By Vita Forest
These school holidays we have had a movie marathon. A movie marathon of the High School Musical movies. Night after night, we watch as Troy and Gabriela and all the gang meet and smile and sing and dance and learn and grow and iron out their misunderstandings. The songs get slicker, the dancing more intricate, the special effects increasingly elaborate.
There are shows within shows, there are parts where they are singing but are not singing, not dancing. Chad sings a song called “I don’t dance” even as he sings and dances. He is not one of those kind of kids. They live in a world of rules and expectations where to break them is to disappoint and confuse. The pressure of their friends and their families to conform to ideas of who they should be is almost soul destroying.
And I see the bright-eyed natural kid with a bit of blond in his hair in the first film, shining on the screen, appealing, likeable. And I know that as the years go on, he and Gabriela will kiss for real. Will fall in love for real. And fall out of it. And part. And move on. My phone tells me he will have issues with drugs and alcohol and violence. But he hasn’t had a drink for four years now.
So that’s good.
And Gabriela, so full of hope, so wholesome, will nearly not make it to the third film for a mistake, for trusting the wrong people to keep those photos private, intimate, for their eyes only.
And that Rocket Man, so droll, so light, so silly – will terrorize his ex in years to come, until she fears for her life and her sanity.
And they all look so young. And my kids were so young when we first cuddled on the couch, watching their adventures. Back then, they were not yet at school, let alone high school. Let alone old enough to know whether it was all just a dream after all.
This time, we pull apart some of the threads, some of the themes, speak about some of the lessons. Friends can be mean, friends can be so selfish that they don’t want you to succeed. (Luckily these ones on the screen realise their mistake and all is forgiven). Dads can be kind of dumb, trying to relive their own younger years, trying to be part of the gang when they should be adults, when they should let their kids find their own way, have their own plans. If you’re not careful you can be pushed and pulled and moulded into shapes you don’t want to make. You can lose yourself trying to please others. There will always be unfairness – always the Sharpays with their own rules, their money and their far-reaching grasp that can fix the system in their favour. It’s funny how she gets her own car spot, her own assistant, her own lunch tray complete with pink flowers in a vase. Until it’s not.
We noticed the homages to other movies, other stories – boy and girl from two different worlds like in Romeo and Juliet, the staff stealing the limelight at the talent show like in Dirty Dancing, Troy dancing out his frustrations like in Footloose, even Troy being seduced to want a different life like in, I kid you not, Great Expectations. My kids now notice that Ryan is probably gay, that all the adults are pretty stupid, but not so dangerously stupid as in A Series of Unfortunate Events, but that it’s still up to the kids to set the world right. We talk about how some of these lines have entered our own lexicon (What time is it? Always – Summer time! 16, 16, 16 more minutes running out of time… and so it goes).
We dug out these old DVDs after Max heard a girl at school, all of fifteen, saying how much she loved them. Indeed, they were worth revisiting, worth a trip down memory lane. These films, like that other gem Strictly Ballroom give you an instant lift, an instant pick you up.
We all need one of those sometimes.