Why I’m going to watch the heck out of Netflix’s “The Prom” (and you should too)

Ariana+DeBose+and+Jo+Ellen+Perlman+in+Netflix%E2%80%99s+%E2%80%9CThe+Prom%E2%80%9D+

Netflix

Ariana DeBose and Jo Ellen Perlman in Netflix’s “The Prom”

This year, Dec. 11 was pretty big. It was the second day of Hanukkah. A good chunk of seniors found out if they got into their Early Decision schools or not. Taylor Swift released her third album in the last eighteen months. And, considering we’re in the year of our lord 2020, who knows what else. 

Well, I know what else. So do the theater kids. And now you (assuming you’re not a theater kid).

Anyway. Ready?

All of this is not to say that I won’t be watching “The Prom” over and over again until my eyes start bleeding”

On Friday, Netflix released its film adaptation of “The Prom,” a Tony-nominated Broadway musical.  

Pros: the plot revolves around Emma and Alyssa, two queer girls who are determined to go to prom together, homophobes and the PTA be damned! 

Cons: James Cordon plays washed-up Broadway star Barry Glickman. Ryan Murphy (of That’s what you missed on GLEE! infamy) is the director.

So, yes. It’s not going to be a stellar piece of art. Reviews are already rolling in, and very few are positive. Cordon’s interpretation of Glickman was, apparently, ill-conceived at best, outright homophobic at worst. One Rolling Stone headline claimed that Murphy’s direction “Glee”-ed the musical to death. Color me shocked. 

All of this is not to say that I won’t be watching “The Prom” over and over again until my eyes start bleeding. Because I will be. Because, well, lesbians! Queer women of color! Elder queer people who’ve seen firsthand that it gets better! Healing family trauma! Reconciling homophobic religious doctrines! Realizing that living in a big city doesn’t make you woke! Jazz hands!!!

Whew. 

Apologies for the cliche, but representation matters. I remember watching the original Broadway cast of “The Prom” perform at the Tony Awards and just grinning when Emma and Alyssa kissed. The type of grin where you want to cry, but no tears are coming because you’re so damn happy. Why? Because I’m a big ol’ sap! And because there’s something magical about watching parts of your life reflected on TV. 

That was just my reaction. Me, a white person whose family is supportive of her queer identity. The impact the musical had and the film will have on queer people color and/or queer people without support networks like mine is immeasureable. A musical that not only features two queer main characters, one being a woman of color, but that develops their story in an uplifting, non-sexualized way is rare—a Netflix adaptation of that story is lightning in a bottle.

Yeah, “The Prom” deserves so much better than James Cordon and Ryan Murphy. But I’m going to watch it. I’m going to make my friends and family watch it. Because Netflix needs to know that we want this, not the “Kissing Booth 2,” not “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You.” The clock’s run out on pithy rom-coms; it’s time for gay pithy rom-coms.