Is stalking cute or is it a stem of a larger issue?

By Gabrielle Ghaderi Jan 31, 2020

 Glee-style musical TV series and early 2000s Disney movie musicals have been and always will be my biggest guilty pleasure, making High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (HSMTMTS) the prime victim for my most recent binge-watching escapades. 

The new series, which is available on Disney+, is the perfect blend of childhood nostalgia, catchy tunes and family-friendly entertainment.

HSMTMTS centers on the drama department at East High School, the school used as the set of the 2006 film High School Musical

Though they are the location of the filming, East High’s drama department has yet to put on their own version of the musical. 

That fact is about to change, when the new drama teacher, Miss Jenn, takes over. 

This mission to produce High School Musical in the school it was filmed serves as the foundation for the 10 episode season.

While following the drama department through the rehearsal process, the series takes viewers on a trip down memory lane by featuring classic hit songs from the original High School Musical film such as “Status Quo,” “Start of Something New” and “Bop to the Top.” 

It also features original songs such as “Wondering” and “All I Want.” 

This blend of old and new is the perfect combination of familiarity and freshness. 

The original songs featured in this series are equally as catchy as the songs from the original movie and are unique in that they could easily succeed as standalone radio singles.

Though HSMTMTS satisfied my quench for another cheesy, music-infused television series, there is one major flaw that I can’t help but address. 

In addition to following the drama department, the series also follows a cliche love triangle between the three main characters Nini, Ricky and EJ. 

Here is a simplified breakdown of that conflict: Nini and Ricky dated before the start of the show; they broke up and now Nini is dating EJ; Ricky is still in love with Nini and wants to win her back. 

The way this conflict is written vilified EJ, Nini’s current boyfriend, while eliciting audience sympathy for the ex-boyfriend Ricky.

My criticism isn’t so much pointed at the use of a wildly overdone trope of guys fighting over a girl, but rather the ways in which it is handled. 

Ricky, the heartbroken underdog that viewers are meant to root for, tries to win back Nini’s affection in a number of alarming ways: including, auditioning for the musical to be close to her, using his audition time to try and tell his side of the story and repeatedly calling or texting her about the romantic connection that he still feels between them. 

In spite of Nini trying to avoid his advances, Ricky ignores her wishes and continually tries to be in contact with her. 

This persistence, though made to try and show his dedication, only perpetuates the idea that men can gain love and affection by refusing to respect a woman’s right to say “no.”

Maybe I’m reading too much into it. 

Besides, I am an adult reviewing a show meant for children and teens. 

At the same time, though, maybe that is exactly why I should be critical. 

I’m an adult who is able to recognize unhealthy behavior, but what about younger people who don’t have experience with relationships? 

Painting borderline stalker behavior as something that is charming isn’t a message we should be communicating to more impressionable age groups.

Despite the relationship dynamics of the show, I must admit I was thoroughly entertained. 

I found myself bopping along to the catchy tunes and laughing at the often absurd plot of the show. 

It also brought back nostalgic memories of watching High School Musical as a kid. 

But do the enjoyable elements of the series excuse the simultaneous perpetuation of the “loveable stalker”? I’m still not quite sure.

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