The end of a school year means that the onset of student proms takes place across the country. Boys and girls get dressed up to enjoy a night of dancing, most of them in the waning days of their final year of high school. The wardrobe for boys usually constitutes a tuxedo, while girls have various styles of dresses to select from, some more risqué than others.
In the case of five couples from Subiaco Academy in Arkansas, everything appeared to be business as usual when it came to taking the traditional pre-prom photos on April 30.
The father of one of the students had asked his cousin, John Bolinger, to take the photos to commemorate the evening. The request was because Bolinger, whose regular job is serving as a local policeman, had recently opened up BN Focus Photography as a side business with one of his co-workers.
Bolinger snapped standard photos of boys’ boutonnieres being adjusted, girls holding corsages and couples simply enjoying the evening. However, soon after this, Bolinger was asked to take some photographs that quickly became a viral sensation. That’s because the five girls, who were standing in front of the boys on the steps outside, unbuttoned the shirts of their dates to display the t-shirt they were wearing underneath.
Each of the boys selected an individual comic superhero to represent themselves: Ryan King chose Batman, Aaron Brooks picked Iron Man, while Deacon Hardwicke selected Green Lantern. Tyler Franz and Caleb Philips selected Captain America and Superman, respectively, to round out the quintet. To emphasize the superhero aspect of the photo, each of the boys was photographed looking to their right toward the sky.
One of the most striking aspects of the picture is that each of the boy’s choices coincided with the color of their vest, bow tie and date’s dress: Green Lantern wore green, Superman wore blue, etc. The fact that their dates were all willing to go through with the gimmick was also seen as a surprise, even to the boys.
The genesis of the idea began prior to the start of the school’s football season last year. King had purchased Batman-themed cleats to play, which caught the attention of Phillips. In turn, Phillips went out and purchased Superman-themed cleats, with the idea continuing to grow in the ensuing months.
While the photo of the five couples garnered most of the attention, another photo that was taken the same night includes three other couples that were also of the same mindset. The other three boys wore t-shirts that represented The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man and The Flash.
That same evening, Bolinger posted them on Facebook, which resulted in an immediate response from media outlets. Their recognition and display of the photos resulted in the photo being shared more than 300,000 times on Facebook, with 23,000 comments related to it. Bolinger now has the photo as part of his Facebook home page.
Despite the harmless nature of the photographs, there were critics of the photo on social media. One of those critics, David Jaffe, stated that the photo was sexist, while another attacked the negative stereotypes that he felt were being portrayed by having the men thinking and the women simply smiling.
When other social media users attempted to defuse Jaffe’s criticism, he likened to the girls’ enthusiasm over the photos to the fervor of the Ku Klux Klan in lynching those that disagreed with them.
All of the students are juniors or younger, meaning that they’ll be under pressure to top the popularity of these photographs.