Yeah, it's a dirty job, but hell, somebody's got to do it.
But to my point . . .
Verdict by Internet consensus. It is one of the most troubling things about this wonderful information age we live in. Too often, a vocal, but largely minority opinion is repeated enough across the World Wide Web that it becomes a kind of dogma, despite an often questionable pedigree. Case in point--this comment by an anonymous individual in response to a recent blog post that bemoaned a perceived current creative stagnation of the Walt Disney Company:
"High School Musical, that is really pathetic. That if they even bother to look is loathed by almost everyone who is not a female within the ages of 3 to 14."
Search the Disney online community and you find similar comments and conjecture. Yes, the wildly successful High School Musical franchise has become the latest target for some of the cranky curmudgeonly of our society. It seems that when those of the mean spirited demographic run out of dogs to kick and babies to pinch, they peruse the current catalog of pop culture offerings to find a convenient "phenomenon" at which to spew their venom. It appears that in many circles, Wildcats are currently in season.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. God Bless America. If you so desire, climb up on your soapbox in the middle of Central Park and proclaim your contempt of High School Musical to the masses. But alas, for so many, having and expressing such an opinion is simply not enough.
Validation is required. The purveyor must somehow associate that very subjective supposition with as many other individuals as possible. Hence statements such as " . . . is loathed by almost everyone who is not a female between the ages of 3 to 14."
According to who? Sorry, but I don't remember seeing that particular Gallup Poll. And the billions of dollars in revenue that these films are generating would certainly indicate an audience that extends well beyond tweens of the female persuasion.
But sadly, in this oh so pervasive age of extended information, lemmings tend to be the rule rather than the exception. Snarky is cool; cynicism is chic. In the big social picture (online or otherwise), it's likely a lot safer to bash Zac and Vanessa and company, than to at the very least admit a casual indifference. And thanks to the wealth of blogs, forums, and other outlets of Internet communication, once that bandwagon is launched, and despite the innate subjectivity of its formation, there is rarely a U-turn in its trajectory. Just ask Jar Jar Binks.
There's been a fresh round of Wildcat bashing, primarily due to the fact that High School Musical was featured prominently on the Walt Disney Company's 2008 Annual Report, and also the announcement that the films' Albuquerque, New Mexico setting would serve as the location for the company's upcoming shareholder meeting. What is especially troubling is that so much of this poisoned punditry is coming from members of the Disney faithful, those who hold the current company stewards accountable to Disney's long heritage of family-centric entertainment.
I watched the first High School Musical a little over a year ago, and I will without shame admit that I found it well produced and quite entertaining. It successfully blended a classic Hollywood musical formula with contemporary pop music and talented teen stars. While certainly hip in many ways, it also reflected a wholesome spirit and presented a somewhat surprising, albeit gentle critique of teenage social dynamics. It was certainly not everyone's cup of tea, and doubtless many parents tuned out after the first wave of multiple viewings, but a widespread consensus of "loathing" is definitely a stretch of any imagination. Last summer's High School Musical 2, while a bit disjointed and uneven at times in its approach, was by no means a cinematic train wreck, and it clearly pleased its intended audience.
I am therefore amazed when I hear self-proclaimed keepers of the Disney flame railing without mercy on what has become one of the company's greatest successes in recent memory. Many have even fallen back on the always convenient but rarely with merit "Walt theoreticals." As in "Walt would have never approved of this," or "Walt would have never allowed crap like this," and so on. To make any kind of connection between Walt Disney personally and the High School Musical franchise is ludicrous on just about any level. But there is in fact a distinct correlation between the High School Musical films, and by extension the Disney Channel programming from which they emerged, with entertainment the Walt produced and championed during his lifetime.
In the 1950s, Walt Disney served up what became a similar pop culture phenomenon to a generation of children and young teens just as eager to consume mass media entertainment as their 21st century counterparts. The Mickey Mouse Club was at that time passionately embraced by its baby boom audience much in the way that today's young people have caught Wildcat Fever. While the times, styles and sensibilities have changed, the appeal of young, talented and energetic performers to their demographic peers remains by and large timeless. In that context, it is disingenuous to suggest that the High School Musical franchise in some way represents a low point, creatively or otherwise, for the Walt Disney Company.
Many Wildcats naysayers cite the franchise's over saturation in both mass media and consumer products venues as justification for their bitterness and often malicious diatribes. But that argument serves to shine a light on an interesting bit of hypocrisy that exists in many corners of Disney fandom. For Disney's exploitation of Pirates of the Caribbean seems immune to similar criticisms, despite the fact that its exposure has been as equally far reaching as that of High School Musical, and its exploitation for financial gain has been just as intense.
So why all the fuss? If you personally don't appreciate the talented students of East High and their high spirited musical antics, that's fine. But why needlessly rain on someone else's pep rally, with over exaggerated claims that carry more malice than merit? Such remarks only serve to diminish, not elevate Disney fandom.