Sunday, July 19, 2009

Prom Night In Mississippi

HBO's Prom Night In Mississippi tackles the sensitive subject of racism in present day America. While this is familiar territory, director Paul Saltzman's take is refreshingly different in that he proves is possible to be honest on this uncomfortable subject without being undignified. The film is about Morgan Freeman's offer to pay for the prom at Charleston High's if there is an integrated event. He first made this offer in 1997 and was turned down.

In 2008 Freeman tried again and this time he was successful though some white parents did organize a "whites-only" prom to protest their dissatisfaction. Interestingly enough, they never identify themselves or face the camera to talk about their position on an issue that are obviously very passionate about. Clearly, there is an universally acknowledged good and a bad side to the racism debate and people do not want to proclaim their bigotry to the world.

In many parts of America, people would find it impossible to believe that this film is depicting real events happening in 2008. Yet in other parts, where the under-current of racism is palpable even if not manifested as overtly as at Charleston High in Mississippi, minorities will be able to relate to their own experiences of being made to feel different and unwelcome in many subtle ways every single day.

The film is a brave examination of race relations in an America that believes it lives in a post-racial era having elected a black man to the nation's highest office. There are possibly many different kinds of America with varying degrees of acceptance of diversity. Saltzman shows us what goes on at one extreme of this wide spectrum.

The most heartening aspect of the story is even the kids who have grown up in an atmosphere fraught with anxiety and fear of the "other' race, are largely open minded. For the first time they are questioning the lessons that their parents have taught them and refusing to accept their ideology when it comes to race. Even in Charleston, Mississippi where an integrated prom is a dream in 2008, kids (black and white) want to break the cycle of hate and mistrust and value the individual over the color of their skin.

That is a positive sign for everywhere else in America where racism is a fact of life no matter how subtle the manifestations. America might be only a couple of generations away from becoming truly post-racial. Morgan Freeman talks about the need of a catalyst that would prompt greater social interaction between the black and white kids - the real key to deeper bonds between people who think they are different from each other. He provides just such a catalyst by paying for the first ever integrated prom in a school where such a thing had till then seemed impossible. With any luck, that should have set off the kind of positive reaction that can only grow stronger over time.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Did Charleston have an integrated prom again in 2009?

Ali said...

Was wondering the same thing. Can't seem to find an answer. A 2009 prom certainly has to have taken place by now.

zara said...

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honey said...

Prom Night is a horror and thriller movie that is a remake of the 1980s movie of the same name.This movie is directed by Nelson McCormick. Donna Keppel , after surviving a terrible tragedy, eagerly awaits her senior prom, which she plans to celebrate in style. Really wonderful story... I watch prom night movie from this website....