The Not Quite Adventures of a Professional Archaeologist and Aspiring Curmudgeon

Friday, February 27, 2009

High School Musical - Now With 75% More Sex and Homoeroticism

Kay has decided to ask other bloggers to write blogs based around the Seven Deadly Sins – one sin per week, and this week, it’s Lust. I had thought that I would write something about those college years in which it seemed that lust was one of the few comforts open to my pocket book.

But then last night happened.

And that doesn’t mean what you are probably thinking it means.

Kay’s sister is active in her high school’s drama program, and the school district has an annual “dramafest” program in which each high school in the district contributes students and performances to the evening’s entertainment. Kay was insistent that I attend, so off to Campbell I went.

Initially, this seemed to be the usual high school drama class fare – a couple of musical numbers opened up the show, both from the musical Side Show, performed better than one might expect, but nonetheless reinforcing to me the fact that we live in a sick culture that seems to think that everything, and I mean everything, MUST be turned into a Broadway-style musical, no matter the cost to innocent people such as the audience (the Onion not long back ran a story concerning musicals being made based on Alka Seltzer and Ajax Cleanser that, I am frightened to say, sounded eerily plausible).

After the musical numbers, we were treated to a scene in which a woman has an argument with her sexual fantasy – a bespectacled but good-natured guy who likes to spoon, or would if he existed, which he doesn’t, seeing as how he is a fantasy and all – and proceeds to go to the psychiatrist, to whom she describes her masturbation habits (though not graphically), and from whom she receives a prescription. Arriving home and taking the medication, the woman causes her sexual fantasy to vanish, only to be replaced by a new one – a charming Spanish rake. All in all, the scene was well-written, generally well performed, and extremely funny. It also made all of the adults in the audience squirm – many of them were parents to the kids involved in the show, and others were siblings or (like myself) attached to either the parents or siblings, so the rather surprisingly frank admission of lust and sex in this scene transcended the awkwardness that most of us would feel in seeing teenagers act out such a literally adult scene (the people in it were pretty clearly written to be older than 18, probably much older, so it wasn’t just the sex that made it adult) and began to probe the borders of that particular territory of discomfort known to anyone who has had to hear a sibling describe their first blowjob.

Well, this was odd and awkward, but, we figured, it couldn’t possibly continue in this vein. After all, this skit might have slipped through the cracks, but it was over early on, and now we were in much safer, family-friendly territory.

Heh. Heh. Heh.

The next skit, also well performed and extremely funny, was a two-man condensed performance of Romeo and Juliet (originally written by the Reduced Shakespeare Company) in which the fellow who took on the role of Romeo made a point of wildly gesticulating towards his crotch whenever possible, and the fact that all roles were played by the two men led to some rather strange but very funny dueling homoerotic and homophobic sequences.

This was followed by a sequence in which a fellow is struggling with the question of whether or not to jump into bed with a woman who’s boyfriend is out of the country (in which we saw one teenage girl shout “Hi, I have ovaries, come on in!” while gesturing towards her pelvis), a lesbian love song (from The Color Purple – again, I want to go to New York and forcibly demonstrate to some Broadway producers that not everything has to be a musical), and a young man holding a teddy bear while singing a song, admittedly veiled but nonetheless obvious, about how happy he is that someone has decided to join him “in his bed”.

When a scene from The Martian Chronicles came on stage, we were so beaten down with sexual subject matter that we began to look for a lesbian subtext where none probably existed. By the time that a scene from Alice in Wonderland was performed, we were wondering why Alice wasn’t wearing a dominatrix outfit, and really, why exactly was she hanging out with a rabbit rather than some other, less amorous animal anyway?

Underage kids exploring sex…it’s as if we had entered one of Warren Jeff’s deepest fantasies.

In truth, none of this should have surprised us. Teenagers are attempting to do two things simultaneously: figure out what it is to be an adult, and figure out what their growing interest in sex means. As adults, we learn that these are, of course, part and parcel of the same thing, and we (usually) learn to navigate both somewhat successfully. But I remember being a teenager, and trying to be mature, while realizing that one of the things that seemed the most mature – sex – had the tendency to reduce us to blithering fools. What we saw on stage was, in many ways, a reflection of that exploration, the sort of thing that we all have to do at some point. It just happened to be rather amazingly public in this case.

In short, the high school dramafest was an explosion of teenage lust on stage. While many people, including myself, felt somewhat shocked or even scandalized by this, it was probably quite harmless. We saw nothing on stage that isn’t already going through the heads and social interactions of these kids. In truth, the scandal isn’t that teenagers experience lust, but that adults, myself included, are uncomfortable hearing about it, and this probably prevents us from being as helpful as we could in keeping the kids safe and responsible – if we can’t talk about it, they can’t listen and learn from our mistakes.

Although it doesn’t quite fit in to the theme of lust, I do have to mention one last thing. The final item on the program was called “Twin Towers Bring Me Home: A Musical Tribute to 9/11.” Yep, it’s pretty much what you think if you are considering that this was a Bay Area school district with a strong arts program doing a musical number based on a terrorist attack. A group of students stood silhouetted by the lit backdrop and posed in various threatening ways (including as if they were pointing rifles at each other) while another student played his guitar and sang a song that we couldn’t quite make out (Kay thought it sounded like a Green Day song, I thought it sounded like it belonged in a commercial for a hair loss prevention product), interrupted by two young women singing songs from un-related musicals, and a young man who kept yelling about having gone through chemotherapy. In other words, it was a weird, incomprehensible mess. I suppose some folks in the audience were moved, most were probably offended, but I had a hard time keeping from bursting into laughter.


Kay said...

I am so glad you wrote about this... because I am not sure I could have.

Raven said...

Very interesting. I grew up with profound sexual repression. My mother would probably have had a heart attack and died had she been confronted by the series of skits you describe. It sounds to me like the material (is this my mother talking?) wasn't necessarily the most appropriate for kids since it dealt with more adult sexuality. American society is SO schizophrenic about sex. Sounds like it was an interesting evening.

Anonymous said...

The fusion happy bomb enthusiasm of the HS Musical thing is what scares me. Hippity hoppity, Teen Idol's on it's way.

I guess the most ardent parents who cheer their kids on about this are secretly relieved their kid doesn't look like Marilyn Manson or is into a gang (or plays D&D, for that matter). I had two brothers in marching band, so I think I understand part of this whole thing. HSM still creeps me out, though. Wow...abbreviate it and it looks like a reference to an entirely different adult group.

Maybe it should be HS&M. After all, there are many roles to play and lots of pain and excruciating happiness to be generated. It's also a major power fantasy to have a major sponsor like Disney financing everything. "Awww, shucks Minnie, me and the crew will now rap for ya, yo!"

I concur, the culture is sick.

Evan Davis said...

Stupid kids, stupid parents, stupid instructors. Yay stupid!

Kay said...

Well, not “stupid”,” Perhaps “misguided” but really not all that surprising.

The thing about the evening was that I felt old… like really old and slightly out of touch.

I felt like my mother.. and funny thing, she was sitting next to Matthew feeling like her mother.

I think we bonded.