Disney apparently guilty of a sleazy bait-and-switch

Just a few months ago, the younger set in our neighborhood was very, very excited about High School Musical. The one family that actually owned the DVD was kept busy loaning it out to everyone. Never having heard of it, I was careful to sit with my kids as they watched it, to make sure that they weren’t seeing images or getting messags that didn’t pass muster with me.

I needn’t have feared — the whole show was clearly the 21st Century successor to the Mickey and Judy musicals of the 1940s. The singing and dancing were adequate, the message was tolerable and, most importantly, the show was innocent. My under-10s were not sullied by premature contact with an ugly, sexualized pop culture.

With all of that in mind, if I’d paid attention to these things, I might have been tempted to go to the life stage version of High School Musical, which just appeared in the Bay Area. As it is, though, I’m glad I didn’t, based on this San Francisco Chronicle Review:

While the “High School Musical” movie comes close to meeting Amish standards, the traveling concert is a much sexier beast. The production reportedly cost $8.5 million to stage, and I’m guessing that $6 million of that was spent on sequins. But the sparkly elements of the show were a small distraction compared to the pelvic gyrations and skimpy clothing choices that never appeared in the movie, but were definitely happening onstage. This bait-and-switch can’t be an accident. Disney seems to be banking on the fact that puberty isn’t far off for at least two-thirds of the “High School Musical” demographic — and the Puritan values of the franchise will have to grow up with its audience.

Vanessa Anne Hudgens and Monique Coleman, who played math nerds in “High School Musical,” went through numerous costume changes that ranged in the sexiness spectrum from the classiness of a professional figure skater to the more sketchy realm of 49ers Gold Rush cheerleaders and Las Vegas cocktail waitresses (and not from one of the classier hotels on the Strip). Ashley Tisdale pranced out one modified school girl uniform that was so revealing, she could marry K-Fed tomorrow and nobody should be shocked.

“Baby I can see you movin’ like that … What chu’ waitin’ for … You gotta like it. You gotta want it,” were a few lyrics from the second of three songs Tisdale performed from a yet-to-be-released album — a long way from the feel-good “We’re All In This Together” platitudes of the movie.

Is it just me, or is this an absolutely appalling thing to do to parents who buy expensive tickets and haul their innocent children to a show, all in the good faith belief that the show will meet the same G-rated standards as the movie they’ve allowed into their homes? I think Disney should be ashamed of itself.

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  • kevin

    My, how much times have changed. Many years ago, Walt Disney asked Annette Funicello not to wear a bikini in her beach movies because she was still identified as a former Disney star and she agreed out of respect for Disney! Now we have the likes of Lindsay Lohan (having done the remake of Disney’s, The Parent Trap) famously running around with Paris Hilton and Britany Spears–sans underwear.

  • http://ymarsakar.blogspot.com/ Ymarsakar

    Maybe Disney thinks San Francisco won’t mind these progressive values as much as say, Deep in the South.

  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    Unless word of mouth leads to the parents you speak of keeping their kids away, we’ll see LOTS more of this.

    It’s all about the money, of course.

    Which is why I used to look through magazines with my pre-schoolers, showing them the ads and telling them why anyone would present this stuff in magazines — “They want our money…” That, and not having a TV, worked pretty well. Neither of our kids are “consumers”.