The High School Musical franchise is back with a weird series on the newly launched Disney+ streaming service. And while I really wanted to enjoy it, considering I’m someone who stuck through Glee until the end, a very problematic trope made me lose interest and wonder why it was added in a show debuting in 2019.
This review of ‘The Auditions’ contains certain spoilers. You’ve have been warneeeeedddddd! (that was my take on hitting a note in written form)
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series wants you to know that this narrative isn’t going to take itself too seriously. So, I guess, you should do the same. The story is set in the same school that Disney’s High School Musical was shot in. ‘The Auditions’ introduced us to Miss Jenn, who’s interested in organizing a musical stage production of High School Musical. Her (absurd) determination led to certain kids auditioning for various roles. These kids grew up watching the HSM movies and being part of the musical will be a dream come true for them.
Coming to the major players, we have Olivia Rodrigo as Nini Salazar-Roberts, who got cast as Gabriella. Then there’s a transfer student named Gina Porter (Sofia Wylie) who wanted the role of Gabriella and is all set to serve as the high school villain in the current narrative. There’s a jock named E.J. (Matt Cornett) who is also into theatrical performances. We have guitarist Ricky Bowen (Joshua Bassett) who decided to audition because… ugh!
Ricky is the reason this show ended up being problematic for me.
So, let me break it down for you (from what I could tell by watching the premiere).
Nini and Ricky used to date each other. However, they broke up because Ricky didn’t seem to feel for Nini the same way she did for him. Anyway, with time, Nini got her emotional stability back and began dating E.J. Of course, following the unfortunate trope we’ve seen numerous times, Ricky couldn’t accept Nini moving on from him. So, he auditioned for the musical and got cast as Troy (Gabriella’s love interest) to somehow win her back.
The scene where an emotional Nini (close to tears) confronted Ricky about wanting him to leave her alone and asking him to not invade the space she’s passionate about (high school theater) made me feel incredibly sorry for her.
The scene did nothing but paint Ricky as a very selfish teenager. I don’t think young kids should be encouraged to continue romantically pursuing someone (in this case, their ex), especially if that someone is dating another person. It’s highly problematic in my opinion. It’s a habit that can stick with them into adulthood.
Here’s hoping the current series will flip certain tropes. Maybe Ricky was shown to be such a teen to help him learn to accept Nini has moved on? I’ll keep my fingers crossed because right now, the entire thing quickly put me off from a show I was looking forward to enjoying.
Anyway, other than the Ricky thing, ‘The Auditions’ also featured self-aware meta-humor. A lot of it didn’t work, though.
As for queer representation in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, while the original films didn’t make things obvious with Sharpay’s brother, the current 10-episode series isn’t afraid to let you know queer people exist.
One of the main characters has two moms. Other than that, the role of Sharpay is being played by a boy. And actor Frankie Rodriguez (I’m Fine) portrays openly queer character Carlos, the choreographer of the production. The trailer for this series teased a potential romance for Carlos. So, points to Disney+ for adding all of these things.
Also, the cast includes actual teenagers. So, that’s good, too. I can’t with actors in their mid-20s trying to pass as teens.
The show has already been renewed for a second season.
Did you watch the preview simulcast of ‘The Auditions’ on Disney Channel, ABC, and Freeform on November 8, 2019? Will you be watching it on Disney+? Let us know.
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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