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The Ultimate Pixar Halloween Costume

 

This was a blast and a half. On our latest episode of Pixar Live, you guys helped Kayla Savage and me come up with the ultimate Pixar halloween costume. And we’re totally going to do next week’s show dressed as these characters (the winner got an awesome Incredibles shirt, of course).

We broadcast this show on Facebook Live via Super News every Wednesday at 7pm Pacific. And if you tune in and leave an awesome comment, you might win something cool related to Pixar!

The contest is over, but what do you think the ultimate Pixar costume is? We got some great ideas for both Disney and Pixar (a lot of people suggested Nightmare before Christmas). The best suggestions were pretty creative and off the beaten path, so if you have something awesome to contribute, we want to hear it.

Also, Kayla and I are open to your ideas and questions for future episodes. It’s a live show, so audience engagement is always the goal. What do you want to hear us talk about, and are there any Pixar universe secrets you’re dying to hear from us? This is your chance to let us know.

That said, enjoy this week’s show!

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The Sorting Hat Is The True Villain Of ‘Harry Potter’

sorting hat

There’s no doubt that the Harry Potter series of books and movies have a clear protagonist and antagonist. From the first page, the stage is set for a years-long conflict between the growing Harry Potter and the power-hungry Voldemort. The very catalyst of this story happens away from page and screen, when Harry becomes “the boy who lived,” but the effects of this crucial moment ripple throughout the entire series.

It’s obvious that Voldemort is a bad person and rarely sympathetic. He murders recklessly and selfishly. He unites dark wizards under a bigoted cause to elevate purebloods. But not enough is said about the environment that made a person like Voldemort happen. We can blame Voldemort’s actions on Voldemort himself, but his values came from somewhere else.

Further, there’s a reason he’s able to grab so much power in such a short amount of time. His power in the literal sense draws in followers, yes, but these people also believe in Voldemort’s vision as feverishly as he does, and we shouldn’t be that surprised by this. The wizarding world is incredibly conducive to having a latent streak of division among its people.

And it all starts with Hogwarts.

sorting hat

There are four houses in Hogwarts, each based on one of the four founders. And each founder has a somewhat simplistic personality trait assigned to each house at first glance: Slytherins are ambitious, Ravenclaws are curious, Gryffindors are brave, and Hufflepuffs are patient. In truth, each founder had some overlap of these qualities, based on the short glimpses we occasionally get into their lives. There’s a reason why these four people were able to come together under one vision, despite some fallout with Salazar Slytherin later on. Each of these traits were more like driving forces in their lives, aided by other characteristics, not conflicted by.

In theory, a four-house system is a competent way to organize the school into appropriate, productive factions. But it has inherent problems that lead to how and why someone like Voldemort can happen, Slytherin or no. It’s not because Slytherins are inherently “evil,” but rather that the school cultivates and fosters aggressive division amongst the students, who are too young to even have established personalities. As a result, they become “who they are” through intense competition and disdain for others who are different.

And this falls on the Sorting Hat, a sentient, magical object who seems to also realize this in Book 5, despite making no effort to do something about it, aside from singing a lofty song about unity that falls on deaf ears. The stranger truth is that the Sorting Hat also admits to some students that their choice gets taken into account, placing the burden of a life’s identity on the mood of an eleven-year-old, whose knowledge of each house is usually based on their immature understanding and influence from family.

sorting hat

This results in what we see throughout the series: divisiveness, paranoia, and close-mindedness. Even a Gryffindor like Ron treats S.P.E.W. (Hermione’s elf rights campaign) as a total joke, because he buys into the self-contained bigotry that the wizards seem content in. It’s no wonder the Slytherins (a group I would be sorted into, undoubtedly) hold so much contempt for the other houses. They’re often accosted and labeled for their mistakes, while other renegades from Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff are hardly ever chided for theirs.

Let’s not forget that the last two headmasters of Hogwarts (McGonagall and Dumbledore) were Gryffindors (Armando Dippet might have been, as well). For a long time, both the Deputy Headmistress and Headmaster were from one house, which is a clear sign of lopsided power, not unity. The Sorting Hat even belonged to Godric Gryffindor, which is also indicative of corruption, though unprovable.

There’s something to be said about encouraging children with limited understanding of who they are to spend most of their time with kids who are exactly like them. Though this is somewhat offset by allowing two houses to share a class, tensions are still razor sharp thanks to institutional competition that becomes the focus of each year, rather than a way to incentivize hard work. In practice, the House Cup actually drives students to either cheating to victory or holding passive aggressive angst against other students that never really subsides.

On the one hand, we do see at least a semblance of unity among the adults. In fact, we can only speculate on the house affinity for many adult wizards, like Amelia Bones and Cornelius Fudge, which makes it seem like that past Hogwarts grudges are eventually forgotten by the time wizards finish coming of age. Voldemort’s main lackey is technically a Gryffindor, after all.

For the professors at Hogwarts, we see a lot of loyalty among the staff that crosses house lines, and an unspoken desire for fairness, despite bias. But this seems more like an accident than what we would expect from reality, like with how Slytherin students have a preconceived disdain for Hagrid (a Gryffindor). Snape, of course, regularly mistreats Gryffindor students (especially Neville) and favors Slytherins, even when they’re at their most vile. In what world does that not have a purely negative affect on these kids as they enter adulthood?

sorting hat

There seems to be no concern for this, either. The Slytherins were sent to the dungeons during the battle of Hogwarts, mostly because some automatically sided with Voldemort. Yet there’s no indication that efforts were made to resolve this after the fact. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is apparently considered canon (unfortunately), and the events of the story make it clear that absolutely no effort is being made to correct the errors of the past. When Albus lets himself sort into Slytherin, his anger toward Harry only grows over the course of a few years. It’s not logical, of course. Only grounded in how damaging it can be to isolate kids and provoke distrust in differences.

And again, it all comes back to the Sorting Hat, the only character with the power to change any of this, as well as the only character who really acknowledges that a problem exists. His passivity, in a lot of ways, has contributed to never-ending aggression between people with prepubescent temperaments. He’s the true villain of Harry Potter, in that most of the issues the characters face can be traced back to the flawed rearing system that he knowingly allows to continue. As the (seemingly) only objective force at Hogwarts, he could easily do something about everyone else’s apparent blindness to Hogwarts’s archaic provisions, but instead, he is indifferent to them.

His songs are catchy, though.


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What If Pixar Made A Horror Movie?

Let’s get spooky, Pixar detectives. I went live on Super News last week to craft the ultimate Pixar horror movie (with audience help, of course). We also did a giveaway for the person with the best suggestion, so make sure you check out the show LIVE every week (Wednesdays at 7pm Pacific) so you can get in on the action. We’ll be announcing a new giveaway tonight…

You guys had some excellent suggestions I never had a chance to read aloud (too many comments to keep track of!) So here are some of my favorites:

  • (Tim) Why not one about a reverse world of horror , like something cute is scary cause of the kids in town would have grown up by really scary stuff like ghosts
  • (Johnathan) A Haunted Hotel like Hotel Transylvania Mashed up With American Horror Story And Nightmare before Christmas. Different scary worlds in the hotel rooms. (LA,CA)
  • (Roscoe) A family of terrifying blood-thirsty werewolves, however the young son is a vegetarian and doesn’t like meat. I’ll take a cheque.
  • (Julian) Little girl walks around with a clown doll who only she can see as a real clown ( kinda like wilfred tv show) and the clown traps people into their own version of sowened dolls?
  • (Kashanna) Pixar version of the books “Scary stories to tell in the dark.” For each story use different Pixar character.

There are tons more, and they’re all splendid. Be sure to check them out here.

Everything You Need To Know About Pixar’s New Short, ‘Lou’

 

The Pixar Detective is my weekly Facebook Live show, where I share the secrets of the Pixar universe and beyond in real-time. Tune in Wednesdays at 7pm (pacific) to comment live, ask questions, answer my questions, and help settle Pixar debates with my cohosts.

This week’s highlights:

  • Pixar has a new short coming out called Lou. Let’s talk about it!
  • Do you think The Good Dinosaur is a flop or masterpiece?
  • Guys, we’re taking Pixar for granted.
  • Why Incredibles 2 probably won’t suck.
  • Here’s why WALL-E need a sequel, but maybe something else…

Go on…Everything You Need To Know About Pixar’s New Short, ‘Lou’

Yes, Ron Weasley Could Secretly Predict The Future In ‘Harry Potter’

ron

Too many people don’t get how great Ron Weasley is. Well, the people who only watch Harry Potter movies, at least.

He’s fiercely loyal, incredibly grounded, and sharp enough to beat both Harry and Hermione at chess. He’s an understated character at times—sometimes grumpy and quick to anger. But he’s also the life of the Potter trinity, and for good reason.

But that’s enough anti-Ron shaming. There’s another grain of the character that often gets lost in the conversation. Yes, Harry’s signature spell is the Disarming Charm and Hermoine is fantastic at potions, Transfiguration, and being embarrassingly book smart. But what’s Ron’s hidden talent?

You know…besides fashion…

ron

OK, fine, his mother gave him that dress. But Dumbledore help us, Rupert Grint pulls that look off.

True, the books and even one of the movies gets it across that Ron’s a competent Quidditch player (at least when he’s not bogged down emotionally). But going further, he’s actually adept at predicting the future, and the books quietly provide this insight throughout.

I actually came across this interesting revelation on Quora, where Jakub Handlíř outlined this convincing theory:

Book 2 – (about why Riddle received the award for special services to the school): “Maybe he got thirty O.W.L.s or saved a teacher from the giant squid. Maybe he murdered Myrtle” – Riddle truly murdered her and in a roundabout way truly received price for it.

Book 3 – In his first attempt at reading tea leaves, he predicted that Harry would receive “a windfall, unexpected gold” – Harry received gold as a prize for winning the tournament (book 4) and inheritance from Sirius (book 6).

Book 4 – to Harry when doing housework for Trelawney: “Why don’t you get stabbed in the back by someone you thought was a friend?” – Harry is truly later betrayed by his best friend (Ron) both in book 4 and book 7. 

Book 4 – when discussing Crouch sr. disappearance in the Forbidden Forest and Snape’s involvement in it: “Not unless he can turn himself into a bat or something,” said Harry…“Wouldn’t put it past him,” Ron muttered. – Snape gains ability to fly in book 7 while using a bat-like wings.

I couldn’t agree more, and I would add that this is exactly why Divination was given so much attention by Rowling throughout the books, despite Hermoine dismissing the class early on. Of course, Ron jokes with Harry all the time about their fake predictions, but as noted above, he was actually pretty good without realizing it. With the tea leaves, he even predicts that he will one day work for the ministry.

Agree? Disagree? Have more evidence of Ron being a secret prophet? Sound off below.


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Snarcasm: Pixar Is So Average, You Didn’t Even Notice

pixar

Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read.

Most people aren’t movie aficionados, and most of those people aren’t even sure what the word “aficionado” means. But they do know a good flick when they see it, and more often than not, Pixar churns out some great pieces of entertainment.

Since I’m the most biased person alive to comment on this particular “think”piece about Pixar movies from Indiewire, take everything you read here with no salt at all, because that’s bad for your sodium intake in the first place.

Charles Kenny gets in some choice hits with his write up, “Pixar’s Films Are Average and You Know It.”

Why so salty, Charles? None of us are trying to pull a fast one on you, pal.

Lauded, showered with praise and awards, raking in billions at the box office, and beloved by audiences everywhere.

That’s right, and what better way to cut Pixar down than to start by building them up…with obvious observations and facts?

Seriously, you’ve already proven that Pixar movies are anything but average on every merit above. But I have a feeling you’re about to “explain” why none of those things that matter actually matter, even though they clearly matter.

by digging just a little bit beneath the surface, it’s regrettably obvious that Pixar’s films are far from cutting edge: they’re rather average.

If this article had a mascot, it would be Mr. Peanut with a New Yorker on his lap.

The emperor isn’t wearing any clothes, but everyone believes he’s wearing the
finest robes.

“I bet my third grade analogy makes you feel far from cutting edge, hm?”

Seriously, I can never get enough of these contrarian regurgitations that insist their argument is good because most people will disagree with them. It’s like watching a guy eat asphalt because surely no one believes that’s good because I’m the first to think of it.

This may be hard to accept

Ya, and for good reason.

The argument is based purely on artistic merit and creativity

Believe me, no one is questioning how creative you’re being for making a lot of this nonsense up.

 Box office grosses are no indicator

Box office isn’t everything, but it is something. There’s a reason Pixar movies make more and more money, and it’s because they’re a trusted brand. Your argument is that they’re average movies, so why dismiss cultural relevance for the sake of making your argument seem a hair less crazy than it truly is?

Awards are not an impartial form of measurement

No one expects them to be, but we have basic rules of statistics to measure true consensus. We’re talking about people watching hundreds of movies a year consistently praising movies from one particular studio. To dismiss that because awards in and of themselves are a subjective matter should get the award for lamest duck.

Taste is personal and just because you think Pixar’s films are the best doesn’t mean they actually are the best

Who decides, then? You? I really hope not.

The studio does not make bad films

Cars 2 would like to have a word with you.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Secret of Kells, and My Neighbor Totoro all lie much closer to generally accepted animated excellence

A few things. First, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a masterpiece and in my opinion, the greatest animated film, period. Secret of Kells is great, and Neighbor Totoro is an eventual classic, but it’s the latter half of this sentiment that raises annoyingly loud alarm bells.

Generally accepted animated excellence? How are these films any more “generally accepted” than Pixar’s high points like Toy StoryIncrediblesFinding NemoRatatouilleWALL-E, Up, and Inside Out? It’s confusing because you can’t seem to decide on what imaginary audience is determining what’s “good” or “bad” when it comes to animated movies. You’ve said it has nothing to do with awards, box office, or personal taste, which leaves us with virtually nothing else.

In contrast to these films, Pixar’s are remarkably safe.

Unlike my intelligence after reading this drivel.

So yeah, we have to believe (now) that when Pixar made a movie about a rat using a human to cook food in Paris, or when they did a whole thing about robots falling in love within the backdrop of an environmental message, or when they made Fantastic Four actually look good, and so on, they were avoiding risk.

On the bright side, people who’ve never actually watched a Pixar movie might agree with you.

They convey a narrowly defined range of themes,

OK, assuming that’s true, you’re evaluating Pixar’s catalogue, not any one movie. By that logic, we can then say Snow White is lesser because Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella also have princesses in them. Welcome to Charles’s world, gang.

they are content to reuse a ‘house style’,

Charles doesn’t elaborate on this (probably because he’s too busy trying on those emperor clothes he was talking about earlier), but my guess is that he’s slapping every Pixar movie with a demerit because their consistently good movies do the same consistently good things. The horror.

and sequels aside (another demerit),

I think Charles invented his grading system after watching Idiocracy.

So yes, Pixar movies are “average” because some Pixar movies are sequels. We won’t even talk about how the Toy Story sequels are highly praised and celebrated because oops! That’s subjective! Didn’t you hear that only Charles’s subjectivity holds any value?

their stories are far from unique to filmmaking as a whole.

We’ll just leave out all of the technological innovations made possible because of Pixar since the late 80s. They get credit for nothing, despite routinely delivering some of the most beautiful visuals and stories of the 21st Century—oops! I’m being darn subjective again!

As a result. no Pixar film has pushed the artistic envelope

I want to meet the person who reads that sentence and actually agrees with it. Pixar has never pushed the artistic envelope? Right, and the Pope is an atheist.

they have appeared to without actually doing so.

The Pope prays, but does that really mean he thinks God is like a real thing? Nahhhhh.

They have not revolutionized animated filmmaking outside of their technology.

“They have not revolutionized animated filmmaking outside of the technology they use to revolutionize animated filmmaking. Trust me.”

What Pixar’s films haven’t done, is inspire others to make a creative leap.

Yeah! Not even Walt Disney Animation Studios….oh wait. Or DreamWorks…oh wait. Or Blue Sky…oh wait.

I love how Charles’s rubric for being “average” has everything to do with him assuming no creative person has ever been inspired by Pixar. And as you can imagine, he says nothing to back this up. Not even an anecdote.

The other problem I’m seeing here is Charles’s narrow criteria for what qualifies as artistic merit. It’s not enough to him that something is competently made and original. Apparently, it also needs to be flamboyant and provocative, but that’s just not what Pixar movies set out to do. But because he’s limiting literally ever other piece of criteria for what makes a film above average, he’s constructing a false narrative that just about anyone can see through.

The Looney Tunes and MGM shorts of the day developed as rapidly as they did because the teams behind them were determined to outdo each other creatively. Today, animated films (and especially CGI ones) do not compete creatively, but rather financially.

Charles, if you really think MGM and Looney Tunes weren’t interesting in getting paid for their work, then there’s literally nothing I can do for you. The idea of relevance and popularity tying into financial success is such a basic concept, I’m at a loss for words. Do you really think that Pixar and DreamWorks aren’t competing creatively? Because even when DreamWorks produces an unimaginative dud like Home, guess what happens? They don’t make money.

But what am I supposed to expect from a guy who thinks Pixar movies are “safe.”

any artistic developments as a result are rather coincidental.

Let’s apply this to any other scenario. I walk into a deli and tell the sandwich guy: “Oh, well you’re only using that brand of salami because it’s 9 cents cheaper than the other brand. And the fact that it tastes so good is just a coincidence.”

He’s either going to roll his eyes at you (like most everyone would) or write an overlong Snarcasm about it (like me). Either way, none of us win.

After all, no studio was inspired to create a CGI film because of Pixar’s artistic genius, they saw a concept that was profitable and wanted a piece of the pie for themselves!

Guys, I think I figured it out. Charles meant to write this as a satire essay for his eight grade history class, but oops! Indiewire got their independent wires crossed and published it by mistake. Happens all the time.

But yeah, the real nonsense here is that Charles makes a sweeping assumption that no studio has ever mimicked Pixar because they genuinely saw something creative that they want to replicate themselves. Either Charles is the NSA incarnate, able to monitor all animated filmmakers instantaneously, or he really needs to get those clicks, guys.

To get to the crunch of the issue,

Uh…no comment, I guess.

you have to consider how Pixar’s films are viewed by the general population.

Except you already said we can’t do that because we isn’t smart enough like you.

Their films appeal to all, and in turn are remarkably popular. This is possible primarily because the films are average.

I bet watching Charles do math in his head is adorable.

OK, so the idea is that if people really like something, it might mean the movie is average, so in your head, that means they’re average. Are we done with this yet?

They do not appeal to anyone in particular,

What? Are we on some sort of contradiction carousel?

Look, I get his point (despite him not explaining it well). He’s trying to say that Pixar movies appeal to everyone on a surface level, but they don’t actually make people think or feel. That’s dead wrong to the point of absurdity, of course, and mostly because he doesn’t use any examples to refute the most basic opinion people have about Pixar movies to the point where there are memes about how the movies are emotional: that they appeal to them in unique, deep ways.

For Charles to downplay all of that because he hasn’t had those experiences is more sad on his part than anything else. It also makes me wonder if he watches these movies while texting the entire time.

Next, Charles uses a quote from Simon Cowell that has nothing to do with Pixar to explain how “average tastes” work. I know I was joking before, but that eighth grade book report theory is just getting more and more plausible. At one point he says that Star Wars is artistically average which is…eh, what’s the point.

Imagine if Pixar released a film with casual abandon of all financial goals.

I love how you seem to know everything about the creative process of some of the world’s most creative people. See, Charles has the gall to claim that these guys are hacks who are only in it for the money. Can we all agree that he can keep that moronic opinion to himself?

At the end of the day, it’s fine to look to Pixar as a model for certain things such as its CGI technology,

CGI technology? I mean I figured out a long time ago that you have no idea what you’re talking about, but this is almost too on the nose.

to look to them as a creative leader and innovator is wrong.

Well, if being “right” is agreeing with a bunch self-righteous, unfounded assertions that waste everyone’s time, then you get an A+, sir.

They do not reside on the cutting edge of feature animation, and to accept such a belief is to drink some very strong Kool-Aid.

Said the guy who probably has no idea what Jonestown is.

Before I go, I’ll leave you with this quote from Charles on a different Indiewire post:

The other Pixar film from last year, Inside Out, blew everyone away with its sheer originality and emotional themes and quickly became a favorite. It is currently sweeping all awards before it and is well on it’s way to the status of a classic film.

Hmmm, well methinks Charles has some explaining to do.


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Or just say hello on Twitter: @JonNegroni


We’re Still Suffering From How Bad ‘High School Musical’ Was

high school musical

For many, High School Musical was the first real signal of a true shift in Disney Channel programming. By 2006, the once plucky, experimental network had found more success in streamlined sitcoms like That’s So Raven and Suite Life of Zack and Cody than they had ever found with previous shows. This, of course paved the way for a persistent, familiar formula seen in almost all subsequent Disney Channel features, even to this day.

You might find this formula to be a good thing. Perhaps you enjoy the shows currently broadcasted on that channel, or you might be neutral at best. I’m not going to try to change your mind, but suffice to say that the numerous people who have a distaste for what the channel has become are both wrong and right.

Disney Channel shows have always been great for their time. If you look back at some of their supposedly best projects, you’ll find that they haven’t aged well at all and are actually a lot worse than you remember. Time does that sort of thing. But what I’m arguing is that even in 2006, Disney’s first smash hit movie was a terribly harmful film, and for many reasons.

Put more simply, High School Musical was and probably still is the worst thing ever produced by the Disney Channel. Not in terms of quality and production value, but certainly when it comes to how the Disney Channel Original Movie impacted the countless people who’ve watched it over the last 10 years. How it shaped its fans, for example.

high school musical

This is hard to argue, for sure, because on its surface, High School Musical doesn’t seem all that bad, right? The names of the songs say it all: Start something new! Get your head in the game! We’re all in this together.

Yet the titles of each song send a different message in the subtext. And watching the movie as a whole, you’ll start to see that a specific, alarming set of beliefs are being pushed onto these characters. Let’s back up and recap the film.

The movie begins by introducing us to Troy Bolton (played by Zac Efron) and Gabriella Montez (played by Vanessa Hudgens) just as they’re getting introduced to each other during holiday break. They have a song number meet-cute before going their separate ways, only to meet again at the start of a new semester because it miraculously turns out that Gabriella is now attending the same high school as Troy…even though they met by coincidence somewhere else.

If this sounds at all familiar, that’s because High School Musical was originally meant to be a remake/sequel of Grease in the late 90s, featuring the children of the original movie’s characters. I’m not joking. They couldn’t get the rights figured out, so Disney Channel ultimately decided to turn the script into one of their original movies made for television, with “High School Musical” as the working title. Apparently, they couldn’t come up with something better to name the darn thing, and the rest is history.

high school musical

Anyway, Troy and Gabriella both realize that they belong to different cliques: Troy is the basketball jock and Gabriella is the math nerd. But their bond through music becomes a quasi-reimagining of Romeo and Juliet, where their respective social circles clash over the future of these star-crossed lovers. Well, not really. The romance between Troy and Gabriella is persistently muted, with them often changing the subject to music instead of their own “relationship.”

That’s not necessarily a bad thing — in fact, it’s probably for the best — because it allows for more interesting drama between Troy and Gabriella, who have a decent amount of chemistry together to make the “we’re friends but want to be more” thing work fine. What really poisons this film is the introduction of the titular musical.

Troy and Gabriella decide to try out for the school musical. More specifically, the lead roles. The problem is that the school already has built-in performers who’ve starred in every production. And naturally, they’re the villains of this movie. Sharpay (played by Ashley Tisdale) and Ryan (played by Lucas Grabeel) are exceptionally talented, and for good reason. They’ve trained for years and actually want to turn their passion for theater into a career someday.

But it turns out that Troy and Gabriella, who barely even want to be in the musical and have no acting experience, are both selected for callbacks. Even though they were late to the audition in the first place, by the way. It’s a decision that rightfully upsets Sharpay and Ryan, who have no conceivable idea why outsiders have skipped them over for what is essentially their most critical time to stand out in the industry. All because they can sing about as well as Sharpay and Ryan. And even that is arguable.

high school musical

The real reason Troy and Gabriella are selected is because of their chemistry when no one is watching. They’re late for their audition, so the drama teacher exerts her one moment of clarity by telling them they don’t deserve a role when they can’t respect the rules. Later, she listens in on them practicing a song and decides that earns them a callback. You know, despite the fact that neither of them performed when the pressure was on, which is what they’ll actually have to prove they can handle when on stage for real.

Their casting has nothing to do with how technically proficient they are at singing and acting. The worst thing about this is that neither character purports to have any interest whatsoever in theater beyond the attention ascribed to it. Allegedly, it’s because they simply love to sing, but that’s nonsense within the context of the film. Instead of having to work for the roles and pay their dues, the barely proficient are rewarded with what they really want: popularity.

And that is why High School Musical is actually harmful. The movie positions Sharpay and Ryan as sore losers without any real sympathy. Sharpay in particular goes to cartoonishly evil lengths to prevent the protagonists from even getting to their callbacks, just to ensure that the audience doesn’t root for her by mistake. This is a character who is supposed to be good at acting, yet the only skill she seems to have is concocting evil plans to make the audience hate her.

high school musical

The movie tries to say something about how you can be more than your designated clique, which is a great message, but the execution misses the mark completely. Sharpay and Ryan claim to be more upset over the fact that someone has entered the “theater clique,” rather than the more obvious pandering that’s going on with the drama teacher. And the students obsess over kids hanging out with other kids who are different, which is hardly a problem in any school. Yes, there are cliques, but there’s no widespread panic when a jock tries out for a musical or dates a girl with good grades.

And when the film finally tries to resolve the conflict between Sharpay/Ryan and Troy/Gabrielle, it comes down to Sharpay having a rapid change of heart that is shoehorned into the final scene. Sharpay never apologizes. Gabriella never apologizes. The film never tries to lend credence to why she acted so harshly in the first place. It just ends. Is it no wonder Sharpay essentially “resets” her attitude toward them with each subsequent movie, even fawning over Troy during the first sequel?

The ending song says “we’re all in this together to make our dreams come true.” OK, but only Troy and Gabriella’s dreams, which have only been a thing for a few weeks. The movie tells its viewers that a select group of people can and should be the best at everything, even when they’re actually not. The protagonists win everything. A superior movie could explore actual consequences for when teenagers stretch themselves thin and create anxiety for themselves, but not High School Musical. You’re guaranteed a victory just for trying. Even though Troy and Gabriella barely deserved to be understudies, they get to be the stars, win their championships, and smugly dance it off in the very end.

high school musical

The actual dialogue between Troy and Gabriella in the ending scene:

Gabriella: “Congratulations, Wildcat!”

Troy: “What about your team?!”

Gabriella: “We won, too!” 

This is why High School Musical was successful. It wasn’t just the manufactured-to-be-catchy song numbers. It definitely wasn’t the real message of the movie. It was how the movie made its viewers feel, and wrongly at that. The movie convinced many young children who aren’t in high school that simply trying without working earns them the same rewards as the people who actually have legitimate dreams and work hard for them.

For Troy and Gabriella, singing is a hobby, maybe, but nothing they’re at all serious about. The movie positions their plight above the characters who actually have dreams to turn music into a lifestyle (the ones who truly need these roles to get into the right schools), and the script demands them to be manipulative and evil in order to trick viewers into rooting for the privileged brats. It also clamors that high school is a mystical place where a select group of kids are so good at everything, their only real problems are choosing which thing they’re going to be best at.

In this movie, they choose everything. And the whole school worships them for it.

high school musical

There is a way to turn these concepts into a good movie. There’s room for an honest exploration of how the quick ascent of the privileged few can create sharp enemies. And there’s even a good story behind the idea of popular kids getting more popular, paralleling nicely with the concept of the rich getting richer. Shame on us for ever expecting something so useful, I suppose.

I wish I could ignore High School Musical and simply let it be. People like it, and I never have. But there’s something truly exploitative and lasting about what it tries to tell its audience in a way that’s simply ugly and perverse. It’s also allowed Disney Channel to get away with similar storytelling in other shows over the years, resulting in a channel that is currently so embedded in watered-down celebrity-obsessed pop culture, the children who watch it stand little chance of getting by unscathed.


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