Recently I watched the highly successful Disney production, High School Musical. I felt kinda left out, and in my futile efforts to slow down the aging process, I’m making attempts to peek in on the younger generation.
In short, it was predictable, superfluous, and somewhat shallow. But for children growing up in 2006 (when the original was released), this might be just what the doctor ordered. It’s clean (for the most part) and the message (in places) can help children to discover their individuality.
As I watched, my thoughts gravitated towards my nephew (who is approaching his 2nd birthday – wow how time flies.) In this age of innocence lasting only as long as children can’t find the power button to the remote or before they can reach the keys and type ‘g-o-o-g-l-e<Shift><Enter>’, you do everything you can to try to hold on to their youth. Corny as it may sound, we want them playing tag and wearing pajamas. We want them to wake up Saturday mornings and watch cartoons and eat cereal. I began to think, perhaps this is the high school that I’d want him to attend some day.
But then, I began to look a little deeper at the movie.
Now, please understand that I enjoyed the film. I laughed a bit. Often I had to turn away because the story was getting so sappy that it was on corny-overload. But it wasn’t at all a bad film. As I watched a bit closer, I noticed that the one area that the film deliberately chose to exclude were the other kids. Yes, being a Disney production, you can find faces of all different nationalities (and even physical structures. Well, somewhat. They had one overweight girl who liked hip-hop. Go figure.) But the other kids that I’m referring to are the ones that you avoid in the hallway. The ones that your parents and even some friends tell you to watch out for. The ones whose eyes have seen so much at such a young age that their eyes glaze over at the audacity of an adult telling them about ‘the real world’.
If you look at High School Musical in contrast to what children experience today in all but the most pricey private schools, you realize that the truth is very different. Watching High School Musical for a child who lives in Cabrini-Green or Baisley Projects (um, excuse me…Baisley Houses) must be quite a depressing experience. ‘Wow…look at their clothes. Look at that science lab… Check out that drama class – it has a real mini-stage inside. And Tariek isn’t around to ask them what colors they are reppin’. Man, no wonder they look so happy.’
OK – so we know High School Musical is a bit of a utopia and I’m not faulting it for being so. Most of us watch movies to escape the horror that we experience in our own lives – even if only for an hour and fifty minutes. But something else occurred to me about the movie outside of the way that it contrasts real life for many children.