High School Musical: A Structuralist and Psychoanalytic Analysis

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High School Musical is an original Disney television film that was released in 2006 on Disney Channel. It became a worldwide phenomenon which led to releasing a sequel on the following year and eventually a third movie that made it to the theaters. I chose this film because I was once an “HSM addict” and this time I want to view the text in a different lens using the theories we discussed in class.

STRUCTURALISM

The story’s structure is similar to Romeo and Juliet that involves romance and complications from outside parties minus the war, tragedy and violence. It begins with Troy Bolton (Romeo) and Gabriella Montez (Juliet) meeting for the first time in a party through a karaoke activity that acts as their “connector.” What did the director want to achieve when he chose to start the story with strangers meeting? It was established that the story will mainly revolve around them as the protagonists. The next time they meet, they find out that they come from different opposing groups and in the case of High School Musical, different cliques or school clubs. Troy is the captain of the basketball team while Gabriella is the math and science genius or “geek.” This establishes the complication of their love story.

Romantic signs were represented with the way the plot brings them together out of nowhere; they are both strangers yet they instantly clicked as a couple. This symbolizes a representation of what our culture understands as fate or destiny. Their facial expressions such as looking at each other differently compared to looking at other people gives a meaning that they are interested with one another or they are special to each other.

Considering that this is a children’s film, the production used more “conservative” symbols of love. The characters were not physically intimate. There were no long hugging, kissing or sexual scenes. The lyrics of the songs they sang indicate romantic feelings.

Troy: “My head’s in the game, but my heart’s in the song. She makes this feel so right.”

Gabriella: “I thought you were my fairy tale, the dream when I’m not sleeping, a wish upon a star that’s coming true.”

PSYCHOANALYTIC CRITICISM

The whole story can be divided by Freud’s structural model of psychoanalysis which composes of the id, ego, and superego. The id is the longing and desire of both Troy and Gabriella to do something else outside from what they are expected to, and that is singing in a musical. The superego is the established rule that they should “stick with the status quo,” that Troy should only be a basketball player and Gabriella should only be a studious whiz kid. It also includes the guilt they get from the disapproval of their peers. The ego is when both of them were able to achieve their desires of being singers, but at the same time be in their specific social groups. This also has become the solution of their love story’s conflict.

Both Troy and Gabriella were repressed from doing something outside their social identity. In Troy’s case, being looked up to as the popular MVP in the school’s basketball team, the weight of the conflict is greater than Gabriella’s. He is the captain of their basketball team while his father is the coach and in two weeks’ time of the film’s plot, they are training for the “biggest basketball game of the year.”

Troy did not realize that he has a talent for singing and when he did, he developed the desire to pursue it. However, whenever he had to face his peers regarding the truth, he denies it to keep his social status intact. His being in denial developed a sense that the guilt from his superego is greater than his id. Gabriella on the other hand, is not bothered by the opposing conflicts, considering that she is new in school and has no social status to protect. As long as Troy is with her, she is secured. She depends on Troy’s decision to go for what he wants despite the odds. She is not afraid to satisfy her desires and show her feelings (for Troy) which indicates that her id is the strongest element of her personality.

When both of their egos did not do its job as the mediator, it created a conflict that ended up hurting them. Because of Troy’s denial out of guilt, Gabriella’s feels a sense of rejection which makes Troy guiltier than he already is. In the end, Troy’s ego negotiates and ends up getting his desire without disappointing his conscience (and peers). Gabriella’s conscience of understanding Troy’s conflicts balances her feelings.

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