This is not at all a slight on my readers and reviewers- I love all of you dearly and you make the experience of being an author worthwhile- but… re-reading any of my stories that I wrote prior to 2012 or 2013 makes me cringe.
Zac on Running Wild with Bear Grylls (x)
I was looking over my responses to the 35 Day High School Musical Challenge, and I wanted to share one of those responses in particular with you guys.
Day 34 - Is there anything you think they should have done differently about the movies?
There’s a lot of things I wish they would have done differently. For starters, the way that Gabriella was written leaves room for infinite levels of improvement. It’s not difficult to write a strong, sympathetic, female lead. Watch a Studio Ghibli movie, some time. Heck, even take a look at all of the other Disney movies. From Anita and Perdita in 101 Dalmations, to Anna in Frozen, all of these ladies support the male lead/their love interests. They offer sympathy when he needs it. They’re kind, loving, and even assist him in saving the day when they can, or when they aren’t the heroes of the story, themselves. You don’t see Jasmine, or Belle, or Ariel continuously mocking their men, or holding them solely accountable every time something goes wrong, or they don’t get what they wanted handed to them on a silver platter. You also don’t see these women sitting around moping and waiting for their men to resolve every conflict they’re presented with. Jasmine takes an active role in defeating Jafar until she’s imprisoned and unable to act. Ariel yanks on Ursula’s hair to prevent her from vaporizing Eric with the magic trident. Belle rushes to the Beast’s aid when Gaston is determined to kill him. Esmerelda saves Phoebus from drowning and cleans his wound, and Pocahontas throws herself on top of John Smith, shielding him with her own body, to prevent her father from bludgeoning his head in.
Gabriella Montez sits around, sulking, until Troy takes action to resolve the conflicts that Gabriella, herself has created. This resolution usually involves Troy apologizing for something that either wasn’t his fault, or when he didn’t even do anything wrong, in the first place. Gabriella only supports Troy when it’s convenient for her to do so. When he tries to confide in her about his fears for his future, she dismisses him and turns the conversation back to her and her problems. She resorts to petty revenge tactics when she’s convinced that Troy is cheating on her, instead of trying to talk to him and get the full understanding of the situation- that Troy was just doing his job as the junior golf pro at Lava Springs by assisting Sharpay with her golf swing. She breaks up with him because he cared enough about his future to be proactive and pursue an opportunity for a scholarship that was offered to him when he desperately needed the financial assistance. She intentionally withholds the news of her admission into the Stanford Freshman Honors program from him, and moves to California while he’s at school so she won’t have to face him. She leaves him to walk home alone at night when his truck breaks down in front of her house. She went to the trouble of leading him on, allowing him to get his hopes up that she would keep her word and attend the prom with him, she even picks out his tux for him, only to call him two days before the prom to inform him that she can’t do this one thing to make him happy, because it would hurt her too much. And, this doesn’t even begin to cover all of the times she condescends to him, or treats him like some sort of inept moron.
I’m not at all saying that Gabriella needed to risk her life for the sake of Troy’s livelihood in order to be a good girlfriend, or even a decent character. But, she could have at least supported him even half as much as Ryan Evans did. Or treated Troy with even a fraction of the respect that Ryan has for him.
Something that zayawantshankypanky brought up in one of our conversations also comes to mind- since High School Musical 3: Senior Year is, ostensibly, the film that is meant to cement Troy and Gabriella’s status as “meant to be”, since it’s the film where Troy is trying to figure out whether or not he loves Gabriella and the film where Gabriella says (despite all evidence to the contrary) that she “loves” Troy, since it’s the movie where Troy “chooses” to follow Gabriella to college and the viewers are supposed to be ecstatic and swooning over how “romantic” this decision is, why wasn’t the focus of the movie on showing and/or proving to the viewers how good of a couple Troy and Gabriella are? Why didn’t the movie have Gabriella helping Troy look at other colleges, or even telling him that it’s okay for him to not have everything figured out at his age? Why was HSM3, yet again, about Troy having to push aside his wants and needs to support Gabriella, even when it serves to his own detriment, and still being vilified for doing so? Why does this movie continue to demonstrate to me that Gabriella is one of the worst girlfriends in any medium? Why does this movie have Gabriella breaking up with Troy for the third time in their relationship that hasn’t even hit the two year mark, yet?
This might come as a shock, but there are conflicts that you can place two characters in a relationship in that don’t involve said characters in a relationship repeatedly breaking up and getting back together. It’s a testament to the quality of your writing abilities when the only way you can create conflict or drama is by having the stability and even healthiness of your main relationship constantly called into question. High School Musical 2 was enough for me to begin questioning and developing a steady aversion to Troy and Gabriella’s relationship. High School Musical 3: Senior Year not only did nothing to change my mind, it actively intensified that aversion. Troy following Gabriella to college will forever rank up there as one of the most heinous things these movies did (right alongside trying to shove Ryan back into the closet), unless this deplorable decision is somehow rectified by a sequel. Think about the message Troy “choosing” to follow Gabriella sends to abuse victims: You need your abuser. Without them, you are useless and incapable of doing anything. You should stick with your abuser and dedicate your life to making them happy, even if they discard you, because your feelings and mental and emotional well-being do not matter.
Zac Efron and Christian McKay, Me And Orson Welles.
There is no feasible way a relationship between the writer’s pet and the writer’s punching bag could ever work as a healthy union that is beneficial to both characters. The happiness and well-being of the writer’s pet will always take priority over the happiness and well-being of the writer’s punching bag. The writer’s pet will be glorified and the writer’s punching bag will be demonized. The writer might even have their pet character lash out at the punching bag to further cement the punching bag’s status as unworthy of love and happiness.
This is one of the many reasons why Troy/Gabriella will never be a healthy relationship as long as a bias for Gabriella exists. Gabriella is clearly Peter Barsocchini’s preferred character based on the fact that she never has to own up to her mistakes, never has to admit that she was wrong, has credit for Troy’s personal achievements attributed to her, and that the only character to speak ill of her is the series’s antagonist, and even Sharpay appears to have warmed up to her by the end of the third movie.
And, Troy, who was treated like an absolute scumbag for trying to get a scholarship, is characterized as a jerk for encouraging Gabriella to accept the early enrollment at Stanford, who wasn’t even valued enough as a character for his arc to be properly fulfilled or for the viewers to have the slightest inkling of what line of work he’ll be in as an adult despite him being the overarching protagonist for the trilogy is, without a doubt, the series’s punching bag.