Is high school like High School Musical?

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High School Musical characters pose for the cover of the 2006 Disney original movie. Photo courtesy of

No, high school is nothing like the movie portrays

Almost everyone has seen a high school rom-com; they’re hard to avoid nowadays. From 10 Things I Hate About You and The Princess Diaries to A Cinderella Story, they are what many see as the picture-perfect ideal of what high school should be: the blueprint for how these monumental four years should go. Well, get your head in the game. High school is NOT just like the movies. One of the most famous teenage rom-com is High School Musical, but it also happens to be one of the most unrealistic. High School Musical is nothing like high school because of the physical environment, the plot and the cliquish nature of the students.
Starting with the obvious, the school looks different from the one featured in the film. East High is an old school building where the walls are filled with student-made projects, club posters, audition lists and lockers. At Lewiston High School specifically, many of these things are rare. The occasional small club poster can be found on an otherwise empty hallway wall, and art projects are only displayed in the case near the auditorium. Oh, and lockers? Nonexistent. This leads to several discrepancies between the plot of the well-known movie and life at a real high school. There can be no locker meetups or “‘T’ as in Troy” moments. No double-wide, hot pink, personalized locker for the school’s most popular diva. Although they may seem arbitrary, lockers are a way to make high school fun and, in some ways, bearable.
From the theater aspect of things, since we’re talking about High School Musical, for CHS and LHS drama departments, auditions are hard work. Unlike the movie, showing up late to auditions completely unprepared does not help land a lead role, especially with no previous experience in theater. Although the film itself centers around a school musical, it contains song and dance interspersed between scenes of acting. It might go without saying, but this simply is not written into the schedule of a typical high schooler’s daily life. There’s no drumbeat as you dramatically exit a room or slow, emotional chords when the so-called love of your life calls it off. Life does not have a soundtrack following its every twist and turn, which makes High School Musical an unrealistic blueprint for a teen to look to for what these years will be like.
From the time kids are old enough to talk, they communicate their likes and dislikes. Growing up, children learn what they are good at and what they enjoy. In one of the musical numbers depicted in the movie, “Stick to the Status Quo,” the students at East High sing and dance around lunch tables (I know, realistic) about how branching out from the ONE clique they are associated with would throw off the entire balance of the school and world order as they know it. Although high school can feel a bit cliquish, the movie did not capture high school students’ dynamic nature.
Kids this age are passionate about everything from sports, music and academics to drama and environmental awareness. Honestly, it’s pretty difficult to find students who aren’t involved in more than one extracurricular, and even if they are, they don’t exclusively hang around kids who do the same things. The one thing the movie got right was that “Breaking Free” from the expectations of others can be difficult and scary. Still, it can also be fulfilling in the end.
High School Musical and many romantic comedies of the same time period inadvertently create unrealistic expectations for high school students and leave them feeling bereft when their last four years of secondary education are nothing like what they expected.
From the school’s physical features to the technicalities of the plot and the way teenage interaction is portrayed, high school is nothing like High School Musical.