Inevitably, an entity, a school of thought, an individual, or an establishment becomes represented by a few key factors. In some forms that factor may be an idea, event, a value, or even in this case a movie. America is just like any other institution or organization, the values that are upheld can be represented and viewed through some significant productions or events. It is always of value to prospect what may occur during the present that will impact the future by studying the past. These are the fundamentals of cultural assimilation. In other words, watching High School Musical made my life easier as an immigrant.
When I came to America at the age of 10. The world was vastly different from the one back in Taiwan. Disregarding that I knew zero English or the color of my skin. This difference can be further attributed to popular culture and values. So how did I eventually blend in and make friends? The Entertainment Industry. Specifically, the Walt Disney Company was one of the best in the field, specifically catered towards kids and adolescents. Not only does it revolve around current pop culture but it also has many different layers in racial and gender implications. Furthermore, the frequent references in production lead the audience to become a more well-rounded individual.
It may sound to be absolute insanity for anyone reading right now. But, consider this, High School Musical. It’s not an argument of whether or not it’s an unrealistic expectation for high school. It is simply one of the best films to be watched not solely for entertainment, but to learn about high school. Furthermore, it is constructed based on the plotline from Romeo and Juliet (but English class is a totally different story). I will make an argument that the most fundamental level is desirable. And from my personal understanding, students would love it if their high school were like East High. To understand a person, understand their passion and desire. I remember walking into high school and everyone was just as High School Musical stated: segregated. Unfortunately, the real world has no songs and choreography to dissipate the segregation to form a utopia. However, the school could be perfectly represented by every act of the movie except for the last act (it was simply too perfect for the world).
Troy Bolten, the basketball team captain, predicted to receive a scholarship, the most popular person on campus. Gabriella Montez, a shy transfer girl and an absolute genius in natural sciences. Both are victims of generalization and stereotyping in this movie. But, that is why this production is amazing. A huge factor in an adolescent culture that is widespread is bullying and malicious action or criticism. Whether or not there is the failure of acceptance or criticism for being unorthodox. Both of the above are reenacted multiple times in High School Musical. The social divide between the basketball players, academic achieving students, and performing arts students reinforces that idea. Sharpay can be seen multiple times in the film, visually disgusted at the other clique. Moreover, Sharpay goes above and beyond to protect the success of theatre (even though she is portrayed as a selfish character). This concept of a clique is extremely important to understanding the social hierarchy of k-12 education for immigrants.
Life would be extremely hard if I attempted to become friends with the theatre kids, football team, and orchestra kids at the same time. My public high school had somewhat of the same sectioning of the student body as in the number, “Stick To The Status Quo”. In the film, there is a heavy distinction between the athletic student body and the academic student body. One significance is the placement of their table at the center of the cafeteria. That is something that was interesting to me as an immigrant. American public schools diverge a lot of effort and resources into maintaining the sports program. Sequentially, the athletes receive a good amount of publicity and attention. Thus, they are usually also the center of attention. Furthermore, the choice of outfit for all the groups are somewhat accurate representations of their clique. The sports section is filled with pregame warm-up gear and sweatpants. The nerd section is dressed more formally and everyone has a book in their hands. Last but not least, the last group that is representing skateboarders all have hats, beanies, or hair that somewhat shows their more relaxed personality. It is also culturally accurate that during the choreography, every table in the cafeteria is involved in this “freak out”. It shows that there is no single group that would be nonchalant towards change and chaos (representing an important value that groups are hesitant towards change). Furthermore, it means that every group by definition has a certain set of expectations and a blacklist of actions that should not be done. Lastly, the song lyric, “stick to the status quo … if you want to be cool, stick to the stuff you know” really shows the mixture and diversity of American culture. No matter the personality or interest, there is a fitting group if you search hard enough. And within that group, you have a chance of being “cool”. So within a limit, being oneself (conservatively) is enough to make friends and have supportive social relationships.
Secondly, High School Musical highlights a masculine society. Most notably, the “Get’cha Head in the Game” is very masculine with the choreography of sharp muscle movements. Specifically, the coach’s encouragement to throw harder and move faster are fundamental encouragements of masculine traits. Furthermore, masculinity is portrayed throughout the musical simply by both cast choice and the dynamic that is created between the basketball players. A notable scene is in the locker room where Troy declares basketball first and is recorded for Gabriella.
Personally, I am really glad I watched High School Musical as an immigrant. To some academic degree, the tropes and cultural references in the movie helped me grow savvier about American social interaction. At the most basic level, it was an absolute hit movie that every kid watched and made reference to. Till today, I still hum “Bop To The Top”.