Every year students from high schools throughout America meet to decide on a theme for that penultimate high school experience, the senior prom. The best prom themes are timeless, tasteful, and lend themselves to limited decoration budgets: Under the Sea (you can never have too many blue/green crepe paper streamers!), Hollywood (sparkly lights and a red carpet), Tropical Paradise (construction paper palm trees), A Midsummer Night's Dream (tinfoil stars - they never get old), Winter Wonderland (merely substitute snowflakes for stars).
Every now and then, though, a high school student council succumbs, tragically, to the temptation to choose something "different" - or, even worse, something "topical". What can you do but stand back and wince? For those student councils beginning their deliberations, I offer the following suitably tasteless options.
- Hunger Games Prom. Voting for the Prom King and Queen is soooooo 1999! In the 21st century, prom royalty will be chosen in a Hunger Games-type dystopian competition in which all the competitors are eventually whittled down to a single surviving royal couple who will have to earn their paper mache scepters and rhinestone crowns. Meanwhile, the remaining prom guests will party like they're lifelong residents of the Capital and they all were smart enough to place illegal bets on Katniss.
- Sharknado Prom. Your night begins with dancing under a canopy of puffy grey clouds illuminated by fairy lights - until someone turns on the industrial-strength fan and sharks drop from the ceiling! Think of all the opportunities to dazzle your date with your shark-slaying prowess - pinion them with corsage pins, slam-dunk them through basketball hoops, dazzle them to death with your epic dance moves! It's all fun and games until someone shows up with a chainsaw.
- Meme Prom. Everyone comes as their favorite meme! Which meme will you choose to emulate? Picture the magic as Grumpy Cat dances by in the arms of Ermahgerd, Poptart Cat laughs uproariously as a classmate dressed as Willy Wonka says something snarky, and Ridiculously Photogenic Guy photobombs everyone taking pictures. Of course, 10 years from now when you look back at photos of the special night, you won't remember a single one of the jokes, but you will wonder why the band played Rick Astley's Never Gonna Give You Up all night.
- Gluten-Free, Peanut-Free, Anti-GMO Locavore Prom. For too long have proms - with their iced cupcakes and gluton-stuffed cookies, their hothouse strawberries and imported conflict chocolate - flaunted cultural sensitivity. Isn't it time for a prom that embraces people with dietary differences, that takes a stand against the evils of genetically modified foods, and publicizes the ecological necessity of eating locally-grown food? Students would be encouraged to wear outfits created from organic, unprocessed fibers and the entertainment would be provided by a chorus of African school children here on a cultural exchange program.
- Geek Prom. No longer are proms just for the "cool kids" anymore! This prom is dedicated to all things geek: from superhero-themed decorations to banks of video game screens along one wall; from Star Wars cantina music to treats from faux Star Trek replicators; from girls with their noses in books to boys riveted by handheld games, and awards for the best cosplay in multiple categories. Totally geekulous!
- Cold War Prom. Now that things are hotting up with Russia once again, it's time to wax nostalgic over the good ol' days of the last Cold War. Gossip will be censored, food will be delivered via airdrop, and the decorating committee will be constructing a massive wall across the center of the gym to separate the boys from the girls, guarded by armed chaperones in towers. On the plus side, everyone will receive spraypaint cans for tagging the wall and while the folks on the west side of the wall will be enjoying ample food and fun, the folks on the east side of the wall will be allowed to drink as much spiked punch as they want.
- Reality Show Prom. Add much-needed drama to your prom by inviting in a reality television crew to capture every boast, complaint, plot, insult, and embarrassment! Which of the reality show stereotypes will you choose to be: the drama queen/king, the bitch, the dunce, the tramp, the manipulator, or the party animal? By the end of the prom no one will be talking to anyone else but at least everyone will have had a chance to spill their inner-most secrets to the camera in the ultra-secret confession booth.
- Out of This World Prom Prom. For decades high schools have recycled some version of the "Out of This World" theme, to great effect. Reflecting NASA's drastically reduced budget these days, however, it may be necessary to trim some of the usual excesses. For instance, instead of tin-foil stars, the decorating committee may need to limit themselves to moons; instead of buying new clothes, students may need to repurpose clothes well past their technical obsolescence; and instead of Starbucks instant coffee they may need to settle for Tang. Actually, it's problematical whether even these cuts will be enough; the student council may actually wish to consider soliciting private companies to arrange the prom on their behalf, in exchange for being able to sell tickets back to the students at twice the price and open up sales to students from other schools.
- Election 2018 Prom. Proudly announce your political preferences by coming as either a gun-weildin', gay-bashin', God-fearin' conservative or a tree-huggin', immigrant-lovin', pot-smokin' liberal, and let the fun begin! Because nothing lends itself to a night of goodwill and gracious manners like intelligent, rational political debate. The music will be patriotic, the food table groaning with fried chicken and apple pie, and both the décor and the guest's faces will be red, white, and blue - red with bluster, pale with rage, and blue with bruises from particularly impassioned debates with classmates.
- Virtual Prom. Why bother to go to all the work and expense of a prom when you can substitute a virtual prom instead? First, use SurveyMonkey to determine an appropriate theme and set up an account on a crowdsourcing website to take care of the fundraising. (Bake sales and carwashes are so passe!) Next, ladies will want to visit Polyvore to assemble and share their dream outfits. As the date approaches, time to set up a common Twitter hashtag so that virtual attendees can comment on every aspect of the event. At last, the magic night arrives! Time for everyone to start posting instagrams of themselves with their dates, visiting Reddit to vote potential hors d'oeuvres "up" or "down", and adding their favorites songs to the collaborative Pandora prom playlist. Finally, top off the night by photoshopping you and your date against a festive "Class of 20xx" backdrop and posting the results to your Facebook timeline so that you'll remember your special night forever.