Wanderers, I have a confession to make.
I am a fan.
Okay, you probably guessed that already.
But I have a tendency to fan so hard that being in more than a few fandoms is just exhausting.
It’s all or nothing – I’m either ambivalent, or I’m neck-deep in fanfics and WIPs.
So when The Editor asks for contributions, I have difficulty finding something to review. Once I’ve turfed out all of my old favourites, I’m reluctant to get into new fandoms because I am one person, and my brain’s about to explode as it is.
This issue, there were a few things I could think of that I could review and haven’t been touched yet, but they’re kind of big things (which, I suspect, is why they haven’t been touched yet) and I wouldn’t know where to start.
So, with that in mind, this fortnight’s GUST: High School Musical.
I have a feeling, dear reader, that you have just become one of two groups – half of you will be groaning and asking why I must torture you so, you’d just got that out of your head, thank you very much; the other half will already be dancing around the living room singing.
There is a very small chance that you are sitting there thinking What in the name of Thor is High School Musical?
But these people most likely live under rocks, in which case they are unlikely to have internet connection.
Unless they happen to be near Sam Winchester; I understand he has excellent WiFi capabilities.
Is Fandom Reference Bingo a thing? We should make it a thing. But I digress.
High School Musical was one of the Disney Channel’s many Original Movies, and one of the Original Movies that actually succeeded past its premiere as more than a late night nostalgia trip.
I have noticed that Disney purists tend to cringe at these movies (and, indeed, anything that has come from the Disney Channel since 1990/2000/2010/insert-year-here), but I happen to be quite fond of HSM and its subsequent sequels.
And I wasn’t the only one. By the time HSM3 came out, Disney had wised up and released it in cinemas instead of straight to television.
It starred Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens as Troy Bolton and Gabriella Montez, high school students who meet by chance at a New Year party at a ski resort when they are forced (yes, forced) to sing a karaoke duet together. Rather predictably, it turns out that they both have a gift in that area, and part as sort-of friends, but meet again when Gabriella transfers to Troy’s school. Unfortunately for them, Troy is the captain of the basketball team (and the coach’s son) and Gabriella is quick to join the scholastic decathlon team, and no one is happy when they manage to audition for the school production, least of all their respective best friends Chad (Corbin Bleu) and Taylor (Monique Coleman), or, for that matter, Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale) and brother, Ryan (Lucas Grabeel), who – in addition to having a relationship that seems to border on incestuous – have managed to take the leads in all the school productions since kindergarten.
In short, it is a story about breaking the mould, about being who you want to be, not who society says you should, whether you’re a basketball player who sings, a jock who bakes, a nerd who loves hip-hop, or a skater who plays the cello.
If I’m being brutally honest, it is an incredibly cheesy film, as are the sequels. It’s worth a giggle, the songs are catchy (and the quality rose dramatically between the first and third), and all in all, it’s another of my go-to films when I just want to put something on and watch, not think or interact.
It is, thus far, Disney’s most successful Disney Channel Original Movie, which I suspect may be due more to clever advertising than on merit. Certainly, I remember that the Disney Channel ran a commercial every two minutes in the months leading up to the original release in 2006, and I can think of a few DCOMs that would have had a much bigger impact if they’d been given the same treatment.
However, I don’t begrudge them their success – it does fairly well with smashing stereotypes out of the water (even if I am fairly sure that cheerleaders don’t spend all their time in costume) and I would argue that it sets a fairly good example for children. Gabriella proves fairly well that girls can be smart without succumbing to the movie!nerd trope, and Troy shows that it’s okay to admit that you’re wrong, and that apologising is the right thing to do, even if it hurts your ego a bit (something I have noticed, as the sister of one, that teenage boys sometimes need a little lesson in).
It may not be the cinematic masterpiece of the century, but it’s fun.
Roxanne Williams (Go Wildcats!)