I was also surprised to see Aerosmith and Cyndi Lauper as two of the writers behind this year's prom theme songs. In 2008? Is prom one of our only traditions immune to contemporary trends in music, culture, and technology? Wouldn't Usher, Fall Out Boy, or Gnarls Barkley be timelier? Or is prom the ultimate form of nostalgia, wherein kids reenact traditions and traditional roles long since abandoned or transmogrofied, so that the themes are in fact a commentary on the staleness, retro-ness, or novelty of the dance itself? I could not say for sure.
It's never been clear to me what the functional purpose of a prom is. It's certainly not preparation for adult life, since the only occasions I've since had to wear a tux were at my siblings' weddings. Every other circumstance I've seen other people get similarly fancied-up seems, from the outside, to be similarly contrived (fundraisers, etc). Then again, I'm an academic: I'm happy to suit up for conferences, but otherwise I don't much see the point.
Nor does it appear to be an exercise in nostalgia, though it may be one of the moments in which gender roles are most explicitly acted, because, one would have to ask: nostalgia for what?
Rather, it seems most probable that Prom is a high schooler's idea of what being an adult is like, in much the same way that Saturday Night Live is a high schooler's idea of what adults find funny.