In 2001, teeny boppers everywhere tuned in to the Disney Channel to watch the premiere of High School Musical. The movie quickly became the most popular Disney Channel movie ever produced and completely glamorized high school life in the process.
On the surface, Leesville bears very few similarities to the fictional East High. Students don’t burst into song numbers during class, no one dances on the cafeteria tables, and there’s no secret romantic garden on the roof of the school (not that I know of, at least).
But, like most Disney Channel movies, there’s actually a valuable lesson hidden beneath the glitz and glam that is High School Musical. The movie expresses a heart-warming message of going against the “status quo” and breaking against cliques.
Troy is your average hunk. He’s captain of the basketball team and has glowing blue eyes beneath his perfectly floppy hair. Oh, and his equally hunky dad is also the coach of the basketball team.
Gabriella is your average geek. She has perfect grades and competes on the math team. (The fact that she’s gorgeous strays from the common stereotype of Mathletes, but Disney couldn’t have an unattractive female protagonist.)
Throughout many perfectly scripted scenes and flashy musical numbers, Troy and Gabriella fight against the pressures of high school in order to avoid the “status quo.” Both dream to perform in the school musical together, but they must fight many obstacles along the way.
In Troy’s case, his fellow players and father/coach urge him to “keep his head in the game,” and eschew from musical related distractions. Gabriella receives similar pressures from her math-loving friends. Along with their individual pressures, Troy and Gabriella must challenge Sharpay and Ryan Evans, the school’s resident drama kids, who won’t give up their “star” status that easily.
In the end, everything works out. The basketball team and Decathon team realize how narrow-minded they had been before, and team up in order to get Gabriella and Troy to their audition in time. With the entire school’s support, the gorgeous couple breezes through call backs and scores their ultimate goal: starring roles in the high school musical.
High School Musical is a complete and utter fabrication of real life, but provides a meaningful message nonetheless. By fighting against the pressures of parents, grades, and friends, Troy and Gabriella achieve their dream and unify the entire school in the process.
Leesville would benefit from applying the same attitude to every day school life. The musical cast is pulled from the same group of kids every year, brawny siblings dominate athletics, (The Gentry’s!? The Berrios brothers!?) and AP classes are packed with the same brainy students. It’s about time that a musically-inclined football player tried out for Cinderella, or an AP student took a break from homework to try out for sports.
Going against your friends and parents’ expectations may not score you a starring role in the musical, but it will prove you as an individual. If anything can be learned from High School Musical, it’s that sticking with expectations isn’t always the best route. In most cases, rising above the status quo is the best route possible.