By Chelsie Hall and Bella LaChance
The musical that changed it all for us as kids, High School Musical. When it was a Friday night on Disney Channel and the movie trailer came up on the TV, you knew exactly what was about to start playing. The basketballs bouncing. The crowd cheering. Troy and Gabriella singing to each other. Dancing numbers at their finest. It was time for High School Musical. Being produced by The Walt Disney Company and directed by Kenny Ortega gave HSM the perfect jumpstart that it needed to be popular. The two main characters, Troy and Gabriella both are trying out for the lead roles in the school play. Troy, the star basketball player, and Gabriella, the scholar student, both end up falling for each other. These two are almost the package deal, that little boys and girls almost dream to be like when they are older. Instead of ever tearing down students, Troy and Gabriella want the best for their friends and classmates. They are role model students throughout the whole movie, while throwing some Romeo and Juliet like scenes in there too. In this day and age, we are thinking back on HSM and realize that there are only two people of color who have lead roles. These two characters are Monique Coleman (Taylor) and Corbin Blue (Chad). As we delve deeper into the concept of POC in HSM, Chelsie Hall and I realized progressions with these two characters and negatives because of there only being two Black characters.
Bella LaChance (BL) is a freshman who is looking into majoring in Human Organizational Development or Communications. She currently is living in Nashville and is playing basketball throughout her academic career at Vanderbilt.
Chelsie Hall (CH) is a senior, who will be graduating this spring. She majored in Human Organizational Development and had an amazing basketball career at Vanderbilt. Chelsie is taking her talents to Louisville to complete her graduate degree.
On April 21, Chelsie and I were texting about whether or not we were going to do the 3rd Essay and we both decided “Yes of course!!” As soon as we started brainstorming, we were thinking about different musicals on Disney we have watched as kids from The Lion King to Moana and then High School Musical popped up and rang a bell in our heads.
BL: Hi Chelsie! I am glad to be working with you again for another dialogue conversation on this musical. What is your favorite part about High School Musical? Does it bring back any memories as a kid?
CH: Yes! So excited we get to talk together again! Wow, High School Musical feels like ages ago. Of course, I watched it the night it premiered but I wasn’t always the biggest fan.
I did know the lyrics to most of the songs, but I wasn’t obsessed enough to watch it over and over again. I rather try to learn the dances during the commercials than watch the actual movie. When High School Musical came out, I was 7 I think and was definitely starting to become obsessed with basketball. So, let’s say that all the basketball scenes were my favorite especially when they won the championship. I was impressed with Troy Bolton’s bball skills while also being able to sing really well. The “Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma” warmup between Sharpay and Ryan was also one of my favorites because I thought it was so funny. I remember I would do it with my friends at school randomly. The characters were all so fun, who would you say is your favorite?
BL: My favorite character is Troy Bolton of course! Funny story actually, I used to have a picture of Troy Bolton from HSM in my bedroom for so many years. At the time, I was a tomboy and wore boy clothes, but I still loved my Troy Bolton sticker. Of course I was obsessed with his looks because who doesn’t think Zac Efron is attractive. Another feature of Troy that was attractive was the confidence that he carried either on the basketball court, on the stage, or just in daily life. His basketball ability was extremely inspirational to me at a young age. I know, I know, it is JUST A MOVIE, but little girls love to be inspired by the cringiest, cutest things sometimes. He always carried this confidence with him when he would dribble down a basketball court or shot a three point shot. He received a lot of fame merely from his basketball ability in high school. When I would watch the movie, I would be like, “Wow, I want to be famous as a basketball player in high school too.” Tell me about your favorite character!
CH: I definitely feel that! I loved how much confidence he had on and off the court. I too wanted to be that famous as a basketball player! My favorite character would have to be Taylor McKessie. I loved how she had beauty and brains. I mean I wasn’t trying to be the captain of the Decathlon team, but I thought it was pretty cool. She was also a best friend that I would want. I loved how she was nice and friendly to Gabriella when she first got to school and how she always kept it 100. I know she did break up Troy and Gabby for a moment, but she did confess and apologize for what she did. And then after she does everything in her power to help Gabriella make it to the school musical in time. Her fling with Chad was also very cute.
BL: Oh my God! I love Taylor McKessie too! I also did adore her friendship with Gabriella because Gabriella definitely did need a true friend being a new student at East High. This raises an interesting point for me. This was one of the musicals that Disney chose to put people of color in the musical. There were only two Black characters, which are Taylor McKessie and Chad Danforth. There were progressions with these two characters and negatives because of there only being two Black characters. Of course, them being the two black characters in the musical has allowed them to keep diversity flowing throughout the entertainment world. A fun fact about these two characters is that initially they did not have a leading role. It was only until the producers saw how influential and effective they were in the musical they were given more of a lead role. These two characters helped to get rid of the stereotype of only white people being considered “smart.” As you said, Taylor McKessie, is insanely smart and the captain of the Decathlon team. A negative thought that came into my mind was, “Why are there only two black characters throughout the film?” I feel as if there was another HSM directed, produced, and filmed now there would be more black characters because of how the entertainment business is finally evolving.
CH: Awwww Taylor and Chad were soo cute together. #powercouple. Yeah, you bring up an interesting point Bella about the lack of Black cast members. It makes me think if they were really “All in This Together.” I read an article about Monique Coleman (Taylor) talking about how her iconic headband look was her idea AND because they didn’t have anyone on set who could do Black girl’s hair. I mean we all LOVE the look, but I guess she didn’t really have a choice. However, there are positives to having these two Black characters be leads. Along with eliminating the stereotype of only white people being smart, they also eliminated the stereotype of black women having attitudes and being sassy. Taylor was the opposite. As the class president, she was friendly and always willing to give a helping hand. I think Chad was just the average jock who loved his sport and always kept it cool, nothing having to do with his race. Chad and Taylor were also the best friends of the main characters, Troy and Gabriella, which allowed us as kids to see and encouraged us to be friends with everyone. Looking back, I feel like there were important lessons that I learned from HSM that I still use today. Were there any lessons that have stuck with you growing up and that you still use today?
BL: Oh my God Yes I totally agree. I do love the headband look on Taylor too, but it is disrespectful to not put someone on the staff who could do her hair. To answer your question, I learned very important lessons as a little girl watching HSM. In one of the beginning scenes of the movie, Gabrielle goes to sing karaoke and Troy is hesitant to go, although he has a hidden passion for singing. After going on stage with Gabriella and having a beautiful performance, he gained so much confidence and accepted his passion, instead of being embarrassed about it. The song they sang together is, “Start of Something New.” It is ironic that this is the name because Troy’s singing career is also the start of something new. This showed me as a child and others watching that it is good and okay to try something new because you may love it! I have always struggled with taking the risk and having the fear of being embarrassed, but Troy overcame that. How about you? What is your favorite song/lesson that caught your attention?
CH: I love that!! I’m not much of a risk taker either so I definitely feel that. My favorite song and definitely one of the catchiest songs would have to be “Stick to the Status Quo.” The “NO, NO, NO,” after someone would tell their deep secret would always get stuck in my head. I also really enjoyed the dancing and how cohesive the group looked. From the break dancing to dancing on the tables, the scene was amazing to watch with how many people were dancing at the same time. The lesson I learned from this song which is actually opposite of what the song is saying but is to not always stick to the status quo. I learned that I should always be myself and that it is “cool” to be unique. During the scene, I could relate to the pressure of a group telling you how you should be and how it’s easier to just not talk about what makes you different. When I was younger, I was a tomboy and always wanted to be playing sports. The girls would look at me crazy sometimes but when I got them to play, they would enjoy it just as much as me.
BL: It was amazing working with you again Chels! I’m going to miss you! Have a great time at Louisville!
CH: I always love working with you Bella! Thank you so much!! I will miss you mucho