Reading about this weekend's debut of High School Musical 2, we encountered a lot of big, confusing numbers. From what we gather, 17.24 million human beings watched the degreased Grease on the Disney Channel, making it slightly more popular than every Super Bowl put together. By all accounts, this is a tremendous win for parents shielding their children from the devil influence of Harry Potter, Avril Lavigne, and Meerkat Manor: The HSM franchise, people keep repeating, might be the most wholesome thing in all of media. But is it really?
Zac Efron is the beautiful 19-year-old man who stars in both HSMs, and his cover profile in the current Rolling Stone, a counterculture rag that originated in San Francisco, reveals a few things that role-model-minded parents might be disturbed to know. First, Efron freely admits to having been “raised agnostic” — without then claiming to have found God.
With that as a baseline, the narrative naturally turns scandalous. Discussing his middle-school run in a production of Gypsy, the faint-inducingly hard-bodied stud piles on the sex talk: “‘I was, like, going into seventh grade, and girls were a new and interesting thing. So when you’re backstage with them 24/7, things happen.” (Is it any coincidence that the article was written by alpha-something Neil Strauss, author of pickup manual The Game? And that it’s not fully available online for concerned adults to read?) Really, though, Efron’s not so different from the raging beefcakes that populate subversive rock bands like Nickelback; youth culture is awash in yummy outlaws. Which leaves us with one question for the parents who allowed their young ones to watch HSM 2: Hasn’t anyone ever told you that some gay people enjoy musicals? —Nick Catucci