Over the next couple months, I will be reviewing the cultural phenomenon known as High School Musical. I have had a desire to write these reviews since the movies came out, mostly because it had such a big impact on the culture of pre-teens and teens in this country, and so many people simply avoided it like the plague. So, with these reviews, it is my sincere hope that you will keep your mind open, and that you will actually know what the 13 year old girl who comes up to you is talking about when she tells you about Troy Bolton and Gabriella Montez.
In January 2006, a cultural phenomenon began when Disney released High School Musical, on the Disney Channel. A USA today article posted about a month later reported the multiple records the movie had broken:
• The premiere averaged 7.7 million viewers, a network record and the month’s top-rated non-sports cable broadcast.
• During six telecasts from Jan. 20 to Feb. 13, the movie drew 26.3 million unduplicated viewers, including 8.4 million ages 6 to 11 and 8.7 million ages 9-14, according to Nielsen Media Research.
• The soundtrack, which broke into the top 10 in late January, is No. 6 this week after selling 97,000 copies for a total of 303,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
• The single Breaking Free jumped to No. 4 from No. 86 in one week on the Billboard singles sales/airplay chart, the steepest rise in 48 years. Breaking Free peaked at No. 1 on the digital tracks chart and has sold 192,000 downloads in five weeks.
• Get’cha Head in the Game rose to No. 23 from No. 100, and sold 119,000 downloads.
This is obviously one cultural phenomenon that should not be ignored.
At East High School, the Wildcat’s basketball team is on their way to the League Championship as a new year begins. The star of the team, play maker, coach’s son and team captain Troy Bolton spends his New Years with his family skiing (well, mostly playing basketball in the gym). Gabriella Montez is at the same lodge, celebrating her New Year with her mom, and spending most of her time reading. The lodge they’re staying at throws a party for the teens, complete with fireworks and karaoke, and it’s there that the “star cross’d lovers” of this Disney-fied teenage romance meet. When she is chosen, along with Troy to sing karaoke, they are both hesitant, nervous of stepping outside of their comfort zones. But as the song plays, they get more comfortable, and it is the “Start of Something New” for both of them. . They exchange numbers after midnight, but Gabriella disappears to find her mom before Troy can find out where she lives.
A week later, Troy is back at school and getting ready for the big game with the rest of the team, when, in homeroom, he thinks he sees Gabriella and calls her phone to see if it’s her. Her phone rings, and Troy is ecstatic, though his happiness is briefly muted by Ms. Darbus. Ms. Darbus is the homeroom and drama teacher, who views cell phones as evil, particularly in her “chapel of the arts,” the theatre. Because Gabriella’s phone rang, she goes on a detention rampage, and 6 people end up with detention, including Troy and Gabriella, Chad Danforth (Troy’s right hand man and best friend), Taylor McKessie (president of the science club) and Ryan and Sharpay Evans (the biggest thespians in school and co-presidents of the drama club).
After homeroom, Troy and Gabriella reunite and talk near the sign up sheet for Ms. Darbus’ Winter Musical. Troy admits to Gabriella that he doesn’t think that his friends would understand if he told them about “the singing thing,” because he’s the basketball guy, and they tease each other about signing up to audition. Sharpay barely overhears the end of their conversation and jumps in, and then signs up to audition in large letters, taking up most of the sign up sheet. As Troy and Gabriella go their separate ways for class, Sharpay watches them carefully, with suspicion in her eyes.
Later, Ryan and Sharpay discuss the new potential threat to their positions as leads in the Winter Musical and decided they need to find a way to keep Gabriella and Troy from auditioning. Sharpay looks Gabriella up online, after she noticed a mistake a teacher made in a math equation, and discovers that she is an “Einstein-ette” and prints some articles out to put in Taylor McKessie’s locker, in hopes that Gabriella will be “welcomed into school activities that will be, well, appropriate for her.”
One thing leads to another and Troy and Gabriella end up getting call backs for the Winter Musical, which sends the entire school into complete chaos, as clique lines are crossed and people begin “confessing”: Zeke, one of the basketball players, loves to bake; Martha, a brainiac, loves hip-hop dance; one of the skaters likes to dress up in a coat and tie and plays the cello. At first each of their respective groups seems accepting, telling the “confessors” to “open up, dig way down deep,” but then explodes, calling for them to “Stick to the Status Quo”.
The story moves on, with cliques trying to maintain the status quo,
the basketball team trying to keep Troy focused on the League Championship game, the science decathlon team trying to get Gabriella to join, and Sharpay and Ryan trying to keep their spots as leads in the musical. Chad and Taylor go so far as to set Troy up to say things he didn’t mean to get Gabriella to not do the call backs. She is hurt and confused, thinking that she knew exactly where she and Troy stood and sings “When There Was Me and You.” Troy is completely oblivious, and approaches her to go rehearse, but is shocked when she says that she doesn’t want to do it with him anymore.
Unfortunately for Taylor and Chad, their plan backfires, because Troy and Gabriella are depressed and confused and not joining in with their teams. So they realize that they never gave “the singing thing” a chance and go back to Troy and Gabriella to apologize. Gabriella is still bitter, saying that no one made Troy say anything and continues with her work, ignoring the apology. Troy, on the other hand, forgives his teammates and goes to Gabriella’s house that night to clear everything up. He sings the song they first sang together with her, and she forgives him and they get back to work, both on the call backs, and with their teams.
Sharpay and Ryan try again to keep them from doing the call backs, by getting them moved to the same day as the science decathlon and league championship, but everyone else works together to make it possible for Troy and Gabriella to be there. They sing “Breaking Free” in front of a packed auditorium, and it is the beginning of the school itself breaking free from the cliques and prejudices. Both teams win, Troy and Gabriella get the leads, and everybody gathers in the gym to celebrate with “We’re All in This Together.”
So now you may ask “what does this Disney-fied teenage musical have to do with Christianity?” Well, the theme of this first High School Musical is finding your individuality, but still being a part of a greater body. “Everyone is special in their own way, we make each other strong. We’re not the same; we’re different in a good way. Together is where we belong.” And it is the same way in the Body of Christ. “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…” – Romans 12:4-6a. We each have different roles to play in the places God has put us in – we are each brainiacs, jocks, skater dudes, and thespians in our own way – but alone we are not fulfilling that role. We are made to be in community, to be “all in this together!”
“…God has so composed the body… there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” – 1 Corinthians 12:24-25.