“Breaking Free” from the “Status Quo”

I got into a debate with my Vanderbilt interviewer. After he mentioned that his favorite novel was Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina,” we got into a passionate conversation about some of its philosophical ideas. After about ten or so minutes of this esoteric analysis, he confirmed that I was intending to be an English major. When I said “Chemistry,” he nearly spit out his $7 oat milk latte. After clarifying to make sure I was not in fact joining, he stated “I just seemed like so much more of an English/History person than a Math/Science one.” After I said I consider myself to be a “Science/English person,” he was surprisingly resistant to this idea. I probably spent the next ten minutes justifying myself and challenging his schema regarding this idea of labeling people.

Rather than just forcing myself into the bounds that society places on people to fit into these clear divides, whether it be based on interests, race, or gender, I continuously have tried to stay true to myself in spite of the pressure to fit into oversimplified categories. Recently, my father even referred to my “inability” to fully immerse myself in one thing as “immature.” He believes my many different pursuits are a consequence of my not yet finding my “one thing.” While he absolutely despises that my classes do not have some sort of “theme,” I am totally content with my transcript classes ranging from Shakespearean tragedies, child psychology, chemical engineering, and Chinese society courses. I like to think about my desire to follow multiple passions as increased maturity in being able to overcome societal stereotypes to live in a state of liminality. 

Armed with this desire to fight back against the societal norms society imposes on people, it makes sense why I am absolutely obsessed with the 2006 Disney masterpiece “High School Musical”. This musical follows Troy Bolton, a talented basketball player, and Gabriella Montez, an intelligent academic, who both discover a passion for singing and subsequently, must combat stereotypes and uproot societal norms to pursue their passions. Director and choreographer Kenny Ortega, writer Peter Barsocchini, and an array of film stars wonderfully depict these characters escape the traditional roles and stereotypes in order to embrace their true selves. This message is particularly relevant today, as society often puts pressure on individuals to conform to certain norms and expectations. By showing that people can be multidimensional, “High School Musical” encourages viewers to fight back against society’s problematic tendency to categorize people and inspired people to be their true complex selves. 

Everything about the satirical number “Stick to the Status Quo” perfectly exemplifies the pressure to conform and the gratification that people receive when they can escape such norms and be their multidimensional selves. Ortega’s vision of this scene is flawless. The number starts as various students come out and confess their secret interests that do not adhere to the norms that people expect them to fall into. Specifically, the stereotypically nerdy character Martha shares her love of hip-hop dancing, basketball player Zeke describes his passion for baking, and skater boy Ripper admits he enjoys playing a musical instrument. As Kaycee Stroh, who depicts Martha shares her interest, a smile lights up her face as she demonstrates how she can “pop and lock.” Additionally, Stroh’s sharp movements are performed with immense confidence that contrasts her otherwise more small, awkward motions. Here, Stroh perfectly exemplifies how her character of Martha feels when she can be her true self. Yet, as soon as she expresses such feelings, her peers exhibit a disproportional look of disgust, with several of them leaning away from her as if Martha had just admitted she murders puppies for fun. When Zeke and Ripper share their hidden passions, they are met with similar levels looks of repulsion from their friends. The negative reactions of their peers cause these three students to immediately open their mouths and look down in sadness, demonstrating the way that people who you have previously considered friends can be so unsupportive of one’s activities if they conflict with their own choices. 

The musical’s production artists are highly effective in depicting the segregation that exists within the school. Mark Hofeling’s set design of having each clique around a separate table in the cafeteria visually establishes the physical separation between groups to emphasize the various classifications of the students. By using different round tables, each group of students faces the others, with their backs turned to other groups, underscoring the division based on social groups. Moreover, the costume designer Tom McKinley’s choice to put each group in a distinct style of dress that adheres to cultural stereotypes reinforces these separations. The costumes for athletic students include track jackets and sneakers, while the nerdy students wear more formal clothing such as blazers and bowties; the skater kids, don baggy shirts and beanies. The immense discrepancy in styles contributes to the social segregation within the school.

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Another way these stereotypes are depicted is through Ortega’s variety of choreography. In contrast, the nerdy people literally march around the table holding textbooks, in which such forced movements emphasize their more uptight nature, in what most people would imagine being the dance moves of most Vanderbilt students. Such rigid motions make Martha’s rhythmic fast paced hip hop dance more striking. Yet, the girl in the gargoyle sweater topped with a pink blazer still manages to read her “Modern Biology” textbook in the midst of walking, which is just true dedication. In contrast to most of the nerdy students’ more uncomfortable maneuvers, the skater students are the epitome of the word “chill.” Their flowy movements resemble the inflatable tube men at car dealerships that let the wind move them. Similarly, the elongated words in their speech sound as laid-back as their dancing. Such wave-like movements and vocals also exasperate Ripper’s differentiation from the group. By playing the cello, which requires intricate hand placements and immense precision, Ripper would be making clean-cut sounds. The next scene depicts Ripper looking in at his friends from outside the circle, conveying the social isolation that threatens those who choose not to abide by a label. 

To further depict the pressure students get from their peers, Barsocchini crafts the character of Sharpay Evans, the epitome of a typical high school mean girl. Likely feeling threatened by Troy and Gabriella’s singing talents and fear of losing her star role in the school musical, Sharpay does all she can to maintain stringent social norms. In this way, Sharpay serves as a foil to the main characters, who challenge societal expectations. Actor Ashley Tisdale’s portrayal of Sharpay’s narrow-mindedness includes very exaggerated gestures and facial expressions. When Sharpay watches those around her attempt to break away from social expectations, she raises her eyebrows and sneers in a way that conveys her disdain and contempt for them. Another specific acting choice Tisdale uses to highlight Sharpay’s beliefs is her use of a high-pitched and nasally voice. This voice helps to convey Sharpay’s self-importance and entitlement and makes her sound haughty and pompous. 

However, as people get more comfortable with the idea of breaking the constraints of their social roles, they are able to overcome even the meanest of looks from Sharpay, symbolizing how people can uproot even the strongest social normatives. To represent this, the dancing shifts dramatically. The students no longer dance just with their clique around their table, but instead begin to branch out and intertwine with others. The students break from singing the lines “stick to the status quo” in favor of instrumental music, showcasing the lack of conformity. Everyone begins to dance at the same time but all perform different movements in a fast-paced and energetic routine. This dance employs a variety of different styles, incorporating elements of jazz and hip-hop as students go from more graceful twirls to sharp stomping. The cafeteria feels like utter chaos, that I so wish I could partake in. Ortego’s decision to have everyone engage in unique choreography rather than dance in unison demonstrates how so many students have been inspired to break free from social expectations. 

However, just like in the real world, societal forces are incredibly hard to diffuse. Parents play a key role in shaping children’s identities. The dialogue that Barsocchini crafts to exemplify this idea really reminds me of some of the conversations I have had with my own parents. For example, Troy’s dad, Mr. Bolton, tells his son that he is “a playmaker, not a singer,” to which Troy responds “ever think maybe I could be both?” These quotes really spoke to my own relationship with my father constantly tries to curate and shape every aspect of my life. Just like Mr. Bolton was a basketball player himself and wants the same for Troy, my dad desperately wants me to follow in his footsteps to pursue scientific research. Yet, even though I spent summers in high school working in a UCLA research lab, I could never dedicate my entire focus to that, to my dad’s disappointment. Troy’s struggle to balance his own desires under the pressure of his parent resonates with me and so many other young adults trying to find themselves. 

While I know there will likely never be a world completely free of societal expectations to act a certain way, High School Musical demonstrates that people should not let these social constraints define and dominate them. At the beginning of the movie, Troy’s friend Chad stated  “the musical… isn’t hip hop or rock or anything essential to culture.” I hope if the fictional Chad were to read this essay, he would totally realize that his line could not be farther from the truth. 

“High School Musical’s” message remains particularly relevant today, as so many people will continue to navigate an abundance of societal influences that begin to feel suffocating. This movie musical has so much value in reminding viewers of the importance of not limiting yourself to societal norms and the importance of being one’s most authentic self.

NO! NO! NO! Do we live in an East High Society?

When I sat down to watch High School Musical again as a 21-year-old woman, I expected to see the straightforward love story that I understood as a child. A heartthrob basketball player and a quirky science girl fall in love and fight against all odds to audition for the school musical. And admittedly… that’s exactly what I got. But! I also noticed a little more nuance than I did 15 years ago. This musical is one big commentary on self-discovery and inner conflict. More specifically, High School Musical uses music composition and choreography to challenge our views toward social norms and encourage individuality. 

The best song that shows this (and also my favorite) is “Stick to the Status Quo” which occurs during the end of Act I. The song happens just after the school learns that the star basketball player Troy Bolton, likes to sing and wants to audition for the school musical. For some reason, this is very controversial. But soon after, Troy’s exploration into unexpected hobbies inspires other students to do the same. This entire song shows the tension between the people who want to expand their identities and their peers who want them to assimilate. Altogether, the composition and choreography of this number help visualize this social tension and further the musical’s purpose to encourage self-discovery. 


Let’s start with the music. The song begins simply with a casual percussive beat and an electric guitar riff in the background. The vibe is upbeat yet suspenseful, mirroring the cafeteria energy and the tension in light of the recent news. We watch as a basketball player lightly paces and then steps forward. He clearly has something on his mind. Suddenly the music goes quiet and only the suspenseful percussion remains. The attention lies completely on the athlete as he confesses his desire to bake (*gasp* such a faux pas). 

Suddenly the music crashes in much louder and stronger than it was before. The percussion picks up speed, the electric guitar amps up energy, and a strong piano melody is introduced. Combined with the crowd simultaneously screaming, “NO NO NO!” with this crescendo, the audience very easily feels the emotion of the room. The crowd of students are upset and are very energetically rejecting the idea that a basketball player can be anything other than sporty. 

The rest of the song follows a similar pattern. The music softens when a character confesses their interests, and then immediately picks up energy as the crowd responds negatively to the news.

No, no, no
Stick to the stuff you know
If you wanna be cool
Follow one simple rule
Don’t mess with the flow, no no

Clearly, David Lawrence doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination. He is very deliberate through his lyrics and composition to show the conflict of straying from conformity. These characters want to be more than their high school stereotypes, but the fact that they are met with resistance in both the music and the lyrics helps show the challenges of straying from expectations. 


Okay, the choreography is arguably the best part of the song. I will die on this hill. There’s just something about fiftyish teenagers dramatically stomping on lunch tables that gets me every time. But besides being an unintentional comic relief for me, the choreography of this song is the perfect visual of groupthink. Just before a character reveals their secret, their peers are engaged. The music is soft and the crowd leans in. But the second the spotlighted character reveals something unexpected about their own identity, the crowd erupts into a frenzy. They clutch their heads and belt to the sky. They thrash and stomp, almost like a tantrum, as they beg the character to stop talking. Their movements are aggressive and punctuated. It feels very disciplinary as if they are trying to force the spotlighted character to assimilate through strength and power.

This blatant shift in style from soft to aggressive shows the audience that the revelation was deeply upsetting to their social environment. As long as the character acts according to their expected identities, there is no problem. Everything is peaceful. But the moment a character shows a bit of individuality, it’s chaos. 

The unified movement also contributes to the song’s portrayal of social norms. Throughout the song, the crowd of students move as one with energy and passion. Not only are they in sync with each other in terms of how they think, but also how they move – like some sort of hive mind. This effectively visualizes the idea of a social group and the people within them sharing the same thoughts and behaviors. It also emphasizes the power imbalance between the crowd and the individual and shows the pressure to act according to the group. 

Given that the song overall portrays the clash between individuality and the pressure to abide by social norms, the choreography is very effective in visualizing this dynamic. 

# Don't mess with the flow, no, no
source: YARN


Now, before you say no shit sherlock, I completely agree with you. This theme isn’t very difficult to pull from the production. But I wanted to reflect on how differently I resonated with High School Musical as a child versus as an adult. As a kid, I thought “Stick to the Status Quo” was just about dumb high school politics. To be considered “cool” or “popular” you can’t embarrass yourself by doing anything other than what your group does. Don’t get me wrong, the song is certainly about that. But as an adult, I digested the message a bit differently. The song isn’t just a commentary on high school politics, but is also a reflection of our society as a whole. We, like East High, have social guidelines that we must follow in order to be accepted by our communities. Behaving outside of those guidelines might result in backlash (although probably not as dramatic as a cafeteria flash mob). So yes, High School Musical might be a very simple coming of age story with uncomplicated storytelling. But perhaps teenagers dancing on tables will also inspire you to have an existential reflection on our society.

Pink and Blue. Sparkly and Strong.

Win together, lose together, teammates. I watched High School Musical back when my parents had flip phones and big box televisions versus the slick back televisions; we now have mounted on walls. High School Musical was the movie that was my literal EVERYTHING. The movie forced me to stay bundled up in my ‘Mickey Mouse’ pajamas and eat a box of popcorn with a cup of Coke on the side. It has been more than 10 years since I watched High School Musical, and my only question is: Will I feel differently about the movie watching it now?

I rewatched it and was mesmerized by Zac Efron’s bright blue eyes and Vanessa Hudgen’s sweet, soft voice. However, it is the other revelation of my teenage life I could see through the reel of the High School Musical.

Growing up watching High School Musical, I envied Troy and Gabriella’s ability to have the best of both worlds; being an “all-star athlete,”  proving to be the “freaky math girl” and representing to be the shiniest penny on the block as the “theatre kid.” I longed for the same talent and effortless style that Troy and Gabriella carried around the halls of East High, but recently I have realized they were struggling to navigate through the multiple identities they formed. They were just like me.

Gabriella was talking to Troy and said, “Do you remember in kindergarten how you met a kid and know nothing about them, then 10 seconds later you’re playing like you are best friends because you did not have to be anything but yourself.” This line defines how my childhood was so carefree while I felt forced to be pre-defined under one category. By constituting Gabriella as the “freaky math girl” and Troy as the “basketball guy,” both individuals confine to this limited scope of freedom which disables them from growing to the best of their ability and following other aspects of their life that they are passionate about. Like their characteristics, I feel like I was labeled as the businesswoman in my family, and no one ever saw me exploring other options like becoming a pilot or a chef. After talking to people from different backgrounds and their unique journeys, I feel so regretful that I could not explore different options and stay on one path that defined “security” for me. I believe that if I were to switch careers or deter from this one “businesswoman” mindset, I would have dug myself into a hole that would simply take away my individuality. As a 20-year-old watching HSM, I can see the strength that Gabriella and Troy hold by acknowledging the backlash they received from their peers while still following their passions.

In “Breaking Free,” Troy and Gabriella are on the stage wearing his basketball outfit and her lab coat with a medal on it. They start off together in a soft and mellow tone almost as if they are confined by the outfits they are wearing and then bam when the chorus hits and they sing the words, Flyin’/There’s not a star in heaven that we can’t reach/ That we can’t reach/If we’re tryin’/Yeah we’re breaking free/Oh we’re breaking free/Can you feel it building, Gabriella removes her white coat almost as if she can feel her breakthrough moment and get rid of the suffocation she feels when she wears that. As soon as the uniform was removed from Gabriella both the passion in their voices changed and you can see how loose they get with each other, especially in their dance moves. Gabriella and Troy are two people against the world and they ‘break free; of everybody’s thoughts and they go against all odds to be together. One thing I did realize was that Troy did not have to remove his basketball clothes to feel free like Gabriella. Regardless of his status as a ‘jock’, he has the confidence to pursue everything he wants. The director of HSM, purposely kept Troy’s clothes on to show that he has more confidence than Gabriella, which is a gender stereotype that can be seen in a universal standing. Men usually use their confidence to mask the internal struggles they are going through. According to the world a real homosexual man is one that does not show emotions, and by staying true to who he is by wearing basketball clothes he stands his ground of continuing to show confidence.

I really loved how they had both the basketball and decathlon teams come out there and support them and showed that they are breaking barriers, that all humans are equal and there are no obstacles standing in the way of that. I honestly felt that same wave of relief and as if a heavy burden was being removed from my shoulders when they sang that. Looking back at my young self, I feel so naïve for just thinking they are breaking free because now I understand that being yourself and showing true authenticity is more important than ever being submissive to the opinions others have for you.  It strikes a bell of childhood memories or simply has a special place in my heart along with that special someone you have. To me, the words themselves are a masterpiece. I used to think they were over-exaggerating when I was smaller, but now I know that words can have a great impact on your confidence. The message in this song is: break free from whatever’s holding you down. Worries, responsibilities, bullies, anything.

Furthermore, Troy Bolton fits the perfect mold of an American teenager: beautiful slick hair, blue eyes, and the star athlete of the Wildcat’s basketball team. Troy would only speak about basketball with his friends and gained attention from many girls at the school. As Troy is surrounded by many cheerleaders and athletes, the song “We’re All in This Together” plays in the background, and his teammate Chad passes him a basketball and says that he will be the leader of the team. Troy is celebrated by the ladies, the school, and his teammates, fitting him in as the perfect mold of a heterosexual male in our society. As Troy speaks to Gabriella in the hallways after their duet at the karaoke lounge, Troy tells Gabriella that he has never revealed his passion for singing to his friends and teammates. Troy gets caught whispering the word “singing” in the hallway as if he is questioning his masculinity by saying that he sings. In my opinion, the perception of the heterosexual male should not be confined to certain qualities and passions. Even though Troy might be represented as a “tough guy” to his friends and teammates, Troy acknowledges that he has a passion for singing and performing duets. As members of this society, we should not conform to specific rules of gender that hold us back and not truly reveal who we are as individuals.

Troy’s best friend, Chad also faces a similar stereotype. He also fits the gender norm of being a heterosexual male who represents an ideal high school athlete. I realize that I have encountered so many people like Chad in my life. Each time I find someone like Chad, I separate myself because I am aware of these types of individuals that hold a false identities. When Troy mentions that “We use to come here as kids, we would be 10 people. We would be spies, superheroes, rock stars. We were whatever we wanted to be, whenever we wanted to be it. It was us, man!” and with that Chad responds “Yeah, we were, like, eight years old”. I see the tunnel vision Chad has and it disturbs me that he is not willing to grow and unleash himself, rejecting the gender norms of typical high school guys. I wish I had the courage like Troy to try different things and not be afraid of the consequences that came with it. However, I was able to see the change in Chad’s mindset as the movie progressed and his understanding of Troy’s passion other than basketball grew. I was happy to see Chad in the theatre cheering for Troy because this shows the younger generation that it truly is okay to be yourself and try new things. Their support was a step closer to breaking the barriers our society has put up.

Watching High School Musical as a young child compared to a 20-year-old completely altered my thoughts. Watching Gabriella and Troy through their beautiful journey of acceptance had a really positive impact on how I thought about my future and how I should never be afraid to pursue my passions because of what other individuals have to say about my choices and actions. It remains important to understand that society will always place its expectations on what certain genders should act like. Thus, breaking such societal barriers is necessary to prompt positive social change and facilitate a healthy environment around us.

Together, Together, Together Everyone!

When I was younger, I was a complete High School Musical (written by Peter Barsocchini, composed by David Lawrence) fanatic. I’m talking about a major obsession. I would convince my sister she was Sharpay and I was Gabriella, and I’m pretty sure we would even act out the whole musical (using stuffed animals for the rest of the characters). For at least a year I believe I watched High School Musical (1, 2, and 3) at least once a day. My mom even one day had enough of it that she took the DVD from me and my younger sister, and hid it from us (you’ve probably never seen so many tears before). My obsession wasn’t only with the music, the dancing, or the cute characters, but also with the love story and idealization of what high school and growing up would be like for me. Talk about cultural identity, right? Well, turns out this wasn’t quite as unique of an experience as I had thought it was at the time. Every single one of my classmates in elementary school went through a similar obsession (maybe not as deep, but knew the music at the very least). When the time came that my high school decided to put on High School Musical (my freshman year), you bet it was record breaking for the number of auditions, first time performers, and selling out so quickly we had to add foldable chairs in the auditorium. So, what is it about High School Musical that makes it so enticing to my generation? Well, after rewatching it with a more critical eye, and actively searching for the “why”, I believe I have some ideas…

Kenny Ortega is the brilliant director and choreographer of High School Musical. Ortega really knew what he was doing in terms of both and I know that because of how each musical number is choreographed to convey a particular message. There aren’t a whole lot of musical numbers in HSM, but that means that they each had to be powerful enough to convey the message Ortega wanted, and to also be catchy enough for the audience (which they definitely were). Aside from choreography, can we talk about the costumes for a moment? I mean watching this back puts us right back in the deep end of 2000s style. Costume designer, Tom McKinley, knew how to style each actor and actress in HSM to help consumers identify with an individual character that not only acts, but also looked like them at the time. So not only do we have amazing choreography, an enticing plot, and catchy music, but costumes that connected everyday people to these characters. 

To begin, let’s look at the classic opener: “The Start of Something New”. This song is sung by the two love interests and leads of the movie, Gabriella (played by Vanessa Hudgens) and Troy (played by Zac Efron). Gabriella is your typical shy bookworm and Troy is the classic “coach’s son” who is the star basketball player. The thing they both have in common (other than good looks)? They have a secret passion for singing! 

“The Start of Something New” really is true to its title, because it sets the plot for the whole musical that taking a chance with something new will reap positive outcomes. Now, the choreography of this is brilliant, because Ortega chose for both characters to begin singing stiffly and transition into becoming more fluid and fun after they both get into the music. The instrumentation and actual volume also follows this as it begins soft then gets much louder and upbeat. There is a curiosity that Troy has about Gabriella, and this is the beginning of his “existential crisis”. This song also captures every heterosexual female’s desire to have a man that falls in love at first sight. Which was a tactic not used lightly in the writing of the film, because there needs to of course be some kind of romantic hook in a Disney movie after all. 

Next, we have the iconic “Get’cha Head in the Game” song. Now this one is a doozy. This song is representative of the “struggle” between Troy realizing how much he loves music while having been all about basketball his whole life. Back to the choreography, the dancing of the other basketball boys is almost cult-like. They surround Troy and dance with the basketballs causing him to have a melodramatic breakdown of questioning why he enjoys something that is typically more feminine (**cough cough** toxic masculinity **cough cough**). There’s a moment in this song where the spotlight is on Troy and it is almost like the boys are circling him not only physically, but mentally with their ideas that he should only care about basketball. The whole song is him questioning why his head isn’t in the game. Again, amazing choreography decisions and choices by the actor himself to display such deep personal confliction (even if it does feel childish at times). 

Another thing that the whole production team and actors/actresses did well was portray the same songs but give them very different meanings. For example, Sharpay (played by Ashley Tisdale) and Ryan (played by Lucas Grabeel) sing “What I’ve Been Looking For”, and so do Gabriella and Troy. However, when Sharpay and Ryan sing it, it is playful, light, and has a “young” vibe to it. You know they are siblings, and it feels like they are singing this song together as siblings. While on the other hand, Gabriella and Troy sing this song and it becomes slow, relaxed, and a very intentional love song. Which is also telling of the two duo’s personalities, portraying the Evan’s as more out there and extroverted, and Gabriella and Troy as love-birds who like to sing secretively. 

Now, finally we get to my most favorite song of the whole show: “Stick to the Status Quo”. Everyone pretty much knows this infamous song, and it’s not only because of the repetitive instrumentation or lyrics. Each group has one person who’s breaking this “status quo”, the baker, the hip hop dancer, and cellist all individually threaten the entire school’s normal way of functioning. This is exemplified by the repetition of the thunderous and aggressive “no no no no no no no stick to the status quo” lyric, and the keeping to the brainiacs, jocks, and skaters. These three people, and Troy and Gabriella deciding to veer away from their individual groups causes the whole school to have a crisis, and especially Sharpay who has always been the queen bee. 

We then see our two favorite supporting actors, Taylor (played by Monique Coleman) and Chad (played by Corbin Bleu), get their groups to break up Gabriella and Troy so that things can go back to “normal”. Leading to the intensely melodramatic scene of Gabriella singing “When There was Me and You”, which causes her to realize she should have just stayed as the person people expected her to be. Which is also a deep audience hook, because we want Gabriella to win, and are heartbroken that Troy could even think these things about their relationship. However, the two groups realize that they’ve made a mistake when Troy is completely off his game, and Gabriella isolates herself. They then bring the two back together, and become supportive of their friends which is a complete switch from the message conveyed in “Stick to the Status Quo”. 

This is the moment we start to see the individual group’s dynamics start to shift. They begin to accept that people have multiple different interests and values, and they don’t have to only keep to themselves. They even help each other, and Troy and Gabriella, to succeed by helping them get to the callback. This is the turning point for the school, and the way in which they start to form their new cultural identity of being diverse and accepting. 

This is especially seen through both “Breaking Free” and “We’re All in This Together”. “Breaking Free” is more about Gabriella and Troy crafting their new identities, but nonetheless Gabriella is able to find comfort in combating her shyness through leaning on Troy, and Troy is able to express himself and his interests regardless of his basketball status. The moment in this song that particularly stands out to me actually has little to do with the two leads and their actions/lyrics, but rather with the incorporation of both Troy’s dad and Gabriella’s mom. When they both walk in and are zoomed in on, this is the moment that they are finally truly accepted by not only their school but their families. Which is a complete 180 from the mentality expressed in “Stick to the Status Quo”. 

We then transition into the finale, “We’re All in This Together”. This song is probably the most well known song from HSM, even to those who probably have never seen HSM fully. Everyone knows the iconic dance moves and lyrics of this song. It is also a celebration of the fact that they’ve made it and accomplished everything together which also celebrates the development of their cultural identities to be accepting of each other’s similarities and differences. The lyrics “we’re not the same/we’re different in a good way/we make each other strong” are the epitome of the new identity they’ve all created, and especially the new sense of togetherness they’ve all adopted. The instrumentation is repetitive, upbeat, and cheerful in order to emphasize this final conclusion. 

Overall, there is a lot to appreciate artistically, emotionally, and aesthetically about High School Musical, but if there’s one thing I’ll leave you with it’s that there is a reason we are so connected to this musical (even now), and that is the way in which we as a society idolize togetherness, happiness, and diversity (even if it isn’t perfect). The music, emotions, choreography, costumes, and individual characters all work together to pull us in and keep us there, “together”.