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A Question About 'High School Musical'

(Posted by guest blogger Valerie Strauss)

I've just watched "High School Musical" for the umpteeth time with my 'tween daughter, and it was as fun for her--and the gazillions of other young kids watching it over and over--as it was the first time she saw it.

The question is: Why?

For those who don't know, "High School Musical" is a Disney-produced TV movie that came out on DVD early this year and has been riding high on the charts ever since. The soundtrack hit No. 1 on Billboard, costumes are available, clothing lines are for sale, and, well, you get the picture. It's a phenomenon.

What is so striking about that is this: There is no sex or drugs (not even a hint), no bullying, no suicide, no effort to exact revenge or steal tests or secretly break into the school computer to change grades.

It's simply about being who you really are. A basketball star meets an academic star on vacation and when the latter moves to the former's school, they decide to buck their own cliques and audition together for a high school musical. Shenanigans ensue. There is a happy ending, so happy for everybody involved that a sequel is planned.
In the world of reviews, the songs have been praised as both catchy and lambasted as empty; the acting called bright and lackluster; its screenplay delightful and banal.

I can only imagine how fun it would be to read a review from the great Post movie reviewer Steven Hunter (as for me, all I can say is, "The things we do for our children....").

But, of course, the difference in reviewers' opinions doesn't matter to the kids.

A lot of the entertainment these same kids watch, and the songs they hear, are laden with sexual suggestion, or, more accurately, description.

Today's young people--and I mean really young people--sing along to songs about body parts and sex, wear seductive clothes and watch graphic movies and television shows. Their parents let them. The sight of kids singing and acting out, for example, the Black Eyed Peas song with the lyrics "My hump, my hump my lovely lady lumps," has become so routine that perhaps one conclude think kids feel entirely comfortable with our sex-saturated culture.

Part of the appeal of this sexless musical may be that they aren't. Just because kids today are exposed to more than we were at their age doesn't mean they are any more developmentally ready to be bombarded with adult messages.

Maybe a story about two people fighting, and succeeding to be who they are--without anybody going to bed, getting beat up or dying--is just the ticket for the comfort level of these kids.

Or, maybe not. Maybe it is so popular because the kids are hot for the male and female leads.

Time to go watch it again.

By Valerie Strauss |  August 16, 2006; 11:10 AM ET
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Must you be so smug and negative, please! Have a little faith or hope in the next generation, if you can fathom it.

My 9 yr old and countless other pre teens/teens love High School Musical simply because it's a great movie with catchy tunes and a nice, clean story. Is that so hard to believe? Not all young folk are nodding their heads to the latest fowl songs played on the radio 24/7.

Most of them are good students, well behaved and mindful young people. The sooner you and others realize that, the better off we'll all be.

Posted by: Mom in Silver Spring | August 16, 2006 1:32 PM

I'd be interested to see if you have those same thoughts when your 9 year old starts high school.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 16, 2006 1:53 PM

SS mom is right. Believe or not, there are many kids out there that enjoy good, clean fun. Unfortunately, there are very few entertainment options for kids. HSM stands out in part because the status quo for entertainment is primarily filth.

Posted by: another mom in SS | August 16, 2006 1:56 PM

"Their parents let them."

Thats the whole gist right there. Parents today would rather rely on their big screen tv to do the parenting for them. I dont blame kids for doing what they can get away with mostly because parents these days are too damn lazy or scared to say no to their kids. God forbid you want to spank them you will probably get arrested or end up on Springer.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 16, 2006 2:19 PM

to respond to the article saying generally that kids these days are exposed to more now; not so much.

Granted, more colorful metaphors have snuck into society's list of "ok" nomenclature. But Elvis was considered the worst thing in the world in his day; swinging his hips around and singing that "jungle music."

It's all relative truly.

Granted, I have no kids. But my brothers and sisters don't let their kids listen to or buy records that contain material unsuitable for a 13 year old. And the kids don't want it anyway.

Everything comes down to parenting. Good parenting isn't shutting your kids in from the world. Good parenting is assisting your childen in gaining the knowledge they will need in life to make their own decisions.

Posted by: texas terp | August 16, 2006 2:30 PM

Much to my chagrin, I know "High School Musical" well, thanks to my four-year-old niece who adores the movie and its soundtrack. While I agree that yes, it's pretty "clean", as far as movies these days go, there are some elements that leave a bad taste. Until the happily-ever-after resolution, the Barbie-like character Sharpay and her lackey brother Ryan are just as rude and elitist as those kids in the popular clique we remember from our own high school days. Sharpay's snobbery is left unchecked until the very end--and even then, she's still a domineering personality. When my niece plays with her imaginary HSM friends, she often kowtows to Sharpay--seen as one of the most important characters in the eyes of a four year old. Why? Because she's powerful, I suppose. Where it gets weird is when I find myself arguing with her to play with Gabrielle instead, because Sharpay's "not nice". Now, if I could only get that song out of my head...

Posted by: Auntie Lisa | August 16, 2006 2:54 PM

Did you see the main song from the Musical was on the Miss Teen pageant last night?

Posted by: Yeah | August 16, 2006 3:19 PM

Read Mark Morford 3/22/06 in the San Fran Chronical for a great column on the same subject.

Posted by: Dave | August 16, 2006 3:28 PM

I don't know about y'all peeps, but...I've got my head in the game.

HSM rocks. And this from a father who knows the Grease soundtrack by heart.

Oh yeah, I make a mean crème brûlée as well!

Posted by: Sam F. | August 16, 2006 3:56 PM

To Sam F., you seem to proud to mention the creme brulee...real macho!!

Anyhow, it's a fictional movie and even if its a good clean movie doesn't mean the alternatives of real life should not be considered for the unfortunate group who can't go to go to a dance school and play's too gooey and unreal to me.

And I love my kids to no end, however I try and keep it real with them, there are good movies and there are bad movies, but most importantly, I talk to them about real never what kinda things they are introduced to when leaving the house especially in the city.

I watch what they watch and they watch what I watch and we allow open forums to discuss.

Americans pretend to live this "virginy" style of living and we all know that's pretend.

Anyway, my kids loved the movie and so did I and just for mention when we came out of the theatre one of my kids said..."back to reality" he was giving a homeless guy some change.


Posted by: Frankee | August 16, 2006 5:14 PM

By the way Sam, I do a hell of job on the grill with some ribs!

Posted by: Frankee | August 16, 2006 5:20 PM

Why, Frankee, do I doubt that you've actually seen the movie? If so, you'd recognize the creme brulee reference, and you'd know that the movie was never in the theater... it is a Disney Channel/DVD phenomenon. Perhaps you are just trying to make a preachy point?

Posted by: Elizabeth | August 17, 2006 3:52 PM


Posted by: Dave | August 18, 2006 3:58 PM

High School Musical is the best movie this year ever!! they r so gona win awards at the teen choice awards lol. we r in high school too and it is our new favourite movie. whea gona put it to the head of drama to do a high school musical play at our school here in new zealand. It will be awesome. but it was disappointing to hear that the lead boy troy (zac) isnt even singing for real. gutted!! the songs are awesome too!! gettin in2 the nz top 10! goood!! My friend Katherina is gona play Troy, and I Petruchio the great am gona play Gabriella!! We are now starting to teach our dance class danzeport the moves from Whe're All In This Together"! that is like the best part of the movie man!! total climax!! we may even put a dance class performance of this song too!!Thats my office!! And as for the cynical people who thought we only like HSM because of the hot leads, you are soooo wrong! we even did a survey amongst our friends and they were like no!! that is so not the reason we like High School Musical!! most people asked at our school why they liked high School Musical replied: because it doesnt have all of the horrible rude humour in most of todays teen flicks.and people actually have their clothes on in this movie. apart from some of the basketball scenes. but that doesnt matter. the stereotypical roles played by Troy as the basketball star, Gabriella the "freaky math girl" and Sharpay as the dominant mean girl, were portrayed awesomely and it wasn't too influencing on younger viewers. Chads hair was cool! They had all the starts of romantic scenes but did "good saves" in making the scenes not sexual, as this was made for disney viewers who are generally younger. but it was disappointing that even though Troy and Gabriella nearly kissed, they didn't quite make it, pecks on the lips are not too influencing for younger viewers, and would have been acceptable in this film. I wish I had a hideout like Troy. It was like a jungle up there! good props! And hopefully for the sequel there will actually be a "High School Musical" and not just the auditions. but overall this is by far the best film we have watched this year and it is most definetely recommended! it is suitable for viewers of all ages and everyone can relate to it in some way or other. thank you so much site host for giving us this opportunity to express our views on this master piece. High School Musical is THE BEST!!

Posted by: Petruchio & Katherina | August 23, 2006 8:08 PM

Does anyone know what newspaper Gabrailla is in for her academic achievements? - The one Sharphy reads on the Internet.

Posted by: Erin | August 25, 2006 5:06 PM

gabriella are you sill a kid?

Posted by: andrea | August 31, 2006 2:46 PM

hi gabriella. are you sill a kid? i love you. i say, you are the best in high school musical,will good bye
p.s write back to me at,

Posted by: andrea | August 31, 2006 2:51 PM

dear gabriella, aer you sill and sill a kid?will you aer the best. i love you!! good bye love andrea

Posted by: andrea | September 1, 2006 9:13 AM

I liked high school musical because there was no rude scenes in it. most parents let their kids watch rude movies when they should not.

from Tessa

Posted by: tessa | September 9, 2006 1:24 AM

dear Gabriella


from allice

Posted by: allice | September 9, 2006 1:27 AM

You are the best gabriella!! i am getting high school musical for christmas, and its cool how they show you the words for the songs and how to do the dance moves you rock!

Posted by: Shelby.L | September 15, 2006 5:45 AM

is troy and graballa girlfriends and boyfriends. if not his going to be mine

Posted by: adelina | September 19, 2006 7:32 PM

why don't nobody loves sharpay. is it becouse shes ugly.don't worry sharpay I will find you a boyfriend.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 19, 2006 7:39 PM

don't tell sharpay that even if she is ugly . if i were with you i'd kill you and i'm not playing.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 19, 2006 7:43 PM

You should all reconsider your thoughts, some of you wrtoe some pretty odd stuff!!!
love you though xo :-)

Posted by: High School Freaks | September 20, 2006 11:48 PM

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