Prom Night In Mississippi – *(*)

Posted: December 27, 2013 in 2008, Documentary, X1/2

Kind of stumbled on a documentary that intrigued me a lot. In the hometown of Oscar winner Morgan Freeman there is a school that up until 2008 still had separate proms for white and black students. The acclaimed actor already proposed to pay for the first integrated prom in 1997, but the school board wouldn’t hear of it. Enter a Canadian documentary maker with his camera team and bam, the school agrees.

What follows feels like a school assignment. Badly filmed, even more poorly edited with the students themselves in charge of what gets on tape and what doesn’t. And one-sided.

However, more than the shocking fact that there are still communities in the US where children attend school together for their entire life and then need to celebrate finishing school together – apart, this is a great look into ‘prom’ culture.

It’s not like Europeans don’t know what ‘prom night’ is, but most only know the event from television series and movies. So it’s pretty interesting to learn about this essential part of American culture in a less glamorous (or horrifying) way – depending on what kind of movies you like to watch. The stress about finding a date, the stress about finding an outfit, the stress about getting to school in a fancy car (why not a limousine), …. It’s all there. But the kids in this documentary are more ‘real’. They are all obese or underfed, aren’t particularly attractive or concerned about their looks, drive a car at 17 and speak with a horrible accent that makes them sound less intellectual than they probably are. This is no criticism, it’s a comment. A documented fact.

So as a document on prom night, it’s good. As a document on intolerance and racism in today’s society it’s not.

In this High School in Charleston, 70% of the kids are black, 30% are white. It’s the white folk especially who don’t want to have an integrated prom. After all, the integrated prom would feel more ‘black’, them being in the minority and all. The documentary focusses so much on those who support the integrated prom that it loses any credibility. Yes, it’s silly to have separated proms, everyone agrees on that. So why not focus on those who don’t? That would have been more interesting.

There are only a few explanations on why there is still a separated prom organized for those white pupils whose parents forbade them to go to the integrated one. Some suggest that white parents are afraid of their daughter being wooed/drugged/raped/attacked when they hang with the black pupils after school. Several say it’s tradition. But only three come from the separating community. One girl say she doesn’t mind the integrated prom, but all her friends are going to the exclusive white one so she wants to be with her friends. Fair enough. A redneck father, whose daughter is dating a black guy, isn’t all too keen about it either, but doesn’t oppose to it. Whatever. Then finally you see a couple who give a more explanatory reason: God has made white people white so they would be different from others. And he made black people black for the same reasons. To mix white and black is to create uniformity and if God had wanted uniformity we would all be mixed. It’s all about religion again.

And what does the documentary maker do with it all these prejudices and beliefs? Nothing. Louis Theroux he is not. Some may say that you shouldn’t intervene and you should just record. Fine. Other will say that maybe he didn’t get the permission. Fine. But there are more questions after the end credits than answers. Missed chance.

Maybe Morgan Freeman should just throw a party for the parents instead as they are the ones who should have been the focus.

The whole documentary is on youtube:


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