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Mental Health Themes in Music: "Prom Queen"

Welcome to the next entry in the exploratory series of Mental Health Themes in Music! Today we’ll look at the title track on the 2018 EP, “Prom Queen,” by Beach Bunny. The whole song is a commentary on beauty standards, how they lead to insecurities and sometimes even lead to surgical intervention and/or eating disorder behaviors.

Shut up, count your calories

I never looked good in mom jeans

Wish I was like you

Blue-eyed blondie, perfect body

Many will quietly engage in restrictive eating behaviors, especially when trying to fit into a trendy article of clothing that might not naturally flatter their body type, all while wishing their body looked differently.

Dissect my insecurities

I'm a defect, surgical project

It's getting hard to breathe

There's plastic wrap in my cheeks

In addition to body size and shape, some feel insecure about certain features (often facial) and will make adaptations to their body despite it leading to physical discomfort. 

Maybe I should try harder

You should lower your beauty standards

I'm no quick-curl barbie

I was never cut out for prom queen

This highlights the ambivalence of the narrator in the song.

If I'm pretty, will you like me?

They say, "Beauty makes boys happy"

I've been starving myself

Carving skin until my bones are showing

Wanting to be accepted by others, particularly in regards to romantic and/or sexual attraction, is understandable. However, what is concerning and heartbreaking is folks falling into restrictive eating patterns in hopes of attaining that acceptance.

Teach me how to be okay

I don't wanna downplay my emotions

They say, “Beauty is pain

You'll only be happy if you look a certain way”

I wanna be okay

The song ends with this verse. While the narrator has subscribed to the cliche, “beauty is pain” as necessary to attain overall happiness, they also want to “be okay.” Whether that is by changing their body or their perspective, it is unclear. I’d like to think it’s the latter though.

Essentially, this song is a snapshot of one’s experience within our current societal standards of beauty. While it can be tempting to participate, I invite you to go against the grain by adopting a sense of radical self-acceptance in whatever body you have.

March is Women's History Month and Looking Glass Counseling is proud to support the Cambridge based Boston Women's Fund. Boston Women’s Fund uplifts, advocates for and invests in women, girls and gender-expansive individuals who are leading grassroots organizations and systems change. They strive toward racial, economic, social and gender justice. BWF believes that change begins with women, girls and gender-expansive people in their own communities, and that with the necessary resources these folks are able to implement their ideas. BWF believes that women, girls and gender-expansive individuals can and must be leaders within all movements if progressive change is to occur. 


Kim Johnson, LMHC, MT-BC, is a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) and board certified music therapist (MT-BC) who graduated with her master’s from Lesley University in 2017. She has experience with adults and adolescents in group private practice and community mental health settings. The levels of care she has worked in are outpatient, with both individual and group therapy and in partial hospital programs for mental health and substance use disorders. Additionally, she has had intensive training in dialectical behavioral therapy and cognitive processing therapy for PTSD.

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