Let’s talk about High School Musical, Ideally I would like to use the fact that I’ve only just recently, (this week) actually got around to seeing any of the three movies (not counting the spin-off here.) all the way through to contextualize why I’m using this particular movie to make the point that we need to better understand what the goal of a movie was before we judge it.
This is because despite everything that High School Musical (HSM from here on out) isn’t, one can’t deny that it is actually kind of great at being what it is. A relatively care-free story about teens trying to figure out who they are and navigating through life in the lens of High School society and fun musical numbers.
Actually, when you think about it, HSM is very similar to the teen dystopia movies that have been all the rage in these last few years. In both HSM and teen dystopian films the core is the struggle of being “different” and trying to fit in or change a society that rejects individuals who are different and overcoming an authority system that tries to suppress them. Right? For Divergent it’s literally a personality test that eventually leads to a coup, Maze Runner features a unique genetic trait that makes them immune to an apcolyptcitic disease and in HSM they sing a song titled “Stick to the Status Quo”. None of these movies are at all subtle about what their message is, and that’s fine really.
Except when a movie tries to convince their audience that they’re more than meets the eye and they so clearly aren’t. This is where HSM separates itself from the teen dystopian franchises and it’s why I can honestly say it’s a good movie and the other ones I mentioned are not, but I’m not here to bash on those movies more since I’ve beat that horse to death a long time ago.
Keeping the focus on HSM let’s go back to “Stick to the Status Quo”. This song in my mind at least is really clever. It takes the very ideology that opposes the main characters, that they should just be who society has currently dictated them to be and presents it in the naturally absurd setting of a musical number. I felt like this really highlighted how silly the film thought this line of thought was. Maybe that’s just me, though. The musical numbers are a key part of the movie as well. Like I mentioned at the beginning, HSM has a moral to teach, but arguably, more importantly, its there to entertain you with it’s over the top performances and fun numbers.
HSM is really good at being what it sets out to be. There are lots of movies like that and I find it odd that we seemingly arbitrarily assign them as either “good” or “bad” (I’ve totally done this by the way.) without taking a second thought to think if the movie accomplished its own goals or what those goals actually are. Not every film is Citizen Kane nor do they set out to be, and there isn’t anything inherently wrong with that. We don’t give the more recent Fast and Furious movies flack for being exactly what you think they’ll be, Chick Flicks get an almost universal pass despite the fact that the plots of ALL of them are forced. So before you sit down to view your next movie, remember High School Musical and what its goals were, then think about what your movie might want to accomplish before you pass judgment. Peace out.