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Why I Hate High School Musical

05/20/2009

All right, the title is a bit of an exaggeration.  I don’t really hate the whole thing… as usual, the devil is in the details.

If you’ve encountered a tween within the past 3 or so years, you’ve probably heard of High School Musical.  Since Disney is currently working on the fourth movie in the series, talking about the first one seems so yesterday, but there are just a few seconds of the movie that spoil the entire thing for me.

I’d first suggest reading the Wikipedia plot summary here.  Sounds awesome, right?  A female (and Hispanic!) math-whiz on the academic decathalon team?  Rock on!  The major conflict of the movie is that Troy and Gabriella are part of certain cliques and are therefore “banned” from being in the musical by the social forces of the other high school students (or teachers).  But they do try out for the musical, are totally awesome, and win the support of their friends, and so really the overall message is not to be limited by cliques but to follow your dreams, whether or not they are deemed right for a basketball player or math-whiz.  

Now, watch the movie’s climax, where Troy has just come from the middle of the basketball championship game and Gabriella from the scholastic decathalon to perform their audition.

Did you see where my heart shattered into little pieces?  It was 2 minutes in.  I was super pumped that the climax would be performed with Troy in basketball warmups and Gabriella in a lab coat.  That’s the point, right?  He’s a basketball player and she’s super smart and the whole point of the costumes was to show that they can still be those people and be in the musical!  I guess not.  Gabriella’s lab coat was just for show, as she promptly takes it off and sings the rest of the musical in a pink dress.  Because, you know, the important thing is that she is a girl, not a scientist.  This wouldn’t bother me so much if Troy also ripped off his basketball sweats to reveal some cool stylish clothing underneath, but the fact that only Gabriella had to change just grates on my nerves.  

Does it completely negate the message of the movie?  No, probably not.  The best parallel I’ve seen to explain why such a small thing could annoy me so much is the FedEx arrow.  Did you know that there is an arrow in the logo of FedEx?  I didn’t until it was pointed out to me in exactly this context.  But now that I see it, I can’t unsee it.  It’s always there, for me at least.  Now that I know so much about the issues surrounding gender and science, I saw Gabriella run off stage to take off her lab coat like a flaming arrow in my face, and I can’t unsee it.

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