Over the past few days, I’ve become obsessed with a four-part video on Youtube. I don’t know who uploaded this video or why she (or he) felt the need to share it with the world. I suppose I could always go to the user’s channel and send a message but I don’t think I will. To be honest, I know that even if I did get a reply, the answers would probably just be a disappointment and certainly no where close to matching what I’ve imagined. Sometimes, the best questions are the ones that are never answered.
Anyway, as for the video itself, it was apparently filmed in 1987. Though it’s never explicitly stated, I think that this video was made in a high school gym. Apparently, the occasion was a fundraiser that was meant to help pay for the senior prom. For nearly 40 minutes, members of the Class of ’87 walked out onto a makeshift stage and showed off some of the tackiest prom dresses in the history of tacky prom dresses. Seriously, with one or two exceptions, the dresses here run the gamut from horrid to hideous. These were dresses from the Gurl, What Were You Thinking? collection.
(If I may say so myself, my prom dress was a 100 times better than anything seen here. It was a black mini with a pleated skirt and a sequined bodice. I was all boobs and legs in that dress and I’m sure some people would say it was too much of both. But so what? I felt like a movie star. I also did that silly thing where you throw your garter and then you dance with whoever catches it. It was fun and all but I never got the garter back and I hate to think of what the guy who caught the garter did with it after the dance.)
So, why does this video obsess me so? Well, admittedly, some of it is the fact that whole thing — from the balloons that decorate the stage to the gift certificates to McDonald’s that are given out as door prizes — is just so amazingly cheap that it actually becomes charming in much the same way that a 50s B-movie or Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. I love listening to the breathless commentary of the two hosts and comparing it to the models who, for the most part, almost seem to know that, 23 years in the future, this whole thing is going to end up on YouTube. I also love how, as the video goes on, the audience goes from being politely attentive to openly talking amongst themselves as the show goes on. Finally, the static camera work and the fact that every model is a star for at least 15 seconds, is reminiscent of the early Factory films of Andy Warhol.
I also like to watch the models and to wonder where they are now and whether they even remember the night and the show that has captivated me. Since they were all high school seniors in 1987, they would be in the 40s now. I wasn’t even 2 years old when this video was made. I don’t know any of them and (unless they’re reading this) they don’t know me but we have a bond in that we’ve all shared the same hour. After watching this video several times, I feel as if I know most of these models. I’ve studied their body language as they walked across the stage. I’ve noticed who smiled and who looked miserable. I’ve created elaborate backstories for them and figured out who has ended up married to who and who ended up getting drunk on prom night and crashing his car (and tragically killing his date) afterward. I’ve figured out what terrible secret links together all the guys wearing the sunglasses at night. At this point, actually meeting or talking to anyone actually in this video could only be a massive disappointment.
However, I think the true appeal of this video is that it’s both a record of an actual event but yet it’s totally devoid of context. The simple act of watching it becomes a search for meaning in which you’re guaranteed to find whatever it is you want to find.