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What Netflix’s ‘The Prom’ Gets Right and Wrong About Indiana

December 14, 2020 by Abby Bien
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Hello my name is Abby and I am TodayTix’s resident Indiana expert.

You might be wondering: is she really an Indiana expert? And to that I say here’s a photo of when I was a cheerleader in high school and a cow came to the football game. I am standing directly to the left of the cow (cow’s right).

We are smiling towards cornfields.

Now that I’ve proven that I would never lie about something as embarrassing as loving the state of Indiana, let’s talk about the other thing of which I am an expert: The Prom. In case you didn’t know — before the Netflix film — The Prom was an original musical that opened on Broadway in 2018. While it wasn’t onstage in New York for too long (the final dance was less than a year after the first), I saw it five times, and it runs for eternity in my heart.

Hi Mom and Dad!

When I heard that Ryan Murphy (creator of Glee, other things too) was turning The Prom into a movie I was super excited that millions of people were going to get to see this special, hilarious show and I also had one very important question: will the mall and Applebee’s be featured? Find out the answer to this and learn more about what The Prom got right and wrong about Indiana below.

Right: Applebee’s at the mall

The actual Applebee’s in my hometown mall.

Applebee’s is the place to be in small-town Indiana. That’s because they have delicious deals and chips and salsa and because there is literally no other option. Hungry on a random Tuesday? Applebee’s. Celebrating a participation ribbon in the Orchestra contest? Applebee’s (there’s room for your cello in the back!). Need a milkshake after all that dancing at prom? Applebee’s.

Put it in the textbooks: Keegan-Michael Key and Meryl Streep flirting in an Applebee’s is historically accurate.

Wrong: the mall’s energy

Show me a mall in Indiana that’s two stories and I’ll show you a liar.

This is where I got my ears pierced!

Above is an actual Indiana mall. When Barry and Emma went to MAC to buy makeup for prom? A J.C. Penney makeup counter with one middle-aged employee who also happens to be your school’s nurse sounds more like it! A food court that’s not a joint Panda Express/Auntie Anne’s? I’m sorry, did Barry and Emma take a road trip to Cincinnati? A mall fountain? The only fountains we have in our malls are leaks coming from the ceiling! Nevertheless Andrew Rannells singing from within what I can only describe as a Disney World-caliber fountain was admittedly very hot to me, and as a result, I was able to ~transcend reality~ if but for a moment.

Right: Promposals

Here is me after my prom date “promposed” to me in our Indiana high school by yelling out “P-R-O-M” via a megaphone as friends held up the posters he drew. I like this photo because I have not talked to any of these people in years.

The promposals are a thing! Although none of the ones I witnessed involved singing and/or dancing as a result of fragile masculinity and a lack of a drama department.

Wrong (and right): Prom

I drove two hours to Chicago to get my prom dress so that it wouldn’t match anyone else’s and then when I showed up at my prom, four other girls had the same dress. Prom is by definition an awkward night spent with other awkward teenagers in a dark, smelly room. It’s unfair to put pressure on an evening spent in the same gym you got hit with a dodgeball not hours before, Abby. The Prom gets right what Indiana gets wrong about prom: it’s not your whole life, it’s only a night. Don’t go if you don’t want to, have fun if you can, and be who you feel safe being in that space.

I can’t believe I’m in this picture.

Right (and wrong): the people

This is the car my mom drove around Indiana for years.

It’s really easy to make fun of Indiana. It’s really easy to not like a lot of people in Indiana (and for good reason too!). But that’s the case anywhere, isn’t it? Because it’s also really easy to find people in Indiana who are like Emma, like Alyssa, like Principal Hawkins. People who are hilarious and kind and honest and so damn cool can we please talk about Emma’s tux forever and ever and ever?

All of the bad things that happen in The Prom happen in Indiana just like all of the good things that happen in The Prom happen in Indiana. Like quite literally everywhere else on this complicated planet, it’s a complicated place. But The Prom celebrates what I love about it (hello again, mall Applebee’s!) and that’s worth celebrating.

Now go watch The Prom on Netflix.