November 23, 2010 § Leave a comment
High School Musical 3 follows Troy and Gabriella and company through their senior year of high school, ending with a heart-touching (not) number about how, even though the former classmates are traveling to opposite ends of the country to pursue their personal goals and dreams, they’ll remain friends forever. Millions of kids sat through those 90 minutes and likely believed every word of it I. I’m guessing that the few adults who attended either criticized the entire time or submitted themselves to 1.5 musical, colorful hours of the willful suspension of disbelief. Through this movie, Disney seems to be claiming that friends are forever. At least, they are in Hollywood. In front of the camera, never behind.
Even though life doesn’t usually work out that way, people still like to hope that it will. In my opinion, that hope is a big part of the reason HSM3 made $16.5 million on its opening day. Granted, a lot of the income was from elementary and junior high girls who just wanted to see Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens sing and dance. But I’d venture to argue that part of the appeal is the message that the movie portrays: the message that friends are fairy-tale quality and that all the people you like will like you back and that those you love will never leave your side.
As we grow up, we learn that this isn’t the case and that life is hardly a Disney movie. But we still like to dream. So I paid my $8 and sat through all the catchy songs and Zanessa nonsense and realized that, even though I was cynically criticizing the characters for claiming they would always be together, they were all doing and saying exactly what I had done and said. I used to have that same hope. As a kid, every time I met a new set of friends I thought, “these will be my buddies forever.” I was always wrong. At first it depressed me, because I missed my friends. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that an ideal social situation is not the one advertised at the end of HSM3, because for that scenario to work, time would have to freeze. But like it or not, we can’t stay in high school forever. (Thank god.) Life is constantly, fluidly moving forward and hence so must be our circles of friendship.
You get friends specific to your location and circumstance, and when either or both of those things changes, so does your peer group. The change isn’t a bad thing — in fact, if you were forced to drag the same set of friends through all of your life’s changes your social life could get unreasonably tiresome. In other words, “We’re all in this together” may be sung with jubilation at the beginning of high school, but its an anthem of doom to adult life.