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Theatre / 35MM: A Musical Exhibition

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"A picture is worth 1,000 words — what about a song? Can a picture inspire a song or fifteen?"

A square display / That remembers when / That leads the way to live in "then," / But why live it again?
Ryan Scott Oliver, "Transition 1"

35MM: A Musical Exhibition (often shortened as both 35mm and 35MM) is a 2012note  multimedia anthology "musical exhibition" created by American musical theatre composer and lyricist Ryan Scott Oliver, and produced by Tony-winning producer John Johnson in association with Very Intense Productions. The musical is unique in that each of its sixteen songsnote  is completely separate (think in a similar vein to an Anthology Film), with each song inspired by a different picture taken by Oliver's husband, professional photographer Matthew Murphy. Then, when each song is performed, the original photograph that inspired that specific song is projected for the audience to examine so as to better take each song's themes and messages into account.

If 35MM could be said to have one overarching theme, it is about the human condition and examining the nature of love and how we let it affect one another (in positive, negative, and bizarre ways). As such, it is very dark and often delves into very controversial and dark themes (though ameliorated with a Black Comedy edge at times). Most of the songs are some variety of pop/rock music, though a few also delve into other genres of music. Furthermore, while there is no over-arching narrative to the musical, each individual song is heavily narrative-driven regarding its own story and plot.

It is perhaps best known for the wide variety of popular animatics made on websites like YouTube and Tumblr, often expanding upon the musical's original themes and each song's individual story.

A full developmental production was presented at Urban Stages in December 2010, directed by Daisy Prince. 35MM eventually made its off-Broadway world premiere at the Galapagos Art Space in New York City on March 7, 2012. Due to popular demand, the show was extended and sold out its run. 35MM is currently being licensed and has received productions in Baltimore, MD, Dayton, OH, London and Canada in 2013. In June 2015, it made its Australian premiere in the inaugural season of Harvest Rain's Incubator Series in Brisbane, Queensland. Art 4, a musical theatre production company in South Bend, Indiana conducted a virtual performance of the musical during the COVID-19 Pandemic in late September-early October of 2020.

The original 2012 cast recording can be found on iTunes.

For another theatre work with similar themes and anthology feel, see Ordinary Days.

This musical provides examples of:

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  • Alliterative Title: Twisted Teeth, Leave, Luanne, Hemming and Hawing
  • Arc Words: "Focus".
  • Black Comedy: Whatever humor that appears throughout the musical is midnight-black.
  • Central Theme: Understanding that Humans Are Flawed. Also, the nature of love and its needless complexities.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The first few songs have their comedic or lighthearted moments, but as the musical continues onward, the tone gets increasingly bleaker and darker.
  • Downer Ending: Virtually every song ends on a very depressing note, most notably "The Ballad of Sara Berry".
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Even the songs that have a triumphant or cheery tone are usually discussing either incredibly horrific or hideous events, or are ridiculously profane and laden with dark humor. Just as an example, "The Ballad of Sara Berry" is set to a relatively peppy tune... and is about a high-school senior descending into insanity and brutally killing six of her classmates on prom night.
  • Murder Ballad: Two of the most prominent songs become this.
    • "Leave, Luanne" has The Bastard kill Luanne halfway through. Then Luanne returns from the afterlife to kill him in retaliation.
    • "The Ballad of Sara Berry" has the titular character decide to murder the competition so that she'll automatically be prom queen by default.
  • One-Woman Song: "Caralee", "Leave, Luanne" and "The Ballad of Sara Berry".
  • One-Word Title: "Crazytown" and "Caralee"

    Song #1: "Stop Time"
Who cares what happens after?

  • Mundane Made Awesome: The entire song opens up the musical's inspirations regarding photography... which it discusses in terms of photography being able to stop time.

    Song #2: "Crazytown"
"You idle boy!"

  • Added Alliterative Appeal:
    • One line goes, "All these fuckers that I fondled in my fantasies."
    • Another line goes there's a "jeering jackal just like my mother going..."
  • Ambiguous Ending: Is the narrator in Hell? A Dying Dream? Is the hole in his head literal or figurative?
  • Down the Rabbit Hole: The protagonist is going through this, and equates it to the other famous fantasy worlds like Wonderland, Oz, Narnia and Neverland.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: What happens to the protagonist, waking up at the beginning to go through their chase once more.
  • Madness Mantra: "In the pocket of this dress, I got a copper key. Don't know the door it opens but the fact is killing me that in the pocket of this dress..."
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Either the narrator is in a weird wonderland in Crazytown or he's been shot in the head and he's seconds away from dying or is stuck to repeate the events over and over again.
  • Naked Nutter: The narrator becomes this after realizing that there's no escaping Crazytown and it's not the fantasy land he's grown up with.
  • Talking Animal: The narrator is chased by a jackal that shouts "You idle boy!" with his mother's voice.

    Song #3: "On Monday"
On Monday, I met you.

  • An Aesop: Don't try and rush into relationships, as it can make you look childish and unintentionally ward them off. Instead, learn to savor the build-up of the love shared between oneself and their partner.
  • Bookends: The story begins and ends with a reference to Monday.
  • "Days of the Week" Song: The story takes place during a week of the singer trying to get more intimate with their partner.
  • Fatal Flaw: The singer is very impatient and wants to rush their relationship. When they assume that their partner doesn't want to do anything of the sorts, only requesting to "play hard to get" and holding hands, they feel like the relationship is going nowhere even though they've been together for less than a week at that point.
  • Hating On A Monday: Inverted; the singer loves Monday because that's the day they fell in love with their partner.
  • Holding Hands: What the lovers do on Wednesday.
    "It's Wednesday/hump day/but we just held hands/just held hands"
  • No Hugging, No Kissing: The singer is annoyed that their partner doesn't want do anything like hugging or kissing, the closest is holding hands on Wednesday.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The only hint as to what the relationship is supposed to go is through the partner stating "Play hard to get" on Tuesday through text. It isn't until the week is over that they clarify that how they should just savor the relationship as it is and take it slow.

    Song #4: "Caralee"
Caralee, I swear to God, she is Satan.

  • Actually Pretty Funny: The babysitter notes that a profanity-song Caralee wrote is "actually quite hilarious in appropriate areas".
  • Ambiguous Gender: The original version of the song is performed by a male vocalist and mentions a male babysitter (the "manny") who Caralee stabs in the nuts. However, official alternate lyrics exist for a female babysitter, changing "manny" to "nanny", swapping Caralee's scissors for a toy gun, and replacing "stabs your nuts" with "shoots your twat".
  • Babysitter's Nightmare: The narrator is babysitting a bratty little girl named Caralee, and is driven so crazy by her that he ends up paying a crack dealer $50 to take her.
  • Black Comedy: The song ends with the titular Bratty Half-Pint being sold to a drug dealer, and the Lyrical Dissonance portrays this as a good thing.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Caralee in general is this trope.
  • Comically Small Bribe: The babysitter sells Caralee to a crack dealer for $50.
  • Creepy Doll: The photo depicts one.
  • Enfante Terrible: Amusingly downplayed; the titular toddler Caralee is portrayed as a massive and annoying handful for the poor hapless babysitter to deal with, but she isn't murderous or outright villainous, just a young child who doesn't know any better. Doesn't stop the singer from comparing the girl to Satan.
  • Groin Attack: Caralee has a pair of scissors that she uses to stab the babysitter in the nuts. Gently, but repeatedly. Another variation replaces the scissors with a toy gun but with the same principle.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: A cheerful-sounding song that ends with a bratty child's babysitter paying a crack dealer $50 to take her so he won't have to deal with her anymore.
  • Only in It for the Money: The narrator only puts up with Caralee because her parents pay him to babysit her. It's implied to be more money than usual for a babysitting job, given that it's enough to pay the narrator's bills (and Caralee's parents are apparently rich, given the off-hand mention of a charity banquet thrown by her dad). However, at the end of the song, he decides she's not worth it and gives her to a drug dealer.
  • Toilet Humor: "Caralee threw up and pooed on my MacBook!"
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Caralee loves spaghetti, but more for throwing it and making a mess than actually eating it.

    Song #5: "The Party Goes With You"
And when you strike your goodbye pose, everybody knows.

  • Awful Wedded Life: The central focus of a song is a woman in an unhappy marriage, and wishes she could take back "one of [her] yeses," implied to be when she agreed to marry him.
  • Balloonacy: The photo shows a balloon seller.
  • Love Martyr: The narrator is resigned to staying with her husband, and some lines imply she still has feelings for him in spite of the fact that he doesn't treat her very well. She has no illusions about it, but she doesn't feel she can leave.

    Song #6: "Good Lady"

  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The titular "good lady" is implied to have been a Gold Digger who eventually left him entirely just because she found him "boring".
  • Cruel Twist Ending: After constantly journeying around looking for his lost love and vowing to find her, the heroic knight eventually learns from a soothsayer that his beloved wife is missing because she left him of her own accord due to finding him boring. Completely crestfallen and heartbroken by realizing that his search was All for Nothing, all the knight can do now is lament how miserable he is and how much he wishes that he didn't know this Awful Truth.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: While the song's lyrics are meant to be akin to chivalric romance, the actual song and instrumentals are closer to Heavy Metal more than anything else.
  • In the Style of: The entire song is done as a Homage to chivalric romance.

    Song #7: "Make Me Happy"
Woah-oh-oh, ya make me happy all the time / And you know I'm a total dick / Butcha make me happy all the time / Aw baby, you just do the trick!

  • Affectionate Parody: Of romantic duets, with "Make Me Happy" being sung by two incredibly dysfunctional people who swear practically every other line since they're so overjoyed to have fallen in love with someone who accepts them for who they are and puts up with their prickly personalities.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Spoofed particularly in the man's second verse:
    Make me happy all the time
    And you know I'm a fucking fuck!
  • Insecure Love Interest: The penultimate verse has both of the romantic partners singing about how they know they don't actually deserve their significant other, but beg regardless for them to have faith in them since they're working to be "worthy" of their love.
  • Self-Deprecation: Most of the song consists of each partner thanking the other for putting up with their own moments of Jerkassery, and they are not flattering when describing themselves. Not only is there the above comment under Cluster F-Bomb from the masculine singer, but the feminine singer also thanks her partner for putting up with her even though they know "I'm a twisted bitch".
  • Vulgar Humor: The song consists of a cheery and rambunctious love song told between two Sickeningly Sweethearts... but all while they're both constantly dropping F-bombs and other swear words left and right, making for a hilariously audacious and endearing performance.

    Song #8: "The Seraph"
But by the Angel, I am blessed

  • Ambiguous Gender: The Saint and Sinner are usually understood as both male, but the libretto for the song explicitly uses "He and She" as part of its stage directions for the final verse.
  • Insecure Love Interest: The narrator has no idea why his partner loves him, seeing himself as unworthy when compared to their goodness. The final verse reveals his partner feels the same way about him.
  • Love Is Like Religion: By his own admission, the narrator doesn't actually believe in God, but he still considers his lover to be an angel because of how good and kind he is, and how much better he is when he's with him.
  • Love Redeems: The narrator, named The Sinner in the libretto, has a past he isn't proud of, and credits his lover with making him a better man.
  • Our Angels Are Different: The titular "seraph" is actually the narrator's lover, who they view as an angel for having saved their life.

    Song #9: "Immaculate Deception"

  • Take That!: The song is about how someone can manipulate the context of a photograph or a piece of art by putting some symbolic caption that holds a deeper meaning without deeply understanding how it came to be.

    Song #10: "Leave, Luanne"
Leave, Luanne, why don't you march out that door?

  • Ambiguous Situation: Did Luanne drown herself, or was that just an excuse the Bastard used to cover up his murder of her?
  • Ambiguous Time Period: The line "Louisiana wants war" hints that the story may be set in the Antebellum Deep South, but the Bastard is also mentioned as having a truck, which wouldn't become commonplace until The '30s.
  • Bait-and-Switch: When she reaches her breaking point, Luanne waits for the Bastard to fall asleep, takes the kitchen cleaver... and goes to the dog to cut the rope, causing a diversion so she can run. Unfortunately, it doesn't work. The Bastard catches up to her.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: More naive than stupid, but one of the reasons Luanne doesn't leave her abusive husband is because the Bible says she shouldn't. In fact, this ends up being her Fatal Flaw.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Luanne ultimately dies, but is freed from her horribly abusive rapist of a husband and can now live in peace with God. And as a bonus, she gets to personally drag her despicable husband down to Hell.
  • Chain Pain: Most animatics portray Luanne using the chains around her feet to bind her murderous husband and drag him down to Hell.
  • Depending on the Artist: Animatic artists have wildly varying interpretations of Luanne's emotions as she drags the Bastard down to Hell. She has been portrayed wearing a calm Slasher Smile while clearly exhilarating in her revenge, crying Berserker Tears, screaming with cathartic rage, weeping with a Tearful Smile, just plain happy with no tears at all, or even making a Nightmare Face to scare the crap out of her husband during his last moments on earth.
  • Double Meaning: The Bastard beat her [Luanne] there, both in the sense that he made it to the other side of the bog before she did and then beat her to death.
  • Downer Beginning: The song opens with Luanne's husband ordering her to make dinner after beating her hard enough to bust her eye and break her arm.
  • Dragged Off to Hell: The Bastard, courtesy of Luanne, returned from beyond the grave. Oh, sweet karma.
  • Fatal Flaw:
    • As the singers note, Luanne is loyal to a fault, and even though she desperately wants to leave her husband, she can't bring herself to do so.
    • The Bastard's own flaws are his abusive douchebag attitude and violence towards his wife. Even after he sees her as a ghost, he can't help but tell her that she deserved everything and God doesn't love her. If he had apologized or vowed to be a bit better, he wouldn't be stuck in Hell.
  • Fate Worse than Death: The chorus outright states that being married to the Bastard is worse than dying because of his cruelty. Indeed, Luanne only becomes liberated in death, after which she appears to her husband as a ghost to return the favor. The chorus then sings that now he is the one facing a fate worse than death.
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell: Heavily implied to be the case, with the Bastard's bedroom being described as feeling "hellish hot" when Luanne's spirit comes for him.
  • Fire/Water Juxtaposition: Luanne drowns in a bog, and the Bastard is later killed by the vengeful spirit of his dead wife dragging him down to a Fire and Brimstone Hell.
  • Ghostly Goals: Luanne returns to her husband after she dies, rebuffing his insults and instead smugly proclaiming, "I've come to settle a score." She then proceeds to send him to Hell.
  • God Is Good: Judging by the ending and the line "God loves Luanne," it can be inferred He gave her permission to return to Earth long enough to get her revenge on her husband, and possibly other abusive men. It's also a middle finger to when the Bastard told Luanne that God doesn't love her.
  • Hate Sink: Luanne's unnamed husband is an abhorrent rapist and abuser. It's to the point that he's never even given a name by the song, instead being just called "the Bastard".
  • Heroic Dog: Some animatics give the dog a more active role by showing it protecting Luanne from her husband.
  • Hourglass Plot: Luanne is abused by her bastard of a husband and ends up killed by him. Come the end of the song, she returns to drag him to hell and there's nothing he can do to stop it.
  • Hope Spot: Luanne escapes... with half of the song left. The Bastard catches up to her, and she either drowns herself, or he does it and covers it up by claiming it was suicide.
  • I Die Free: When her abusive husband catches her in the swamp in the middle of her escape attempt, Luanne (possibly) decides to drown herself in the marsh rather than let him take her back.
  • Ironic Echo: "Someone's howling, screams like sighing with battered breath..." The first time it's used, it refers to Luanne being abused by her husband with no one coming to help her. The second time, he's the one screaming in terror as the revenant spirit of his murdered wife comes to make him pay, except this time, no one's coming to help him.
  • Karmic Death: The Bastard kills his wife, and then she drags him off to Hell in retaliation.
  • Marital Rape License: Luanne is mentioned as having been repeatedly beaten and raped by her husband.
  • Mood Whiplash: After Luanne runs off, there's a hopeful violin melody as the singers motivate Luanne to swim for shore...and then the Bastard arrives...
  • Meaningful Echo: And loyal Luanne... remains and remains and remains and remains.
  • No Name Given: Luanne's abusive husband is only called "the Bastard"; their pet dog also goes unnamed.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Luanne when she swims to the end of the bog, feels a sudden yank on her hair and realizes the Bastard beat her there.
    • The Bastard when the window opens and he sees the ghost of his dead wife standing in the room.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The female vocalists can only be heard in the song whenever Luanne is resisting her husband (i.e., when she is swimming for her life through the bog).
  • Southern Gothic: invoked The song tells a grim tale in the Deep South that is slowly revealed to have a supernatural bent after Luanne refuses to stay dead while her abuser still lives. Ryan Scott Oliver has even described the song as a "Southern folk tale".
  • Tempting Fate: The bastard tells the ghostly Luanne that God doesn't love her. The final line of the song states that no, God does love Luanne and gave her the chances to enact vengeance on the Bastard for everything he did to her.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: After a lifetime of abuse, Luanne finally gets some justice after she dies, when she's allowed to return to Earth and drag her husband to Hell personally. And depending on your interpretation, possibly gets to go on and do the same to other abusive men on behalf of their victims. Because, in spite of what the Bastard tells her, God loves Luanne.
  • Til Murder Do Us Part: Luanne's abusive husband ends up killing her after he catches her trying to run away. Right when he thinks he's gotten away with it, she comes back as a vengeful spirit and returns the favor by dragging him down to hell.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Luanne's husband was never nice to her, and he only got worse after he got fired from his job.
  • Tragic Mistake: Luanne deciding to run by waking up the Bastard and creating a diversion by letting out the dog to distract him, instead of just sneaking out of the house without waking him up or just slicing his throat anyhow. Even though she gets away, he catches up to her and kills her.
  • Villainous Valour: The narration mentions that the Bastard is terrified when the vengeful spirit of his deceased and abused wife has returned, but he doesn't show his fear because of his pride and instead just sneers and insults her.
  • Wham Line: "Until you reach the bank / And you crawl on to the bank / 'Til you feel a little yank on your hair / And stricken stare at the bastard / Who beat you there..."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: After the dog is let loose, he's never seen again.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: At one point, Luanne gets a cleaver and sneaks towards her bastard cut the dog's rope as an excuse to leave. Why she doesn't take a different knife and just slice his throat or just run away without making a sound is another thing.
  • Wife-Basher Basher: After killing her abusive husband, Luanne goes on to become an avenging angel who kills other men who beat their wives.
    Luanne, she cries her miserable wail
    So the bastards will never sleep again
    No—no reprieve, Luanne
    She brings their souls down to hell
    A caution to the cruelest of men!

    Song #11: "Mama, Let Me In"

  • Abusive Parents: The song is about a child begging their mother to love them and stop hating them and referring to them as "sin".

    Song #12: "Why Must We Tell Them Why?"

    Song #13: "Twisted Teeth"
He's sucking me dry...

  • Ambiguous Situation: Lampshaded by the song's own libretto, which points out how ambiguous it is over whether or not the two leads' relationship is one of genuine love or just the two working together as an effective hunting duo since they're both vampires.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: The narrator of the song felt pity for a lonely man and he returns it by biting her and turning her into a vampire.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: This song is actually from the perspective of a vampire couple.
  • Shout-Out: A stealthy one; The female vampire is called the "Night Stalker" in the song's libretto.
  • Unholy Matrimony: One interpretation of the song is that while both parties might be evil vampires, they're genuinely happy and truly in love with one another.

    Song #14: "Hemming & Hawing"
I'm of these days...

  • Ambiguous Ending: Whether or not the lovers will actually decide to split apart or will be trapped in this cycle of procrastinating this breakup is unknown. All that is known is that they're suffering from dragging it on too long.
  • The Ditherer: Both lovers are conflicted on whether or not they should separate. The title of the song also reflects this as they're being indecisive on such an important decision.
  • I Just Want to Be Loved: Part of the reason the relationship is still on-going on the male singer's end.
    Am I getting bored? Just wanna be adored?
  • Love Hurts: The final lines state how the singers hate that they're still love with each other and are stuck in a difficult decision.
    Goddamn I hate you, heart
  • The Procrastinator: Both lovers proclaim that they're going to leave their other...but not now because they hope that there's a way of salvaging it.

    Song #15: "Cut You a Piece"
When even the Earth has numbered days / I can give just one thing that stays

  • Bittersweet Ending: While Jules and Jessie's story is a straightforward Downer Ending (with the song's description specifically stating that "Jules lives on with the everlasting torture of living without a piece of him"), the Narrator takes solace in their fear of outliving their partner by telling their own partner that as they're soul-mates, even if one of them dies before the other they'll always be with them no matter what since they've given each other "a half of [their] soul".
    So cut me a piece of you, cut me a piece of you, and where I go you'll always be
  • Hope Spot: The first few verses of the song are all about the Odd Couple Jules and Jessie being Happily Married... and then Jessie dies barely six months after their wedding in a car accident.
  • Irony: Jules tells Jessie that he would die for her because she's inspired him to become a better person. She dies before him in a freak car accident.
  • Opposites Attract: The main couple, Jessie and Jules. The first verse even notes this.

    Song #16: "The Ballad of Sara Berry"
Check Sara, choose Sara, vote for Sara Berry!

  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Used during the bridge during Sara's killing spree. Patricia is taken out by poisoned punch, Raquel is killed by a rock, Anne's brains are bludgeoned, Mariana's remains are marinated, Quiara is quietly drowned and Eunice's body parts were spread around school.
  • All for Nothing: Sara sacrificed everything in order to become Prom Queen and went on a massacre to ensure that she was the winner. She only gets to wear the crown for a few minutes before the cops take her into a mental asylum where she'll be staying forever, all while she's lost in her mind in thinking that she's "Queen of High School Land".
  • Alliterative Name: Julie Jenkins.
  • Alpha Bitch: Sara Berry is a vicious deconstructive take on this trope, being immensely successful and popular — to the point of basically being the "Big Woman on Campus" for her high school — but she's only likely this due to her abusive father's relentless pushing of her. Eventually, she snaps under the pressure and goes on an Ax-Crazy rampage.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Since we're looking into the eyes of Sara going through a Sanity Slippage, it's hard to tell if she's a reliable narrator.
    • Was Julie actually going to be nominated Prom Queen? It was said that it was only gossip after all.
    • Is Sara's father as abusive as the song says he is or is this how Sara sees him as on her downward spiral? Did he ever show concern for her at all? Better yet, what's going to happen to him now that his daughter unleashed a massacre on Prom Night and is sent to a mental asylum?
    • Aside from Julie, are Sara's murder victims actually her competitors for Prom Queen? They're said to be “seven reasons this crown's not good as got,” but it’s possible they're not directly competing with her and she blames them for different reasons. They could be Sara's friends who stopped supporting her as she went crazy, Julie's friends who pushed for her to be queen, members of the prom committee responsible for counting the votes, etc.
    • Why Sara's boyfriend decides to take Julie to the prom is never addressed. Is it because of Sara distancing from him? Is it because he's trying to rack sympathy points by dating Julie? Or is it because the two started to bond while Sara focused on her prom queen ambitions?
  • An Arm and a Leg: Julie lost her leg in a car crash.
  • Arc Words: "Down on your knees before the queen!"
  • Ax-Crazy: Sara goes on a killing spree, during which she actually dismembers at least one of her victims.
  • Ballad of X: The full title is "The Ballad of Sara Berry" after all.
  • Bludgeoned to Death: This is how Sara kills Anne, her third victim.
  • Broken Ace: Sara Berry. She's rich, cheer captain, has a "hot bod and hot boyfriend", and is the queen bee of her high school senior class. She's only this successful because her parents (mostly her father) refuse to show her any love or support unless she's constantly working her ass off.
  • Broken Smile: In most animatics, Sara wears one as she crowns herself Prom Queen, her dress still covered in the blood of her rivals.
  • Cruel Cheerleader: Sara is the cheer captain of her school willing to murder the competition so she can become Prom Queen.
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype: The titular Sara Berry is one for the Alpha Bitch; Her parents refuse to deem her of any worth unless she wins the title of prom queen, her single-minded obsession ends up driving away her friends and boyfriend (who proceeds to take her rival to the prom as a pity date), and it all ends with her becoming an Ax-Crazy murderess who ends up arrested and sentenced to an insane asylum, all while convinced she's now "the Queen of High School Land".
  • Deranged Dance: Sara does a Happy Dance as she crowns herself Prom Queen while covered in blood, much to the (presumed) horror of the student body.
    You donned the sash and scepter, doing a dance, as you crowned you queen of high school land...
  • Detrimental Determination: Nothing will stop Sara from becoming Prom Queen, even if she has to isolate herself from her friends, boyfriend and enact a murder spree.
  • Downer Ending: By the end of the song, six innocent people are dead from Sara's rampage, Julie Jenkins (and presumably the rest of the high school class, Sara's ex-boyfriend included) are all traumatized (likely for life), and Sara has been institutionalized in a mental hospital while having completely fallen into a delusional Happy Place, only able to be ecstatically scream about how she's now "the Queen of High School Land". Yikes.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: During the bridge, Sara has a terrifying thought. If there are seven other girls vying for the crown, what would happen if they were eliminated from the competition?
  • Fair-Weather Friend: As Sara loses it, her Girl Posse ditches her, stating that she's "socially dead".
  • Fatal Flaw: Sara's insistent need to be Prom Queen above all else ends her. She pushes away everyone who cares about her and instead of properly talking to Julie over what Prom means to her, decides that if she can't beat the competition then she'll just kill the competition.
  • Girl Posse: Not a very loyal one; Sara's friends abandon her as she goes more and more insane trying to secure herself the vote for prom queen.
  • Happy Place: Sara deludes herself into believing she won the Prom Queen title and the adoration of the school as she's being dragged away to an insane asylum where she'll stay for the rest of her life.
    "Ät least in your head/you're Queen of High School Land./Don't pity the dead/you're Queen of High School Land!"
  • Hate Sink: Sara is too sympathetic and entertaining to be truly hated, so instead her emotionally abusive father is the lightning rod for the audience's hatred.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: Sara goes from beautiful, popular, rich and beloved cheer captain to friendless, socially-dead Fallen Princess to murderous lunatic with a 6-person body count, wrapped up in a straitjacket and screaming "I'm the queen of high school land!" as she's locked away in a padded cell.
  • Insane Equals Violent: Sara goes off the deep end as a result of too much pressure by her father to become prom queen and ends up committing a sextuple homicide on prom night.
  • Insane Troll Logic: By the time Sara's lost it, she realizes that the only reason that she's not going to be Prom Queen is because of the competition. So if there is no competition, then she'll automatically get the crown by default! Cue the murder spree... The narrator even lampshades this in the bridge.
    "Some girls are rational, but Sara was not."
  • Karma Houdini: Sara's father gets away unscathed for how he pressured his daughter into causing a murder spree.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: The bridge is a description of how Sara murders six girls, set to a peppy cheerleading chant.
  • Madness Mantra: During the second verse as Sara goes more and more crazy trying to secure the vote for Prom Queen, the backing chorus chants, "Check Sara, choose Sara, vote, vote, vote for Sara Berry..."
  • Meaningful Name: The one who is looking to become a queen is named "Sara", which is Hebrew for princess.
  • Missing Mom: invoked While Sara's horribly abusive father is a prominent character, her mother is never seen (leading to a popular fan interpretation that her mother is actually dead).
  • Poor Communication Kills: Sara never talks to Julie about the situation on her having to be Prom Queen, meaning that there could've been a way for Julie to step down and let Sara be the winner. Better yet, she doesn't seem to do this with the other six competitors as well.
  • The Prom Plot: The song takes place during the weeks leading to prom and what Sara would do to become prom queen.
  • Prom Wrecker: After going insane, Sara turns the prom into a nightmare by killing six of the seven other girls competing against her for Prom Queen.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Sara kills the other girls competing for Prom Queen, crowns herself and puts the sash on. She only gets to enjoy her "coronation" for a few minutes, at most, before the police arrive.
  • Rage Against the Reflection: Many animatics have Sara destroying a mirror in rage before the reflection in it transforms from her disheveled self to her prom self, signalling that she's going mad.
  • Rage-Breaking Point: Sara's sanity starts to spiral downwards as she starts falling behind Julie in the running for Prom Queen, but she doesn't snap until her boyfriend texts her to say that he's taking Julie to prom instead of her.
  • Removing the Rival: Driven to insanity as her friends and boyfriend abandon her, Sara decides that the only way to get her crown is to slaughter the other competitors. Can't lose the race to become prom queen if there's no competition, after all! However, she fails to kill Julie, which leads to her calling the cops.
  • Rich Bitch: Sara, with the first two lines to describe her calling her a "popular bitch" and "plus she was rich".
  • Rule of Seven: There are seven other girls between Sara and the title of Prom Queen: Patricia, Raquel, Anne, Marianna, Quiara, Eunice and of course, Julie Jenkins.
  • Sanity Slippage: The possibility of not becoming Prom Queen causes Sara to go entirely off the deep end. By the end, her mind has snapped permanently, and she doesn't even realize she's confined to an asylum.
  • Sanity Slippage Song: The entire song is about Sara doing all she can to become Prom Queen and when she realizes that won't happen murders the competition so that she'd win by default.
  • Second Place Is for Losers: "There's just no place for a princess at prom," says Sara's father... so she decides to become queen by murdering her competition.
  • Sickening "Crunch!": Sara's second murder goes, "'R' is for Raquel, dashed on a rock—CRUNCH!"
  • Spelling Song: "Prom Queen" gets spelled out while Sara starts killing the other contestants to becoming Prom Queen.
  • Splash of Color: The original photos are in black and white with red seen on the photos: one girl is circled with red, another one covering the leg with scribbles (Julie Jenkins) and everyone else has their faces scribbled out. Many animatics also follow suit with the red reflecting the six other girls dying.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Sara's obsession with being the best means she pushes everyone else to the side and leaves her with no one.
    • Once Sara goes on her killing spree, it isn't long until a one-legged girl can put an end to it by calling the cops.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: The narrator seems to have only pity for Sara by the end, lamenting "God save the queen" after she goes completely insane and goes on a killing spree and states that at least Sara's become queen in her mind.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: At the prom, Sara's first victim, Patricia, dies by drinking poisoned punch.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: In most animatics, this is the usual portrayal of Sara putting on the Prom Queen's crown, sash and scepter after murdering the other girls competing for the title. From her point of view, she looks beautiful, is smiling joyously, her dress is pristine and the other students—sometimes even including Julie—are cheering for her. In reality, they're staring at her in shell-shocked horror while she's covered in blood and wearing a crazed Broken Smile as she's handcuffed and dragged away by the police. One animatic takes it further by showing her flirting and trying to dance with the Prom King, then cutting back to reality to reveal that who she thinks is the Prom King is actually a horrified police officer.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: After Julie becomes the number one pick for prom queen, Sara starts losing it but it's not until her boyfriend informs her by text that he's taking Julie to the prom that she really snaps.
  • Villain Protagonist: Our central character is a self-centered Alpha Bitch who goes insane and commits murder.
  • "Well Done, Daughter!" Gal: Sara herself is this, always told that she has to be the best in order to get affection from her parents.
  • Wham Line: Everything seems to be fine until the bridge. Sara realizes that there are seven competitors before her and on the night of prom she stages her plot. What happens next is a cheerleading song of how she offs six girls.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Sara's father disappears at the end of the song so his fate in regards to learning that his daughter has murdered six girls is never revealed.
  • Wheelchair Woobie: Julie Jenkins is seen as an In-Universe example by the rest of her school after she loses a leg in an accident. They all decide to make her Prom Queen out of pity... much to the distaste of resident Alpha Bitch Sara Berry, thus kicking off the plot. In fact, one of the song's verses is the current page quote.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: If Sara wants to be Prom Queen so much, and Julie (presumably) doesn't, why not just explain her situation so Julie can just give her the crown and save so much trouble or perhaps they can split the title of Prom Queen so both of them can get the crown? The lead singer explains that Sara wasn't the "rational type".

Time stops / By a photograph / Time stops / A moment split in half