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High School Prom: Marketing, Morals and the…

High School Prom: Marketing, Morals and the American Teen (edition 2012)

by Ann Anderson

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Title:High School Prom: Marketing, Morals and the American Teen
Authors:Ann Anderson
Info:McFarland (2012), Paperback, 224 pages
Collections:Your library

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High School Prom: Marketing, Morals and the American Teen by Ann Anderson




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Ann Anderson’s High School Prom is a perfectly adequate book on its chosen subject: the changing nature, and shifting social meanings, of the titular event. It entertains, informs, and makes a plausible case for the prom as American teens’ ritual initiation into adulthood. It is, however, deeply frustrating.

The “history” section that opens the book and accounts for 106 of its 188 pages of text opens with a brisk review of the prom’s seldom-discussed origins and pre-1945 history. Beginning with the second chapter, however, it loses focus. The emergence of young adulthood as a recognized stage of life and teenagers as a distinct social group; the rise of swing, rock, and other “youth music”; and shifts in courtship and dating rituals all shaped senior proms, but its history is not (simply) their history, writ small. Anderson, unfortunately, too often writes as if it was, presenting rehashed overview of American youth culture and labeling it a history of the senior prom. Her examples of actual prom culture from different decades feel like an afterthought, not the centerpiece they should have been.

The remaining sections of the book, on the “prom industry” (46 pages) and the prom in popular culture (23 pages), are better, but far too brief. The “industry” section, which also deals not only with marketing but also with the prom as a stage on which social anxieties about race and sexual orientation are played out, is particularly ill-served by this brevity. Here too, however, Anderson’s authorial choices compound the problem. She falls, too often, into sociology-by-anecdote, offering fascinating examples, but failing to put them in any kind of local or comparative context that would give them meaning.

High School Prom is a perfectly adequate book. It should, however, have been good—could have been great—and it’s not. ( )
  ABVR | Oct 14, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Reads like a textbook.
  shootingstar2428 | May 25, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Anderson has written a broad overview of all things prom for the popular audience. Part I of the book gives an historical look at how prom has changed over the years. Part II demonstrates that marketing is central to prom. Part III gives a quick survey of prom in popular culture.

The book is a good starting point for those who wish to then jump off and explore any of the above areas more deeply. ( )
  zhejw | Feb 8, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I was hoping this book would be more scholarly than it is. The cover should have made me realize that this was not quite what was on offer. American prom is a topic that is overflowing with possibilities for a popular but still scholarly study, and the author unfortunately misses the mark. ( )
  vanderschloot | Dec 30, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A sociological overview of prom that hits on fashion, music, and class issues. ( )
  superfastreader | Dec 24, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0786467002, Paperback)

Prom has been a fixture in the life of American teenagers for as long as high schools have existed. Both encapsulating and magnifying the drama of adolescence, proms have transformed from modest tea dances to costly extravaganzas supporting apparel and cosmetic makers, limousine services, hotels, magazine publishers, and hair salons. Focusing on social and economic trends, this volume examines the evolution of prom, the development of the billion-dollar prom industry, and prom's place in popular culture, including its portrayal in film, television, and literature. Using prom as a lens through which to view many aspects of American culture--money, sex, fashion, dance, music, television, transportation, communication, and even war--this work offers fresh perspective on the history of American youth.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:28:21 -0400)

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