Gender and Class Performativity at the Prom: An Analysis of Pretty in Pink

  • Frances Smith University of Warwick


This paper explores the role of the prom in the assumption of gender and class identity, specifically examining the protagonist’s preparations for, and participation in, the prom in Pretty in Pink (Dir. Howard Deutch, 1986). The prom remains under-examined within academia despite its ubiquity in the Teen Movie, and Amy Best’s revealing ethnographic work elucidating the event’s significance for high-school age girls. Taking up Judith Butler’s work on performativity alongside close textual analysis, the paper proposes that the prom constitutes a key locus of heteronormative gender and class interpellation. Observing Andie’s idiosyncratic fashion sense, the paper also examines work on subcultures and discusses the relationship between minority identities and Butler’s heterosexual matrix. The resulting analysis creates a mutual feedback loop between her work and the film with the result that the theory is not only instantiated but also complicated by the textual analysis. Reading Pretty in Pink through Butler’s work reveals how Andie’s subcultural identity, gender performance and relationship to the prom both accommodates and resists the heterosexual matrix. In turn, the film problematises Butler’s account of gender interpellation and demonstrates how performativity might be extended to class analysis.
February 23, 2012
How to Cite
Smith, F. (2012). Gender and Class Performativity at the Prom: An Analysis of Pretty in Pink. Networking Knowledge: Journal of the MeCCSA Postgraduate Network, 5(1).