Post Academic


Is that what they think college is about?: High School Musical 3

Posted in Absurdities by Arnold Pan on July 11, 2010
Tags: , ,

I’m going to take a crack at doing what Caroline has been with the Alcoholic Tenured Prof film series, and have some fun with the pop culture myths of what college is like and all about.  Mostly, I’m just trying to make use of my endless hours of watching TV.  Shows that use higher ed in some way always get me to watch, like the small-screen depictions of Yale on “Gilmore Girls”, the pseudo-Ivy Worthington of “Dawson’s Creek”, a fictionalized Oxford on PBS’s “Inspector Lewis Mysteries”, that short-lived Richard Dreyfus-as-cranky-prof show, and on   I’ll try to be systematic like Caroline has been, assessing the depiction of college using categories like Suspension of Disbelief, Academic Rigor, Demographics, Realism or Impressionism, Setting (most likely UCLA).  We’re starting with something that’s not really about college per se, but involves college in the storyline in the most superficial way possible, High School Musical 3: Senior Year.  Just don’t ask why I watched this while I was doing 5 other things, since I’m not sure myself…

Suspension of Disbelief: C’mon!  So all the main characters seem to have been accepted to Julliard, Yale (for poli sci), Stanford (early, for law?), and Berkeley, which was somehow Zac Efron’s fall-back after having to choose between starring as the next LeBron for hometown “University of Albuquerque” or starring on-stage at Julliard.  Berkeley is described as the one school that allows Efron to pursue both of his dreams and enable him to woo the Vanessa Hudgens xter who’s attending Stanford.  Cause that’s what Cal, one of the best research institutions in the world, wants to be known for to jillions of tweens, as some kind of hybrid sports-drama school powerhouse, a natural basketball rival of fictional “University of Albuquerque”–and, better yet, it’s proximity to Stanford!

Academic Rigor: I didn’t watch carefully enough, but I’m not sure any of the scenes involved actually going to school.  But these kids must be pretty smart and talented and athletic, considering their college options.

Demographics: The actors are at least within a few years of being high school seniors/college frosh, so that’s not bad.  And the cast is multiculturally appealing.  I guess it isn’t a bad aspirational vision that it’s taken for granted that students from multiracial backgrounds could attend the top schools in the country at their whim, unless the kids watching the show think it’s that easy.  It’s a good thing that HSM takes place in New Mexico, cause they’d have to deal with the ethnic studies ban if it was set in the state to its west.

Realism or Impressionism: Probably neither.  College decisions are basically a plot device for making the kids feel nostalgic about high school while they’re still there.  Like how the Hudgens xter somehow attends something called “early orientation” in the spring, which keeps her from participating in the year-end High School Musical, prom, and graduation ceremonies.  But, hey, those are the sacrifices it takes to study law as an undergrad at Stanford, although she does get to have it all in the end!

Setting: Surprisingly authentic: I must’ve missed the Stanford scenes while I was watching inattentively, but, yep, Vanessa Hudgens is biking along side the Quad for a second in the video posted above at around 1:50.  However, one of the pivotal scenes in the film, when Efron brings the prom dance experience to Hudgens at Stanford, looks even too country-clubby to be my alma mater–unless it was filmed at the country club!  Just don’t know what Stanford gets out of the relationship with HSM3.

Final Verdict: Do you really need to ask?  Still, it isn’t exactly the worst message in the world that attending a good college should be an endgoal of attending high school, though I guess it takes some cultural capital to watch HSM3 and have all the references mean something.  What I wanna see is “College Musical: Freshman Dorm”!

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