High School Musical is part of the Disney Channel Original Movies or DCOMs. These DCOMs are made-for-television movies produced by, released exclusively for, and showed only on the Disney Channel. The movie, High School Musical, is directed and choreographed by Kenny Ortega and stars actors Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens.
I will attempt to analyze High School Musical using the basic principles of Structuralism. High School Musical revolves around six main characters, namely Troy, Gabriella, Sharpay, Ryan, Taylor, and Chad. The movie is set in East High School and is the same as classic American movie high schools go: equilibrium is maintained through a status quo. The entry of the lead girl, Gabriella, and her sparking an automatic friendship with the school’s basketball hotshot, Troy, has rocked the present standing of the student body.
The story resembles that of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but was treated with a very light, romantic-comedy storyline. It first introduces Troy Bolton, son of the school’s basketball team coach and the team captain of that same team. Then comes in Gabrielle Montez, a transfer student poised for excellence in the academe. We then see Sharpay and Ryan Evans, who comprise the school’s brother and sister theater tandem ready to make their way to Julliard, then Broadway. Lastly, we have Taylor McKessie and Chad Danforth, Gabriella and Troy’s best friends who make sure they remain in their circle, but ultimately have their friends’ best interests at heart.
First off, this movie is a goldmine for Binary Oppositions and Anomalous Categories. Binary Oppositions are two opposing categories that construct reality while Anomalous Categories are the gray areas that have characteristics of both binary ppositions. The Binary Oppositions that are present in this film are Basketball vs. Academics, Basketball vs. Theater, Academics vs. Theater, and Friends vs. Boyfriend/Girlfriend. The first opposition is apparent with how boys from the varsity team just don’t blend with girls from the scholastic decathlon club. That’s why it had to take a brave and charismatic boy and a new, intelligent but beautiful girl to break the streak. Then you have Basketball and Academics vs. Theater. The school’s production club is dominated by Sharpay and Ryan Evans, that’s why like Taylor said in the film, Sharpay has never lost an audition to anyone since kindergarten. Sharpay, along with Ms. Darbus, tries to stop Troy and the basketball team, because they think that they’re just auditioning for the sake of ridiculing the arts. Sharpay is bent on stopping Gabriella because she sees her as a threat to her claiming yet another lead role in a production. Lastly, there’s the problem with choosing Friends over the Boyfriend/Girlfriend or vice versa. This was actually secondary to the initial problem, which was Troy and Gabriella being distracted by theater practices. ButChad and Taylor decide to pull this card, which led Troy to say things he didn’t really mean and ended up hurting Gabriella.
Levi-Strauss discussed that Binary Oppositions reflect the discomforts or fears of a particular society as well as how they view society. This, of course, is culturally constructed. In the movie, we are presented with the typical American high school stereotypes. You have your jocks, cheerleaders, nerds, theater kids, skateboarding enthusiasts, among others. I would like to think that it is apparent in American society, that they see this as their reality, just not as dramatic as movies go. I also think that it does reflect the discomforts of society, how they want to pursue different things but cultural norms restrict them from doing so. That’s why in the middle of the film, people from different cliques started saying their hidden talents and abilities and their friends thought them weird for it. I think this one is more universal because this fear of not fitting in or being isolated because you do something different is present and prevalent among people of different ages, from different demographics and societies.
The Anomalous Categories that dirty these Binary Oppositions initially is how two people from different backgrounds and social circles can form a relationship and pursue something very different from their specific fields. It was something so alien to everybody else, especially to their best friends. Once news broke out in their school that a jock and a nerd were going to audition for the school musical, students began spilling their secrets as well. I think they felt that since someone as popular as Troy could deviate from basketball to theater, they feel that it’s acceptable for them to do the same. People from different groups are trying and breaking away from their stereotypes, but are suppressed by their peers. This is focused on Taylor and Chad’s efforts as they drive Troy and Gabriella to the point wherein they finally concede and drop the auditions altogether. However, after seeing that their plan has affected the performance and attitudes of their friends, they finally agree to give them a chance.
I think that that was an example of a Boundary Ritual. Taylor and Chad giving Troy and Gabriella a chance to prove themselves and their actions, to me, illustrated an acceptance of the Anomalous Categories and that the story was coming to a point where they were being tamed and tolerated. I also found that another Boundary Ritual was the fact that both Troy and Gabriella were charismatic characters. If Troy were not the most popular boy in school, if he weren’t charismatic and friendly, the students would think he was just weird and would not have followed suit with his digression to do something different. Also, if Gabriella weren’t intelligent, beautiful, and innocent, people could have just thought that she was just another book-loving nerd. They were both very strong characters and that’s why I think that it was easier to make the transition to the Anomalous Categories, because they can impose tolerance or acceptance with the power they have.
The force that wins here, however, is the Anomalous Categories and not a stronger half of the Binary Oppositions. It is resolved with the acceptance that it is possible for students to coexist this way, regardless of where they stand in the status quo. What is also imposed is the fact that it’s okay for you to like and pursue two very different things and that your family and friends should be okay with that as well because it makes you happy. It is a Disney movie after all, so it will end in the best way possible.
High School Musical, by far, has been the most successful and widely popular Disney Channel Original Movie, skyrocketing the careers of the stars, raking in profit with merchandise being sold by the hundreds and thousands, and launching global remakes and plays done after the movie. It might have possibly even revived the love for musicals among the younger audiences because a lot of movies with similar formats followed throughout the years after this film was released in 2006.