Queerness and Socialist Revolution: Why 'High School Musical 2' Is Actually Kind of OK (2023)

Eleven years ago, the Disney Channel dropped High School Musical, a made-for-TV-film about an athlete called Troy (Zac Efron) who falls in love with a smart, beautiful girl called Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens) on a Christmas vacation and discovers his love of singing. When they return to school, though, he has to choose between the pressure to dedicate himself to basketball and his love of both music and Gabriella. It was obscenely popular, made a shit ton of money, and made its stars famous. Off the back of its popularity, a year later, High School Musical 2 – its infinitely better sequel – was released.


High School Musical 2 takes the High School Musical template of Troy's inner struggle between his desires and responsibilities and transposes them onto a non-school setting. This time, rather than being girl vs friends and songs vs sports, he's grappling with the harsh realities of adult life vs the fun of his personal relationships. The film takes place over the summer, and while all of the kids want to fuck around and play some ball, they're forced by the cruelty of capitalism to get jobs instead. They somehow all get work at the same country club, and have to bend over backwards serving the 1%, including the rich kids from their school.

(Video) How Queer Characters Have Evolved In Children's Animation | Movies Insider

The film had a budget of $7 million and, despite debuting on television, managed to pull in 17.2 million viewers on its premiere, making it the highest-rated basic-cable telecast of its time. In 2006 and 2007, between the first two films, the franchise made an estimated $1 billion in operating profit. It was better received than the first instalment, reviewed well by grown adults, and weirdly popular with teens who loved it "ironically". While the first film had brought its stars to global relevance, the second saw that relevance reach new heights. Despite being essentially child stars, Vanessa Hudgens and Zac Efron became one of the most-talked about celebrity couples, with their love and fallings out all over the covers of tabloids.

But why? How could a made-for-TV musical aimed at children manage to not only appeal to its core audience of tweenaged girls whose sexuality would be formed by Zac Efron, but also receive decent reviews and long-lasting success? Simple, really: it fucking bangs. High School Musical 2 is better than the other films in the franchise because it has the holy trinity of comedy, hard-hitting themes, and absolute belters. The film is, as you might expect, very extra. It's meant to be. It is melodramatic but brutally self-aware; a trivia version that aired in the weeks after the premiere included, among other things, a counter on screen that totted up the many times one character changed hats. It is intentionally funny and a masterclass in visual and spoken comedic timing. It deals with responsibility, the push-and-pull of work and friends, the real world. It's heavy stuff. I'm not even joking.


(Video) How To Adapt Mean Girls

Depending on what side of the fence you sit when it comes to whether you should give in to capitalism in order to survive, you can read High School Musical 2 as either anti or pro capitalist. Whether it is or not, the film is explicitly about how horrible it is to work; especially to serve those who do not work. It's about the ways in which money can motivate us to do things we wouldn't otherwise. As Fulton tells Gabriella, "sometimes, we have to perform tasks, however unpleasant, that are necessary for that all-too-important paycheque to land in our all-too-empty pockets!" Even if the people in the film don't necessarily believe in the system, they have to work within it to get what they want. They often work from the time the doors open until late at night. They are not allowed the same privileges and facilities as the members and are even banned from partaking in the members' annual talent show. When Troy gets the chance to see life from the other side, he's far less against nepotism and wealth than he was before. When he starts to regret how his success is affecting his friends, his dad tells him coldly, "it's called a job". In the last song, "All For One", everyone, rich and poor, workers and members, cast aside their differences and uniforms to sing together and have a pool party. So yeah, in some ways, it's like Animal Farm but with more abs and pop songs.

High School Musical 2 has also been read as lowkey exploring themes of queerness. In the film's fifth song, "I Don't Dance", Ryan goes to Chad's baseball game and tries to convince him to dance in the talent show. It could be understood as yet another push-and-pull between Chad's interests, but there is arguably something deeper. Ryan, who until this point has never expressed any sexual desire or really spoken to anyone but his sister, tells Chad that if he can exist in 'his world', then Chad can dance. "I don't dance", Chad tells Ryan. "There's just one little thing that stops me every time." Through flirtatious dance and glances and overarching baseball metaphors (batting for the other team, etc) things heat up a little: "you'll never know if you never try", Ryan tells Chad. As Ryan gets better at baseball, he proves to Chad that it isn't one or the other. It isn't baseball or dancing, just like it isn't one gender or another. With compromise, you can have whatever, and by the end of the song they've swapped outfits. While it might be a reach, it looks like as overt a metaphor for sexual fluidity as you could get away with on the Disney Channel in 2007.

(Video) Music Producer Reveals SURPRISING Truth About Homosexuality in the Frum Community | Rafi Barides


Aside from hard-hitting themes and tight comedy, High School Musical 2 also works because the songs do. The soundtrack debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and had the fourth best first-week sales of 2007 – after Kanye West's Graduation, Linkin Park's Minutes to Midnight, and 50 Cent's Curtis. Although that is in part because there are a lot of Disney-loving kids out there, it's also because it's full to the brim with hits. While the songs in the first and third films are often either extremely saccharine, full of romantic longing or slow jams, the second prioritises angst, speed and hilarity – partly because the stakes are higher as the students wrestle with adulthood and each other. Instead of focusing on sickly high-pitched kid bops that mainly children under ten see the appeal in, the soundtrack includes real-world genres. The film opens with "What Time Is It", an all-cast song that centres around the marching band and incorporates drums, brass instruments, and, naturally, electronic beats. It was released as the first single to the film and became the highest-selling single of the year-end chart for 2007. "Gotta Go My Own Way" is a pop ballad that sounds exactly like JoJo's iconic "Leave (Get Out)" mixed with Vanessa Carlton; "All For One" sounds like surf rock mixed with the Black Eyed Peas; "Humuhumunukunukuapua'a" is a strangely calypsoesque song despite its Polynesian themes; "I Don't Dance" incorporates swing elements; "Fabulous" is a funny, smart homage to diva pop; and then there's "Bet On It" – an almost-rock song that Entertainment Weekly called a "terrific crisis-of-conscience number".

(Video) New Books, New Feminist Directions: "I Am Jugoslovenka!" by Jasmina Tumbas

The film is also the first time in the franchise that Zac sang his own songs, and as a result, "Bet On It" is pitched lower than the songs in High School Musical. It's strong, loud, and angsty (at this point in time, angst basically meant emo, therefore Troy is dressed head-to-toe in black topped off with Vans). Its lyrics – " how will I know if there's a path worth taking? Should I question every move I make? With all I've lost, my heart is breaking" – aren't a world away from something Good Charlotte might have written. He looks at his perfectly computer-generated reflection in the lake and sings " it's no good at all to see yourself and not recognise your face", before smashing the reflection. He's still expressing his rage through cartwheels and spins, but it works.

While High School Musical 2 may not be a masterpiece in everybody's eyes, exactly, it far surpassed its status as a made-for-TV Disney musical. Every single song on the soundtrack is enjoyable in a way that other Disney songs of the era just weren't. The film took inspiration from the worlds of pop and rock to create songs that genuinely weren't grating – that, even without context, can be listened to. Plus, while Disney and the teen media generally have always tried to convey "messages", the ones in High School Musical 2 are actually useful, interesting and relevant. Whether or not you read into the fan theories about queerness and socialist revolution, the film still deals with the importance of personal responsibility. For many kids, it was perhaps the first time they were told to consider their responsibility to their friends, work, and play and how those things interact. The entire franchise's impact and success is inarguable, but High School Musical 2 is the most legitimately and non-ironically watchable of them all.

Follow Marianne on Twitter.

Subscribe to the VICE newsletter.

By signing up to the VICE newsletter you agree to receive electronic communications from VICE that may sometimes include advertisements or sponsored content.

(Video) The Bumpy History of Fame 1980 (WitW: S2E6)


What is the message of High School Musical 2? ›

-- High School Musical 2 also has plenty of positive messages about being true to yourself, following your own path in life, and valuing true friendship.

What did the T on Gabriella's necklace mean? ›

Their unlikely relationship—based, apparently, on mutual respect and catchy song-and-dance numbers—is still going strong; so much so that Troy gives Gabriella a pretty little necklace with a big “T” pendant. The “T” stands for Troy.

What is the important message from High School Musical? ›

One of the most important lessons of all is that music is powerful. Even if you don't sing or play an instrument, music can be a healing force in dark times and a celebratory element to accentuate the joys of life.

Why did Miley Cyrus make a cameo in High School Musical 2? ›

Cyrus had been chosen to make a cameo in the movie after fans voted online. At the time, she was known for her role on the Disney Channel series "Hannah Montana."

Why did Gabriella leave in hsm2? ›

Troy explains that he was only acting this way because of the scholarship. Gabriella can't take this so she breaks up with him and quits leaving Troy brokenhearted ("Gotta Go My Own Way").

What is the best High School Musical movie? ›


What age is High School Musical appropriate for? ›

Great for kids 9 and up! A little flirting, no bad words, great for tweens. Troy and his dad say a few heated words but they make they make up. There are no kisses on lips and there's only a kiss on the cheek between Gabriella and Troy.

Did Troy ever ask Gabriella out? ›

When you think about it, Troy and Gabriella were never *officially* together. "Troy never actually asked Gabriella to be his girlfriend," one fan pointed out.

Why was Gabriella mad at Troy? ›

Gabriella becomes slightly jealous and Taylor begins insisting that Troy is behaving inappropriately according to her (Taylor's) sister's "boyfriend rules". Gabriella breaks up with Troy. As times goes on, Troy begins to spend more time with Sharpay, coming late to, or even skipping, dates with Gabriella.

Why High School Musical 2 is the best? ›

High School Musical 2 is not only the best Disney Channel Original Movie ever made, but it is also sure to become a classic, and one of the best film musicals I've ever seen. It is better than the first film in every way imaginable with better humor and comedic moments, better writing, and much better songs.

What is the target audience for High School Musical? ›

The High School Musical trilogy is about teenagers as they attend high school, while it is the younger age group, tweens, who are the main target audience. Implicitly, this tells us that the Disney text configures its audience as aspiring teenagers.

Which High School Musical made the most money? ›

High School Musical 3: Senior Year (2008)

Receiving generally positive reviews, it set a record for largest opening weekend for a musical film and became the highest-grossing film in the franchise.

Who is the real antagonist in High School Musical? ›

We're meant to root for protagonists Troy and Gabriella at every turn while condemning Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale) and her brother, Ryan (Lucas Grabeel), the antagonists who intend to keep Troy and Gabriella in check so they can pursue their own long-term dreams of stardom.

Why did Drew Seeley sing in HSM? ›

That's because, when they were filming the original HSM, Zac Efron couldn't hit the high notes necessary for his singing role, so Drew Seeley sang most of his part while Zac lip synced. In the second and third movies, Zac took on all of his own singing.

Why did Miley's voice get deeper? ›

Upon Rogan complimenting Cyrus, “You have a fantastic voice, not just a singing voice, but your talking voice — it's very unusual,” Miley candidly admits that in 2019 she had to undergo surgery due to Reinke's edema, a condition that causes vocal cords to swell with a build-up of gelatinous fluid, oftentimes caused by ...

Why did Ricky break up with Nini in Season 2? ›

They dated and broke up before the show started because Nini professed her love for Ricky, who couldn't say it back.

Why did Ryan and Chad switch clothes in hsm2? ›

"It wasn't a long-term premeditated thing," Grabeel told Insider of the outfit switch. The actor said that after filming the musical number, they were "playing around with some dialogue and different ways we could do it" for the scene that followed.

How much did Zac Efron make from High School Musical? ›

Multiple sources suggest that Zac was only paid around $100,000 for the first movie. Once HSM became the most commercially successful Disney Channel Original Movie (!!!) however, things began to look up for the young star. By High School Musical 3: Senior Year, Zac was making an estimated $3 million to $5 million.

What is the biggest musical film of all time? ›

When adjusted for inflation, the highest-grossing musical films are The Sound of Music, with an inflation-adjusted worldwide gross of $2,572,000,000; followed by Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, with an inflation-adjusted worldwide gross of $1,977,000,000 (both as of 2019).

What is considered the best musical movie of all time? ›

Best musical movies: 11-1
  1. Cabaret (1972)
  2. Singin' in the Rain (1952) ...
  3. West Side Story (2021) ...
  4. The Wizard of Oz (1939) ...
  5. An American in Paris (1951) ...
  6. Nashville (1975) ...
  7. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) ...
  8. The Sound of Music (1965) ...
8 Apr 2022

Is Hamilton appropriate for a 13 year old? ›

The PG-13 rating is spot on.

The show feels geared towards older kids (tweens and up), not only for its mature content but also for the complicated ideas and historical frameworks present.

What does Rated G mean? ›

G: Appropriate for people of all ages. PG 12: Parental guidance is required for children under the age of 12. R 15+: People aged 15 and above will be admitted. ID is required to confirm your age.

Did Zac Efron sing in HSM? ›

Although Zac played the role in the film, the vocals were actually provided by actor Drew Seeley.

Does Troy like Sharpay? ›

Troy + Sharpay is the romantic pairing of Sharpay Evans and Troy Bolton. It is confirmed Sharpay likes Troy, but Troy loves Gabriella Montez and Sharpay wouldn't give up on Troy, but she had to since Troy obviously loves Gabriella.

Why did Troy not sing in HSM? ›

The reason for this is because Efron's natural voice was too low for that of a tenor and the producers wanted a tenor to match the role. Efron did, however, do all of his own singing in the sequels, as all the music in those films had been tailored specifically for his voice.

Are they coming out with a High School Musical 4? ›

High School Musical will release new season four footage in 2023, probably around early summer. It'll be a tough wait for sure, but just remember: We're all in this together. High School Musical: The Musical: The Series streams on Disney+.

Was Sharpay the villain Why or why not? ›

Sharpay knows she is the main character, and she will do whatever she thinks is necessary for herself. Sharpay is not a villain, but a morally grey protagonist.

Why did Troy send Gabe away? ›

Rose matches Troy's bad news. Gabriel has been taken away to the asylum because Troy signed papers granting permission for half of Gabe's money from the government to go to Troy and half to the hospital.

What does Rose accuse Troy of doing to Gabe? ›

Rose accuses Troy of treating Gabe just like he treated Cory—he betrayed them both. Whereas Troy wouldn't sign Cory's recruitment papers, he was willing to sign the papers for Gabe's hospitalization. Rose adds that Troy will profit from sending Gabe away, since he'll get half of his brother's money.

How old was Zac Efron in High School Musical two? ›

Zac Efron was 18 while filming "High School Musical."

At 18, Bolton would have either been wrapping up senior year or he'd be playing college hoops already. Still, since Efron is only one or two years older than his character, it makes the performance pretty believable.

How old was Zac Efron in High School Musical? ›

Why High School Musical 3 is the best? ›

the film was way more dramatic than the first two. the film was spectacular to see in theaters. it was a real treat. it had better music sequences and songs like: the boys are back, may i have this dance, right here right now, i want it all, high school musical,and a night to remember.

What is the most watched musical? ›

The Lion King sits at the top, with a gross of $8.2 billion worldwide.

What is the most popular musical for high schools? ›

The 30 Best Musicals for High School – The Ultimate Guide
  • West Side Story.
  • Catch Me If You Can.
  • High School Musical.
  • Once Upon a Mattress.
  • Grease.
  • Oklahoma!
  • Guys and Dolls.
  • You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown.
25 Apr 2022

What are 5 qualities of a good musical Theatre performer performance? ›

These are the desirable skills to become an ideal Actor or Performer:
  • Ability to take direction.
  • Ability to work as a team and also individually.
  • Good time keeping skills.
  • Reliability.
  • Ability to learn lines/directions.
  • Confidence in being in front of an audience.
  • Experience in improvisation/ad-libbing.
4 Mar 2019

Who is the most successful actor from High School Musical? ›

1. Zac Efron (aka Troy Bolton): US$25 million. The 2000s heartthrob has come a long way since he starred as the lead character and love interest of HSM. Yet despite his fame from the trilogy, according to The List, reports and interviews indicate that he wasn't really a fan of the role and hasn't looked back since.

Who is the most famous actor from High School Musical? ›

Zac Efron is an American actor and singer. He rose to fame in 2005 for playing Troy Bolton in the Disney Channel film series High School Musical.

Who is the highest grossing composer of all time? ›

Top 20 Grossing Box Office Composers
  • 8 James Horner – $13.9 billion.
  • 7 John Powell – $14.3 billion.
  • 6 Danny Elfman – $17.9 billion.
  • 5 Alan Silvestri – $18.8 billion.
  • 4 James Newton Howard – $19.3 billion.
  • 3 Michael Giacchino – $21.8 billion.
  • 2 John Williams – $25.5 billion.
  • 1 Hans Zimmer – $31.8 billion.
29 Sept 2022

Are Troy and Gabriella toxic? ›

Looking back at the High School Musical movies, though, I have to admit that Troy and Gabriella are a perfect example of toxic couples in childhood series. That is because insecurity plagues their relationship.

Who is kingpins main antagonist? ›

Wilson Fisk, also known as the Kingpin, is a major antagonist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He is the main antagonist of Marvel's Daredevil TV series, serving as the main antagonist of both Seasons 1 and 3, and a major antagonist in Season 2.

Why is her name Sharpay? ›

The name Sharpay means "sand skin" in Chinese. Sharpay's name is wordplay on the breed of dog 'shar pei'.

Why is Zac Efron not in HSM concert? ›

Zac Efron was the only original cast member absent from the tour due to his previous engagement to the filming of the 2007 film adaptation of the Broadway musical Hairspray. Instead, Drew Seeley, Efron's singing voice in the first film and co-writer of "Get'cha Head in the Game", joined the tour in Efron's place.

Was Drew Seeley supposed to be Troy Bolton? ›

He also auditioned alongside Zac Efron for the role of Troy Bolton in the first High School Musical film, to which Efron won the part while Seeley acted as the character's singing voice, which was blended with Efron's voice in post-production.

What voice type is Adele? ›

As a mezzo-soprano, Adele's songs sit in a range that suits most listeners, singing along. Adele can mix her chest voice up quite high (E5, 10 notes above middle C) but she is not taken to the range extremes of early Mariah or Celine.

Are Miley Cyrus vocal cords damaged? ›

Article content. The hitmaker was diagnosed with Reinke's edema – swelling of the vocal cords due to the presence of fluid – last year, and she underwent surgery in November to remedy the issue.

What type of voice does Lady Gaga have? ›

Lady Gaga is a great example of a mezzo-soprano. Her timbre is feminine, but slightly darker and more sensitive and mature than a typical lyric soprano. Despite her good technique, Gaga rarely enters the upper 5th octave.

What is the meaning of 2 in music? ›

If the bottom number is 2, it means the note value is half notes(half notes per measure). And if the bottom number is an 8, it means the beats are 8th notes. Here is a quick cheat sheet: Bottom number. Note value.

What is the conflict of High School Musical 2? ›

And the big conflict happens when Troy struggles about whether or not he should pursue his future at the risk of distancing himself from his friends.

Is High School Musical 2 appropriate for kids? ›

There are no scenes in High School Musical 2 that are likely to scare or disturb children aged 5-8 years. There are no scenes of concern in High School Musical 2 for children aged 8-13 years. There are no scenes of concern in High School Musical 2 for children aged over 13 years.

What is the theme of High School Musical 3? ›

HSM3 salutes friendship, family, responsibility and opportunity. It embraces the idea of dreaming big—a time-honored Disney theme that, in other movies, can sometimes feel a tad irresponsible. But here, wishing upon a star is tempered by the onrushing reality of adulthood.

What does F mean in music? ›

f. forte (loud) ff. fortissimo (very loud) These terms have no absolute values and are relative to one another according to the context of the music.

What does 44 mean in music? ›

So, what does 4/4 mean in music? In the 4/4 time signature, the numbers tell you that each measure will contain four quarter note beats. So each time you tap the beat, you're tapping the equivalent of one-quarter note.

How many beats is a whole note? ›

In the musical world, we can start with the whole note as the basic unit to be divided up. It receives 4 beats. Using the note value tree above, answer the following questions.

What is the conflict between the two characters? ›

character conflict, two characters have motivations, desires, needs, or beliefs that place them in opposition with each other. This type of literary conflict places characters in a situation where these motivations and beliefs are tested.

What age group is Hugo appropriate for? ›

Overall comments and recommendations
Children under 5Not suitable due to themes and disturbing scenes, The film is also too long for this age group.
Children aged 10-12Parental guidance recommended due to themes and disturbing scenes.
Children over the age of 12OK for this age group
1 more row

Is Sing 2 inappropriate? ›

Sing 2 is rated PG for some rude material, and mild peril and violence which means it may not be suitable for all kids.

Is Hamilton appropriate for a 5 year old? ›

The show feels geared towards older kids (tweens and up), not only for its mature content but also for the complicated ideas and historical frameworks present. It helps if your kid knows a thing or two about the American Revolution and Constitution. If not, they may still be in for an enjoyable and informative ride.

Is High School Musical 3 appropriate for kids? ›

It's sweet, age-appropriate fun with very little edge (save for a few scenes featuring a nearly too-vampy Sharpay). There's no swearing, violence, drinking, or smoking, and the teen sweethearts don't do more than hold hands and kiss.


1. Being Queer Asian
(Inclusion UoB)
2. Responding to the Backlash: Fighting for Trans and Queer Liberation
(Tempest Mag)
3. Liberation vs Assimilation in Queer Cinema
(Rowan Ellis)
4. Culture Connection: "Music + Revolution: Greenwich Village in the 1960s" with Richard Barone
(Queens Public Library)
5. Monsters in the Closet - A History of LGBT Representation in Horror Cinema (Video essay)
(James Somerton)
6. How Spotify Manufactures Gay Culture
(Alexander Avila)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Gregorio Kreiger

Last Updated: 03/02/2023

Views: 6372

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (57 voted)

Reviews: 80% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Gregorio Kreiger

Birthday: 1994-12-18

Address: 89212 Tracey Ramp, Sunside, MT 08453-0951

Phone: +9014805370218

Job: Customer Designer

Hobby: Mountain biking, Orienteering, Hiking, Sewing, Backpacking, Mushroom hunting, Backpacking

Introduction: My name is Gregorio Kreiger, I am a tender, brainy, enthusiastic, combative, agreeable, gentle, gentle person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.