If you are the parent of an elementary or middle-school aged kid, and if you live anywhere other than a cave in Afghanistan, you have doubtless heard about High School Musical, a Disney Channel movie with a $5 million budget which is now generating $100s of millions in revenue. The plot of the movie, such as it is, involves kids from different “groups” coming together, breaking free from stereotypes, and (you guessed it) putting on a good ol’ fashioned musical. Everyone sets aside their differences and confronts their fears, singing and dancing their way from beginning to end.
Aside from the incredibly savvy marketing genius that created this phenomenon, how can its success among the 9-14 year old tween market be explained? I think that what we are looking at here is nothing short of The Breakfast Club for nGen: a sharp, sassy flick about the biggest issue facing American teens – a culture that tries to trap them all in pre-defined stereotypes (in which they are seemingly helpless to do anything but participate), with no room for escape or for individuality.
Sadly, it seems that the culture of popularity/power games has only swelled since 1985, when John Hughes made what I believe was the defining film of my generation. Films like Star Wars and Risky Business were great fun. But no other film captured the essence of the angst, anxiety, and loneliness that most of us were experiencing like this one.
Here’s hoping that even a cheesy low-budget TV movie can help nGen to come to terms with this issue…