High School Musical is gay. I don't mean like, "Dude, that movie's so gay!" I mean, it's literally gay. Let me explain.
Teenagers: An American History and Thomas Hine's The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager), I decided that I needed to understand the multimedia juggernaut that is High School Musical, which has sold a shocking number of DVDs and CDs; spawned both a highly successful concert tour and ice show; has been adapted for the stage and is licensed to schools everywhere; and was the Disney Channel's most viewed program ever when it first aired in 2006. So I stuck the DVD in last night.
The made-for-TV movie is a squeaky clean musical with a Velveeta-cheesy pop soundtrack that is so utterly devoid of edge or even personality that you really begin to feel that anyone who even attempts to turn Zac Efron's asexual heartthrob persona into a teenage sex symbol should be shot.
I guess the Disneyfication of the American high school experience should be expected, but what I wasn't prepared for was the overt gay allegory that High School Musical wears on its sleeve. Conservatives will accuse me of soiling an innocent little kids' film and trying to push the homosexual agenda, and I will respond by saying, "You know that movie that all your kids know and love? IT'S SO GAY! LITERALLY!"
Zac plays the high school basketball superstar whose father is the coach. Throughout the movie, he attempts to keep a shocking secret from the entire world—that he wants to sing and audition for the school musical. Nothing could be further from his manly (or, more appropriately, boy-ly) image, and his father is enraged when he finds out, unable to handle his son's dirty little secret, a secret that subjects poor Zac to ridicule from his peers. Indeed, early on in the movie, Zac asks his father on their home basketball court, "Did you ever think about trying something new, but were afraid of what your friends might think?" Um...sounds like a coming-out party just waiting to happen.
You may argue that the main reason Zac wants to be in the school musical in the first place is because he's after a girl—namely, Gabriella Montez, played by Vanessa Anne Hudgens. But look at her! She apparently is the only person of Hispanic descent in the United States, besides her mother. In the world of High School Musical, she is "different," she is "the other." Plainly put, she is so different from Zac on the surface that she might as well be a guy. Indeed, at one point she confides in a friend. "Did you ever feel like there's this whole other person inside you just looking for a way to come out?" Man, they're really hammering home the point, aren't they?
When Zac's singing aspirations are revealed to the school at large, a spate of students finally feel comfortable enough to spill their own secrets, prompting everyone in the cafeteria to sing "Stick to the Status Quo." The battle to be who you are (or as gay as you wanna be) rages on.
Well, in the end, no one sticks to the status quo. It's a happy ending for a free America, but a tragedy of Titanic proportions for homophobes around the globe.
[Read the follow-ups to this post: "'High School Musical 2': Chock Full of Gay" and "'High School Musical 3': The Gayest of Them All."]