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Film / Prom Wars

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Prom Wars (aka Prom Wars: Love is a Battlefield) is a 2008 teen comedy centered around the students of three boarding schools: the academically-inclined Selby, The Proud Elite Lancaster school, and Miss Aversham and Miss Cronstall's School for Girls. Selby student Percy (former Phil of the Future star Raviv Ullman) and Lancaster student Geoffrey make jerks of themselves fighting over A&C student Diana (Alia Shawkat), who hates Geoffrey but gets mad at Percy and at boys in general as a result of the fight. She rallies the other A&C senior girls to remind the boys that they shouldn't take the girls for granted and make them sweat some. They issue a series of challenges for the two boys' schools to compete in, while saying that the girls will only go to the inter-school prom with boys from whichever school wins. Canadian actress Meaghan Rath has a tertiary rule as one of Diana's friends and her brother Jesse Rath plays one of the Selby students.


  • All Asians Know Martial Arts: Francis is the only Asian main character and while he doesn't display martial arts fighting moves, he uses a ninja blowgun and has lots of Offscreen Teleportation moments during the paintball fight.
  • All Gays Love Theater: In one scene, the Ambiguously Bi Rupert earnestly talks about the Selby students' past and present plays.
  • Ambiguously Bi:
    • Rupert has some stereotypically effeminate tastes, admires a statue of a naked man, and seems to admit that he's gay during the paintball scene. However, he also seems to be flirting with Jen L. at the end of the movie.
    • Hamish grabs another boy and kisses him during a moment of excitement, but he also invites several girls to have a foursome with him in one scene, raising the question of whether he is bisexual or in denial about his sexuality.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Percy's preteen sister goes to A&C, complains about being a courier between him and Diana, and has a sticker that says "Girls rule: deal with it" on her bedroom door.
  • Armored Closet Gay: Hamish constantly taunts Rupert about his Ambiguously Bi status but makes the occasional homoerotic comment himself. During one celebratory scene, he excitedly grabs Joe and kisses him, only to shove Joe away and storm out of the room after realizing what he did.
  • Canada Does Not Exist: The film is a Canadian production but the characters act like they're in the average American teen movie and mention potentially attending American colleges like Harvard and M.I.T. The only thing to explicitly imply the movie is set in Canada and not the U.S. is that the schools have prefects and head girls, student government positions that exist in the Commonwealth of Nations but not the U.S.
  • Changed My Mind, Kid: A non-action variant. When the girls bail on the boring Lancaster prom to spend time with the nerdy Selby kids, Jen B., the girl who has been the least sympathetic toward the Selby students throughout the film, initially stays behind, but she does show up outside to get in the bus with her friends a minute later.
  • Chirping Crickets: A Running Gag is someone asking a question that makes the Selby students sound awkward (like who besides a prefect named Francis already has a prom date) and the only sound being crickets chirping.
  • Class Princess: Diana is the influental head girl of her boarding school, has a Girl Posse, and is rich enough to casually hire a theater critic to judge a competition between high school plays. However, she does care about getting boys to respect women more, is never shown bullying anyone even when they show resistance to her Zany Scheme, and still cares about her nerdy, working-class boyfriend even after their breakup.
  • Fake Boobs: A flashback shows Jen B. making out with a boy who finds out she padded her bra when some tissue paper accidentally falls out of her blouse. He laughs at her and fakes blowing his nose with it. The moment Diana reminds her about that, Jen is bitter enough about the event to agree to Diana's plan to make the boys compete for the right to have prom dates.
  • Fat and Skinny: Thompson and Dubinsky, the two main two Selby students besides the prefects, are a pair of nerds who hang out a lot, with one of them being thin and the other being fat.
  • Funny Background Event: In one scene where Diana and the other prefects talk about the next step of the competition, two girls standing just beyond the doorway to the next room get into an inaudible argument and start slapping each other.
  • Gamer Chick: It isn't shown or elaborated on, but Diana mentions that some of the most lusted after girls in her class can beat any boy at videogames.
  • Girl Posse: Diana, Jen B., Jen L., Tess, Meg, and Alex are beautiful and popular student government leaders who hang around each other a lot and can get the entire senior class to follow their lead. There is some dissent between them about which of the rival boys’ schools they favor, but the six girls usually get along and all of them have Give Geeks a Chance moments. Tess, Meg, and Alice seem to have their own smaller posse within the group and are sometimes seen hanging out and enforcing contest rules without their leader Diana or the Jens.
  • Hollywood Board Games: Selby is an academically oriented boarding school, so it stands to reason that its students are going to dominate "nerdy" contests such as a Scrabble tournament. In fact, they are so good that when the rival school's students hire Super Ringers, the Selby kids manage to win sometimes.
  • Hot Librarian: The bespectacled Jen L. is fairly pretty, but spends more time reading, studying and talking about college applications than she does pursuing girly things, especially compared to her roommates.
  • Hufflepuff House: The Lancaster students get far less focus and attention outside of the challenges than the students of the other two schools, possibly to emphasize their status as villains who don't deserve much investment. Big Bad Geoffrey is the only Lancaster student who gets any memorable characterization or is regularly called by name.
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming: Hamish is one of the only jocks at the Selby school (due to being a legacy) and can be a Jerk Jock at times. But after the Lancaster boys bully some of his classmates and steal their pants, he angrily says that no one can do that to Selby students except him.
  • Informed Ability: Hamish likes to talk about how hard it is being one of the only jocks at his school, but he does poorly in several of the more physical competitions, such as golf and jump rope.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Jen B. is going down on Geoffrey in his car when the other A&C girls happen by. Since none of the girls are supposed to date or make out with the boys from either of the neighboring schools until after the prom competition, Geoffrey has to leave (despite requesting two more minutes), the Lancaster school loses several points, and Jen B. has to be the peer counselor for the freshmen girls.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: When Joseph is surrounded by four Lancaster students during the Paintball Episode, he realizes fighting or running is futile and offers to just blow his whistle and signal that he's out. They all pellet him anyway.
  • Lingerie Scene: Three, one of which is entirely gratuitous:
    • The girls wear bikinis and underwear to pose for pictures to make the boys more interested in the prom competition. This gets them in trouble with their headmaster.
    • The main girls are seen changing after a soccer game in one scene, with some of the others drawing attention to Jen B.'s lacy bra and asking if it's sensible for a sports game.
    • When the Lancaster boys force several Selby students to strip down to their underwear as they're heading to a party Diana is hosting, the girls there take off their own pants so they're in their underwear as a show of sympathy and then take some pictures to raise the Selby students' morale for the competition and de-moralize the Lancaster students.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: While Jen B. is subordinate to Diana in her school's social order, she does have a lot of independent moments and is blonde, relatively shallow, and shows open favoritism to the Proud Elite Jerk Jock Lancaster school over the long-abused Lovable Nerds at Selby for most of the competition. Still, she is capable of showing respect for the Selby students or solidarity with her friends and thinks Joe's Love Letter Lunacy is cute.
  • Love Letter Lunacy: Joseph writes medically-themed love poems discussing how a heart beats to Jen B. that he's embarrassed by and never has the guts to send.
  • Mysterious Informant: Someone calling herself Linda Lovelace from the girls' school repeatedly calls the Selby kids to tip them off about upcoming competition twists or Lancaster cheating. The tipster turns out to be Jen L., the member of the Girl Posse running the completion who (besides Diana) most hates the Lancaster students and wants to see them lose.
  • Naughty Nurse Outfit: Jen B. and Jen L. wear revealing nurse costumes while being on standby to provide first aid to anyone who gets pelleted too badly in the paintball contest (and to motivate the horny teenage competitors into trying harder).
  • Nerds Are Virgins: The intelligent but non-athletic Selby students are mostly dateless and even though the prom date offer doesn't come with the promise of sex, several of them are hopeful that things will progress and lead to them losing their virginities, although as a face-saving Last-Second Word Swap they try to claim that it's the girls' virginities they're hoping will cease to exist.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Headmaster Attridge taunts his opposite number at Selby over his "great nerd revolution of '84" while watching the Selby students lose a soccer game against their more athletic rivals. Other than that, little is explained about exactly how and why Selby shifted from valuing sports (like it did when Hamish's dad was a student) to science.
    • During one standoff between the rival prefects, one of the Lancaster students calls Geoffery a "school-switching traitor", but this is never brought up again.
  • One-Person Birthday Party: A variant occurs when a flashback shows Tess's roommates throwing her a birthday party that they attend, but they spend three hours vainly waiting for the boys they invited to show up. Tess eventually starts crying.
  • Paintball Episode: The final prom wars competition is a paintball/capture the flag game. This is glimpsed in the opening scene, leading to a How We Got Here fade out.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Sabina knows Percy from his old school and gets along better with him than any of his Selby classmates, but neither displays any romantic interest in him nor gets any in return, and reveals that she was joking after she offers to be his date for a dance just so he won't be alone.
  • The Proud Elite: The main Lancaster students are arrogant, handsome, well-groomed athletes who come from very rich families, think nothing of offering enormous bribes to get ahead in school competitions, and bully the weaker and relatively poorer Selby students. Geoffrey even hires John Woo to film a paintball game he's in and make an introduction that makes him and his friends sound like the greatest military heroes their country has had in years.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: In a surprising aversion of Underdogs Never Lose, the preppy and athletic Lancaster students beat the nerdy and more sympathetic Selby boys for the right to ask the girls to prom. However, the Lancaster boys are even more smug and insufferable than usual as a result of their victory, and as a result, all of the girls can't stand it after a while and duck out of the party to spend time with the Selby students.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Meg, Tess, and Alex act as the main referees for the competition, are good at finding rule violations, and penalize them regardless of whether they favor the Selby or Lancaster boys.
    • Selby Head Boy Geoffrey is a calm voice of reason who reminds the lovable underdogs of his school that there are alternatives to participating in the Prom Wars, but is supportive of their efforts once they get involved.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Geoffrey offers Percy $30,000 to throw the paintball contest but he refuses due to his hatred for Geoffrey and desire not to let his classmates down.
  • Sequel Hook: The film ends with Percy and Diana awkwardly and tenuously reconciling, some of the students trying to figure out what to make of the Prom War's outcome, and the narrators debating about whether the story is over or not.
  • Slobs vs. Snobs: Both Selby and Lancaster are exclusive prep schools with upper class students, but Selby has more scholarship students and their strategy meetings have many moments of Nerds Are Virgins awkwardness. The Proud Elite Lancaster students by contrast run their meetings like military planning sessions while enjoying Conspicuous Consumption.
  • Smart People Play Chess: The academically-inclined Selby students win the chess competition of the games.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Francis is very stealthy during the paintball contest and is able to appear behind Lancaster students when they'd just been chasing him in the opposite direction.
  • Super Ringer: The Lancaster kids repeatedly hire experts for contests that favor their more academic opponents (like Scrabble and a robotics meet) and claim that their ringers are faculty advisors or transfer students. Sometimes it works, but sometimes the Selby kids win anyway.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Jen L. wearily says "shit balls" when her friends overhear her breaking the contest rules by giving the Selby students inside information. She gets punished by being forced to spend some time cheerleading, which she is very unenthusiastic about.
  • Two-Timer Date: The two headmasters are just as invested in the prom war as some of their students are, due to wanting to show up each other. It's later revealed that the source of their rivalry is an incident where the same girl took both of them to prom.
  • Vow of Celibacy: Rupert has sworn not to have sex until he graduates and doesn't have to worry about school anymore. Hamish repeatedly suggests that this is just a way for Rupert to hide his homosexuality, but the ending implies that Rupert is bisexual and that the vow was for more academic reasons.
  • Wrong-Name Outburst: During the School Play completion, Percy plays one half of a couple in an Awful Wedded Life and accidentally calls his "wife" by his (real world) ex-girlfriend Diana's name during an argument about adultery (to the real Diana's severe embarrassment). After an awkward pause the actor playing his wife works that into the play by asking if Diana is another one of his mistresses and getting mad that he can't remember her name, to the judge's delight.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: In the final scene, Diana and her friends have uniformly incredulous and disgusted expressions as they listen to Geoffery tell them a ridiculously inaccurate version of the paintball battle that the girls officiated over as referees.