High School Musical, Disney’s all-singing, all-dancing movie original, started a phenomenon. High School Musical 2 built upon its success. High School Musical 3 will get a cinema release. The students at that fictional East High School are making the corporation enough money to keep Mickey Mouse in helium, with plenty spare to buy Donald Duck a pair of trousers so he can hide his shame. Maybe, just maybe, Goofy will afford to get his teeth done and undo all of Disney’s careful branding. This High School-based extravaganza is, of course, utterly unrealistic. That’s an inherent part of it being a musical. In real life people tend not to erupt into song and dance routines on the spur of the moment. They don’t skip and holler and twirl while walking down the street, eating in restaurants, or playing sports. That’s a little too dangerous. There are enough people out there who’ve come up with unreasonable justification as to why they have the right to kick the living shit of anyone they fancy kicking the living shit out of, without giving them an all-singing, all-dancing target to aim at. It just doesn’t happen. However, it is not just the singing and dancing aspect of the film that makes High School Musical so unreal.
Picture the scene: Sun-kissed modern-day America. Blue skies stretching into eternity. The student body
filled with a range of children from different ethnic backgrounds, all suspiciously thin but not too thin (aside
from a token ‘fat’ girl who is so far from obese that anyone actually overweight would feel the urge to post
her a cheese burger or two). Here there’s not a nose, lip or eyebrow piercing in sight. They all dress in
smart-casual clothes, keep their hair neat and roam the corridors of a clean, freshly-painted, heavily
bannered high school exuding a sense of purpose. These kids want to soar, to fly, to reach the stars in
heaven and achieve. None of the kids from East High are tooled up and ready to bust a cap in someone’s
This seems a far cry from the view of America high schools we’re regularly exposed to in the media. Where are the metal detectors positioned at every doorway? Where are the pregnant teens blowing jocks for drug money? Where are the drunken date-rapists or disillusioned, disenfranchised youths who go to school after some bowling and a visit to the local K-Mart where they stock up on ammunition? Where is the horror? Where is the pain? The devastation of a country going to hell in a handbag? I don’t know where it is, but it isn’t in East High. The biggest trauma to affect this place is when the captain of the basketball team wants to sing in the school show.
The fact that neither Troy nor Gabriella is willing to be, respectively, a basketball star or a mathematical genius if it means giving up the music, opens up a whole world of possibilities for the kids of East High. Throughout the course of the film they learn from their mistakes and grow as people. This sends out a message that is both appealing and beneficial and, ultimately, fits in nicely with the ideals of the American nation.
You have the right to be the best at whatever you choose. How do you earn such a right? Work hard, be
nice to your peers, respect your elders, keep your clothes clean, your teeth white, and don’t pierce
anything. America wants to be the best, it always has, and Disney are working to ensure the generations
currently raised by television, those horrifically obese kids brimming with fast-food, believe that America
is the best place in the world, full of the best people who all want the best for each other.
Of course, there’s always a risk. What if the disenfranchised and bitter work together to bring about the downfall of society? We have to hope that the bright, shiny world of High School Musical is so appealing they will eventually fall in line and start dancing
down the hallways, encouraging each other to do the best they can. We have to believe that disillusioned loners will go out, find friends, sing in tune, dance in step, and take their weapons back to K-Mart for a refund. Is the world of High School Musical really what America needs? Indeed, is it what the world needs? The answer, according to countless young people across the globe who follow the movies fanatically, is a They’re soaring. Flying. Join them. But make sure you check any misgivings at the door.