Stereotypes Within The Prom

Will Sheppard

Ryan Murphy’s version of The Prom, which is basically hidden in the depths of Netflix, is an attempt at taking down issues of the LGBTQ community. This becomes problematic because of the gender and sexuality stereotypes within, as they ultimately took over the goal as a whole. We start off the musical In New York, where we meet: Dee Dee Allen, Trent Oliver, Angie Dickson, and Barry Glickman singing in unison about how they are going to clear their names by doing a good deed basically. We then are in Edgewater, Indiana where prom for the local high school has been cancelled becasue of a single homosexual student. Indiana is portrayed within the musical as the most homosexual state possible. We then meet Emma, one of the main characters, who is being bullied and harassed for being homosexual. We then go through many songs and choreographed dances where the big 4 go through the efforts of getting prom back and creating a more accepting town. There are ups and downs and we learn more and more about each character. In the end Emma ends up getting her prom and relationships were formed that had been ready for formation. Throughout the two plus hours of musical time, there were a variety of issues. Even though The Prom intended to take down LGTBQ issues, there were stereotypes within the character Barry Glickman specifically which distracted us from the overall message. 

To start off, Barry Glickman, portrayed by James Corden, was shown as what most would consider a stereotypical gay person. He was a little bit on the extra side, used excessive hand gestures and movements of his body, loved to shop, said stereotypical expressions and phrases, and was more feminine, especially with his wardrobe choices. We notice in his dress the more feminine touch it has to it with the vibrant colors and the scarfs he wears all the time. When it comes time to get a dress for Emma, he automatically, without hesitation assumes the role of going shopping at the mall with her. It is almost like because he is gay, he must have good fashion sense and he has to be the one to go shopping. I also feel like Corden when he took the role of being a gay man, didnt know how to portray a gay man being that he is straight, so he went on what he knows. That being mainly stereotypes. He most likely feels as if he is doing a good job playing a gay man when really he is almost doing the opposite. 

One thing that confused me is the casting selection. James Corden is a straight man who was casted and selected to play the role of a gay man. Meanwhile, we have Andrew Rannells, who is actually a gay man outside of the musical, but he is casted and selected to play a straight man. I just don’t understand why they wouldn’t flip the roles of the two so that the characterization would flow more smoothly. Had Corden played as the straight man, then we more than likely wouldnt have seen a stereotypical gay on screen. If they had chosen Andrew Rannalls then the character Barry’s gayness wouldn’t have seemed so forced. The only reasoning I can think about that makes sense to this decision making is that it was purposely done. This might have been done purposely to give straight people a chance to interact, because it leans into all types of stereotypes to make the characters seem more understandable. I think it makes the viewer look at the characters and really get to understand them, and realize why they’re doing the things they are doing. Such as why Corden is acting the way he is acting. 

I feel as if there is an obvious storyline and plot issue as well. We have a gay girl, Emma, and she is being discriminated against by her peers and community, and of course the one leading the charge against her is her secret girlfriend, Alyssa’s,  mother. The mother, Mrs. Greene, is the PTA leader and the main one trying to keep Emma away from everyone else and she is the main one being discriminatory against her. Of course her daughter would happen to be gay as well and she had no idea. Alyssa and Emma go through their struggles of Alyssa being scared to come out and then she finally does at the end and Mrs. Greene storms off in disappointment and shock. Only to come back and embrace her daughter and change her views. It is a pretty boring and obvious plot, kind of like a high school kid was given an assignment to write a plot to a musical.  

Then we have Principle Hawkins’ physically representing a masculine stereotype, but his actions and behaviors go against these stereotypes. We see him dress in only suits and  he is the sole authority of the school. He also wears a beard on his face. We witness him almost fangirl when he first gets to meet Dee Dee Allen. When they talk she is surprised to find out how big of a fan of musical theatre is, as the majority of her support comes from gay men. She refers to him as not fitting the demographic. Principal Hawkins is not afraid to admit his love for Broadway and theatre, which you wouldn’t think based on his physical appearance. He sings in song later in the musical to Dee Dee where he expresses what musical theatre means to him, and we see a different side to a straight male character that normally does not show up within any other film. 

The Prom has a plethora of different representations of gender roles and typical character stereotypes. Although I believe actors such as Corden may have taken the role too far from a stereotypical point of view, I also believe that it helped me understand the character more. His overdoing helped me to know more about his character. There are scenes and characterization that could have been done way better, yes, but these gender stereotypes were also challenged. We can see this with Principle Hawkins’ and how his physical appearance does not necessarily match the person he is within. I think there are changes in the narrative that are good for the musical and that give the viewer a different feel when watching.

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