school gym

    • bee

      But I still don’t know what real prom was like? I went to an uber religious school where dancing wasn’t allowed so we had a crappy dinner and a christian illusionist who ended his show by showing us how he did his tricks and tried to preach to us…

    • Julia

      At my school, really over the top ‘promposals’ were considered standard. Treasure hunts, huge homeroom posters with roses and chocolate, getting your friends together to serenade the girl while you play the guitar – these were all considered standard. Line dancing was also party the p.e. curriculum, so the coordinated dancing actually did happen. My big difference from movie prom and real prom was that we didn’t have a single school dance or high school gym. Homecoming and Sadie was in the cafeteria, and prom was held at a hotel ballroom or event space.

    • 蕾 叶

      I am a Chinese girl,and I have never participated the prom.Actually,no party in my school.I’m yearning for the prom I saw in American movies,it’s pretty good.

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