Is The Prom a True Story?

With an ensemble cast that features the likes of Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Keegan-Michael Key, and Kerry Washington, ‘The Prom’ is a musical comedy that discusses the plight of a lesbian teenager named Emma. In a way, it’s her coming of age story as well. Emma just wants to take her girlfriend to prom, but the PTA opposes it and calls off the event altogether.

When a poorly reviewed Broadway star and her friends hear about this, they go to Edgewater, Indiana, to help the teen out. But their curiously narcissistic brand of activism backfires, and everyone is back at square one. Is this story inspired by real events? Let’s find out!

Is The Prom Based on a True Story?

Yes, ‘The Prom’ is based on a true story. The movie is an adaptation of an eponymous musical, which was actually inspired by the very real challenges that Constance McMillen faced back in 2010 when she wanted to wear a tux and take her girlfriend as her date to her school’s prom. The officials at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi, objected to this.

Image Credit: ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties/ YouTube

Eventually, the dance was canceled altogether. But the school board encouraged organizing a different, private prom. The student also got in touch with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). On behalf of Constance, they filed a free speech lawsuit and requested that prom be reinstated. As expected, the students were not happy about prom being canceled. However, Constance received a lot of love and support online.

She said, “I didn’t want everyone to hate me. But sometimes you got to do what you got to do. The easiest way is not always the best way.” Interestingly, a second prom was held later, and Constance was not welcome there. The first dance, where a handful of kids were present, was held at Fulton Country Club. People with learning disabilities were also present there that night. The actual prom had been organized in Evergreen by the parents, which is where most of the other kids went.

In July 2010, the school settled the case outside the courtroom and paid Constance $35,000 and her attorney’s fees. Plus, they agreed to make an inclusive policy for all students. Later, she transferred to Murrah High School in Jackson, Mississippi, claiming that the students blamed her for the entire ordeal. It is evident that ‘The Prom’ has included almost all elements from Constance’s battle for acceptance.

The director revealed that he had gone to see the show on Broadway in January 2019. He said, ‘…and I walked into that musical and I remember having a moment where I looked around and I saw that people were laughing and crying alternatively, and there were a lot of kids with parents there, which I was very moved by, and of course then I really just deeply related to the idea of Jo Ellen’s character who is in Indiana and just fighting for the right to be seen and to participate in the world like everybody else.” 

Murphy knew that he wanted to make a musical film when he walked out of the theatre that night. ‘The Prom’ also pays an homage to the classic Hollywood musicals such as ‘Singin’ in the Rain,’ ‘Chicago,’ and ‘An American in Paris.’ In fact, when the cast and crew were unable to head over to Broadway to shoot, a set was built in downtown Los Angeles. The director said, “It took almost six months to make. We were so specific about everything. We measured the real street on Broadway and then just replicated it.” 

Clearly, ‘The Prom’ has a strong social message that has been relevant for many decades. Moreover, the sad reality is that there are still many kids like Constance McMillen who could be facing backlash for simply wanting to do things unconventionally. Therefore, this film becomes more important than ever in today’s world.

Read More: Best Movie Musicals of All Time