Friday, September 14, 2007

The Mouse Doesn't Change

High School Musical

  • Billboard awards.
  • Two Emmys (from six noms.)
  • Triple Platinum Soundtrack.
  • The most successful live-action movie ever from Disney.
  • Downloaded 1.5 million tracks from iTunes.
High School Musical is a phenomenal success by all monetary and distribution standards. And with last weeks' scandal of lead actress Vanessa Hudgens naked photos, how much bigger can HGM get? Apparently, much, much larger. HSM 3 starts shooting next year -- with Ms. Hudgens.

I set out to see for myself what the fuss was about.

Surprise #1. My children all know High School Musical. My liberal, liberated, well-brought up children. Not only know it, they know the plot, the songs, and sing them. Word for word. Including my son. They've all seen HSM and think it is, well, "neat." Also "cool."

"But Gabriella's a smart girl, Daddy. She likes math!" "Yeah, and did you see how she teaches the other kids plus her parents and teachers a lesson!" "And the music and dancing. It's good." "I mean, I know it's Disney and all, but it's really really good..." "Yeah, how did they do that anyway?"

After over a year of intentionally not watching the show, I had the DVD delivered. Which incidently Disney hopefully will read as a sign Ms. Hudgens' tasteful personal display of nudity is good for the HSM juggernaut. Also, I still haven't figured out why she apologized for being eighteen and having a sex life, instead of calling for the head on a pike of the asshole who betrayed her trust by leaking her photos. But never mind. *gets back on point*

I watched the movie. Damn. They had me at the first song. By the second I'd cranked up the volume and was tapping along with the beat. By the third song I was singing along. Bastards. The evil, evil bastards.

It gets worse. The female lead, played by Ms. Hudgens ends up getting both math and the boy and making friends with the evil girl, as well as all her dreams come true (her entire life turns out) while she's a sophomore in High School. Clearly this is a work of fiction, not to mention the work of Satan. Buffy? I've got a job for you: this high school is possessed.

Yet Disney takes boy meets girl, and makes the musical for a new generation with a great script,terrific score and direction, not to mention fun chorography and delightful acting (the chemistry between the leads simply sizzles.) The lip-syncing sucks but even that is oddly endearing. I'm left wanting to see more. And to watch HSM again. And again and again. Good thing HSM 2 is out on DVD in December for the holidays. (The theatrical release broke records.)

Problems? Oh yes, this is Disney. The Mouse doesn't change. Of course there are problems and they're not subtle. Just not obvious to young ones sucked in to a world of Disney fantasy. Which let me make clear, I want to go live in. Music and singing and I'm the star; everything turns out perfect. Who wouldn't want to live there?

They even have a fat girl who gets her dreams come true. It's a secondary role, true, but she looks happy and she gets to sing and dance. The parents don't know best nor do the teachers, but that's appropriate in a coming of age story perhaps.

No, where Disney is obviously Disney is in the DVD extras. While young Ms. Hudgens, a beautiful multi-racial mix ((Filipino, Chinese (from her mother), Irish and American Indian (from her father)) is unquestionably the female romantic lead of HSM, you couldn't tell from the extras.

Nobody puts baby in a corner...

The dance numbers, the magazine covers shown in the press-kit documentaries, and the interviews all push Ms. Hudgens to the background, putting the Disney spotlight directly on blond white teenager Ashley Tisdale who played the protagonist. Check out the photo at the top of this post as the cast wins big... WTF?

It isn't enough that movie sales broke every record Disney has, based on the blond boy hero and the racially mixed smart girl. Or that the concert tour and the soundtrack all shattered records on the same multi-ethnic basis. The marketing, well, the Disney marketing had better put the bright future of Disney focused on the white chick, because American loves white blond chicks with the high breasts. Plus you never know what they might say or do. (They might admit they're sexual beings, thus potentially wrecking a massive Disney cash cow.) Ashley's been in the biz since she was three. We can trust her.

Personally, I'd never go see a movie based off Ms. Tisdale. Nice enough, but she doesn't pop off the screen. Ms. Hudgens and Zac Efron, her romantic lead -- wow. Chemistry and I'm not talking science lab. (The two also date off-screen.)

Disney is evil. Disney teaches girls inappropriate sexual roles. Not to mention being just nasty and cheap in talent negotiations. All this is well grounded and obvious to anyone paying attention. Not to mention their whole domination of ABC, their fight against copyright, and much other badness.

But this is all just so damn subtle at the level of children and young teenagers. It's hard to fight evil when it comes wrapped around Pooh Bear and Mickey Mouse. I LOVE Mickey Mouse. Tigger too. And I admit it...

I love High School Musical.