Heroes, Villains and Harry Potter: Why James Tate’s Banning From Prom Resonates With Us

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Harry Potter and his former menacing headmistress Dolores Umbridge, NewsFeed's choice to play Tate and the woman who banned him from prom in the inevitable Lifetime movie.

The story of James Tate, the boy banned from prom for plastering an invitation on his school building, has spread virally across America—much like ridiculously choreographed dance moves spread across gym floors in prom movies. NewsFeed explains 10 reasons why Tate’s case has ignited the public (and why you’re looking at a picture of Harry Potter).

1. Talk about ironic.

Being banned from prom for an above-and-beyond prom invitation is like having your college application thrown out because you provided 10 reasons you want to attend when they specifically asked for one, or having your hot-dog-eating title stripped because you were eating bigger-than-regulation-size frankfurters.

(MORE: A Brief History of the Prom)

2. Prom is an American institution.

Everyone knows what prom is and what a big deal it is supposed to be. It’s not a ritual prized by just some, like a cotillion or bar mitzvah. It’s a rite of passage Americans share regardless of religion or creed, which makes Tate’s tale prime fodder for the masses.

3. Prom only happens once.

Yes, there are junior proms (and some more enticing students might go to a whole slew before their four years are out) but prom is traditionally The Singular Big Night, the one evening meant to put a final gloss of glorious memories atop those difficult teenage years—the night, if movies are right, for confessing big crushes and losing your virginity. And the prospect of someone missing it is heartwrenchingly final.

4. It’s a generational conflict.

Symbolism is at work here. Tate’s headmaster represents all adults, while Tate represents all youth. And rebelling against the older generation, especially when they seem to be unsympathetically clenching to convention, is a practice deeply beloved in our country. Will Smith perhaps said it best: “You know parents are the same no matter time nor place/ They don’t understand that us kids are going to make some mistakes/ So to you other kids all across the land/ There’s no need to argue: parents just don’t understand.”

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5. Injustice!

The school said that Tate climbing up on a ladder to tape the letters on the building, even while wearing a helmet, was too dangerous and that Tate and his friends were trespassing by doing their deed in the night. For Tate’s supporters, the punishment in this case was far too harsh for the crime.

6. Rules!

The headmaster made a statement yesterday saying there would be no reversal, which has created sympathy among those (older) news-consumers who believe that rules are rules for a reason. Every student at the school, she said, has had to miss prom if suspended after April 1. Tate was suspended after that date, so no prom. No exceptions. As one commenter put it on NewsFeed yesterday, “Break the rules, suffer the consequences.  Everything in life cannot be compromised.”

7. Women want to be that girl.

The ladies love a romantic gesture. And, even though Tate has continually said the girl in question was just a friend, the effort was most definitely swoon-worthy.

8. Men have got that guy’s back.

The guys know it’s hard to put yourself out there, in simply asking a girl on your average Friday-night date, much less trumpeting the question across a wall for the whole school to see. He took a risk for a lady, and while getting spots on the Today Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live! might be cool, it seems a date with that lady would be the most appropriate reward.

9. People love people sticking up for other people.

The news of how many people have rallied for Tate—the tens of thousands who have joined a group supporting him on Facebook, the kids who attempted a sit-in today at his school, the mayor speaking out on his behalf—is an irresistible story itself.

10. J.K. Rowling’s brainwashing

For those who have seen pictures of Tate and his headmaster, Beth Smith, you might note that they bear a certain resemblance to Harry Potter and Dolores Umbridge, the evil witch who connived her way into the post of headmistress at Hogwarts. For those supporting Tate, this has undoubtedly played a strong subliminal role.

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