15 Years Later: High School Musical

When I sat down to watch High School musical I thought I knew what this piece was going to be about. I was simply rewatching to refresh my memory and get some quotes to use. What I wanted to do was to write about why Sharpay Evans is not the villain that we all thought she was when we were younger. (Maybe one day that will be something I write about.) She was very much like Gabriella and Troy, except the movie made us sympathize with the latter two. But then something happened. Just like any good child of the ’90s who watched this movie premiere on Disney Channel back in 2006, when I was simply 12 years old, I was singing along to the songs and having a great time until Breaking Free started. All of a sudden this 27 years old queer woman was full-on crying on her couch while singing with Gabriella and Troy. What was supposed to be a good time turned into a mess. Why? Because all of a sudden I was back into being this closeted kid in my living room watching this for the first time and rooting for these two idiots. I wasn’t a cynical 27 years old riddle with anxiety and depression, I was a 12 years old closeted kid who had just watched a film that told her she could be anything she wanted and she didn’t need to fit into just one box. High School Musical reminded me of that and by the end, I was up and dancing to All In This Together because like any good child of those years I too stood in front of my television and learned the dance way back then.

High School Musical was, at the time, a phenomenon. It is impossible to describe how big it was back when it premiered. And how it grew with every film. Ask any kids who grew up in that era and they will tell you how much they loved this series, and yes, boys might lie to you and say they did not like it, but believe me, any child who was in middle school and high school in 2006 watched every single film of the trilogy. Just say the phrase “What time is it?” And you will hear a millennial say “Summertime.” High School Musical was a phenomenon like we hadn’t really seen back then, a film that took the world by storm and that, even today, made its way into our hearts like nothing before really. But why does the nostalgia of it all brings us back to it, why does it still work even today? Why isn’t it one of these movies that just don’t hold up nowadays? The reason is as simple as that High School Musical and the message that we get from it still works today. It might not be perfect but the film pulls the right strings and gets you emotional at the right moment. Sure nostalgia help and we might watch it with tinted roses glasses but even then, it still is a good film.

Nostalgia, let’s talk about it. There’s a reason why I, a grown-ass emotionally distant adult found myself crying in front of this film. There’s a reason why we hold films from our childhood dear. Why we all subscribed to Disney+ at its launch when they promised us their entire library from our childhood. Why Stranger Things was such a hit during its first season. Why we all screamed of happiness when they announced that the original cast was doing a singalong of the musical. Nostalgia makes us see things differently than they probably were but memories and emotions play a big part in it. There’s a reason why so many of us revisit films and why so many retrospectives exist. High School Musical is part of that category. They are very regular films, not great but also not horrible. But because of nostalgia, we hold them dear in our hearts and we hold them up. Everyone has those films, and to me, this has always been High School Musical. The idea that this film told me I could be anything I wanted always sat well with me. It also sold me an idea of high school that I never got to experience, one where I didn’t hate every single second. High School Musical will forever be this film that made me a little bit happier every time I watched it, one that even years later brings me back to these moments.

Writing about High School Musical is hard because everyone has their own stories about this series. Everyone remembers what they were doing when they first watched it, or who they went to see the third one in theatres with. It’s a series that defined most of us and fifteen years later, we still rewatch it over and over again. Most of us still know the lyrics to the song, we all have those memories and yes, nostalgia plays a big part as to why we go back to these films, why we hold them dear in our hearts. To me, High School Musical is the series that I just remember loving, forcing my mother to put the soundtrack every time we would go on a long car ride, it was just the thing that made me happy. Fifteen years might have passed, I might not be this teenager anymore that is so scared of speaking her truth, but somehow this film still brings me back to those moments. It reminds me of how far I have come and how I am better for it now.

So now, I will go watch the High School Musical 2 and go cry in a corner once again.