Escape to Asia: Students Weigh In On Prom Theme


Leah Overstreet

Appreciate or Appropriate: Junior Tabitha Randklev participates in the school discussion on whether this year's North Atlanta prom theme was worth its stay.

Prom. It’s the pinnacle of the high school experience. Dancing, music and sweaty teenagers in clothes that cost more than they can make in a single paycheck. It doesn’t get any better than this. Each year our prom has a different theme and this year the theme is “Escape to Asia.” It seems harmless enough, but this prom theme has caused quite a stir among some in the student body.

Among those critical of the theme, there’s a feeling that the theme itself is too broad. The argument there is: Asia is a large continent, and home to a plethora of unique cultures. This being said, it has been said that the posters appear to focus more so on dynastic China than Asia as a whole. This is a common mistake with Asian cultural “appreciation” and can oftentimes lead to a misunderstanding and generalization of what exactly Asian culture is. “I kind of felt a little weird when I heard about the prom theme. It was different,” said junior Grace Choi. “Normally, Asian culture is not represented, and when it is, it’s very stereotypical and more focused on China than Asia itself.”

Students have expressed fear that this is the case with our prom theme. It is especially difficult to swallow considering last year’s prom controversy involving a white student wearing a traditional Chinese dress to prom, evoking the hashtag “My Culture is Not Your Prom Dress.” Many are questioning where this line is drawn and at what point appreciation crosses into appropriation.

Fortunately, the faculty leaders who led the committee that came up with the prom theme asked themselves similar questions. I was perhaps the most skeptical about the prom theme, but by the end of my interview with them, my greatest worries were assuaged. They assured me that not just Chinese culture would be represented but that South Asian and Japanese culture would be represented as well. AP US History teacher and prom coordinator Ms. Jenna Robinson went on to explain that they intended to celebrate Asian culture, embracing our school’s International Baccalaureate status. “We have gone through great lengths to ensure that prom will be respectful of cultures, inclusive, and a good time,” said Robinson.

If handled correctly, this prom theme could be a wonderful opportunity for our school to experience and appreciate Asian culture. This seems to be the case. Time will tell, with April 13 past at the Grand Hyatt Buckhead , hopefully every attendee has had a blast and learned something new about cultures from across the world.