In the last year, celebrity prom proposals on YouTube have taken on a life of their own, as more and more teens continue to flock to social media to score the ultimate date. The potential earned victory is John Hughes-esque in its reach – it’s rarely the stereotypical golden boy prom king asking a starlet if he can squire her to his high school ball, it’s the adorably gawky, admittedly dateless court jester swinging for the fences. But it’s not just the twee overload that makes the recent onslaught of proposals problematic, it’s the larger issue at hand: in this age of unfettered access, the proposals are quickly creating a culture in which demand necessitates instant gratification from our celebrities.
— Kate Upton (@KateUpton) March 19, 2013
But as she told Mashable the next day, “The pressure is on, and I feel like it’s you guys, it’s the news, that’s putting it [on]!” Before you bust out one thousand tiny violins for Upton, note the response from the reporter interviewing her. “So you’re just taking your time and thinking about things, like scheduling?” In the court of public perception, Upton never even had the option to demur – if not for scheduling, how dare she not accept the offer to attend an unknown event with a perfect stranger?
As The Daily Beast noted a year ago, Mila Kunis had a very similar reaction when being asked to a wedding by a BBC reporter last year. “Well, I’ve gone to a Marine Ball, so what’s another? Apparently, I say yes to everything when put on the spot.” Kunis has long been praised as being one of the most down-to-earth stars of her time, but that goodwill would have been far less widespread had she not agreed to attend a Marine Corps Ball with Sgt. Scott Moore back in 2011, who invited her via YouTube. Multiple outlets, including Esquire, GQ, and Yahoo have all proclaimed their love for Kunis, with a major reason being her willingness to go on a date with a stranger, though most seem to gloss over the fact that it was pal Justin Timberlake, who also attended a Marine Corps Ball after a YouTube invite, that had to goad Kunis into attending.
Given that Twitter and Instagram have placed us closer than ever to Hollywood’s finest, it’s become less aspirational to attempt to live out a celebrity fantasy as it is de rigueur for a star to accept. Those stars who don’t oblige are generally all too aware that they look significantly less gracious than they should for the gift of their celebrity status – something that also subtly derides the fact that their celebrity should really come from their talent being recognized, rather than their willingness to engage with fans on the deepest of levels.
Though Upton didn’t attend Davidson’s prom, fellow Sports Illustrated model Nina Agdal subbed in. When Miley Cyrus turned down Arizona teenager Matt Peterson’s prom proposal, she was quick to make up for it by inviting him to spend time backstage at her upcoming concert. No one would judge a regular person for shooting down a date invitation from, say, a some random stranger from the supermarket, so why are we holding our celebrities to a higher standard than we hold ourselves?
Pressure aside, at its core, the prom proposal also happily props up a culture of objectification. While it’s hard to feel sympathy for a celebrity like Upton, whose following generally comes from fans of her considerable assets, every proposal towards a female star in recent history – Upton, Cyrus, and most recently, Olympic athlete Gracie Gold – have focused on the fact that the propositioned celebrity is beautiful, as the basis for the ask. Sure, maybe Gold and her suitor, Dyer Pettijohn, will end up discussing the social and cultural impact of the Sochi Olympics shining a light on Russia’s less-than-progressive politics, but it seems highly unlikely that Gold was his date of choice for the chance to brainstorm international policy, so much as it was her figure in a spangly bodysuit.
Ultimately, the celebrity proposals will fall out of vogue simply because they’re overdone, and that’s fine. But as for the liberties being taken, due to the increasing portal we have into the lives of those we don’t know, those lines can only continue to get further blurred as technology affords even further unprecedented access. So if all the kids want to shoot for the fences, why not try asking someone in their school who is out of their league but who they’ve had English with every day for the past year. That’s a lot less creepy.