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  • Accidental Innuendo:
    • I'll show you how I swing, really?
    • "Can't you see that bigger is better and better is bigger?"
  • Actor Shipping: Everywhere.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Because of Ashley Tisdale's lovable Large Ham performance, Sharpay comes across as less of an arrogant bitch and more starstruck and neurotic. Her passion for theatre and her determination to be successful also suggests that Sharpay doesn't do the manipulative things she does out of malice - she just truly wants to be the best at everything (star in the musical, dating the most popular boy in school, etc.) She doesn't dislike the Wildcats in the second movie because of any reason other than "they'll steal my talent show!" Selfish, yes, but by the ending of each movie she's realized her mistakes. There's also the fact that Sharpay, who has been performing for far longer than Troy and Gabriella, is right to be suspicious of their skill and commitment to theater.
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    • Quite a few fans assume that Gabriella has trust and Commitment Issues about getting close to people. Despite the fact she and Troy adore each other, she's repeatedly thinks he's going to hurt or leave her, and pushes him away in every film because of it.note  Then add in that she has a Disappeared Dad, was ostracized at her previous schools and apparently never had a permanent home (living somewhere longer than a year) and she borders on Broken Bird.
      Gabriella: I'm a lot better at saying goodbye than you. I've had a ton of practice.
    • Likewise, Troy seems less like an uber-popular Big Man on Campus and more of a Broken Ace worn down from years of being East High's golden boy. Every film has him breaking down over disappointing his Dad or friends, often while Chad and the wildcats sit there criticizing him. His delight at Gabriella liking the "real him" makes you wonder when he'd last been allowed to just relax. One tumblr post argues him attending Berkeley was less about Gabriella and more about escaping everyone's expectations.
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    • There is one blogger that claims that Gabriella is an abusive girlfriend to Troy and that he might be an emotionally broken character because of her, as this Tumblr user demonstrates here, here or here (warning:some of the links are broken due to the posts being deleted).
    • This Twitter user sees Sharpay as the victim of having her spotlight AND scholarship stolen by newbies whose only singing experience was at a karaoke and were luckily accepted as the main roles.note  However, this ignores that the scholarships are won by Kelsi and Ryan, who both genuinely earned them (and were both belittled by Sharpay in the past).
      "So the real message of the first movie is: 'If you're popular and you do everything, you're gonna be great at it, but if you dedicate your entire life to something you'll be seen as a villain and now you're the bad person.' "
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    • Film Theory proposes that the role of the true villain of the series is not Sharpay but... Troy. Though it's not much of a spoiler considering the rant at the beginning...
    • RiffTrax posits that in the first movie, Troy's dad sees Troy less as his son and more as his prized player. While it is angled at humor, the consistent tone of his father ignoring Troy's feelings and concerns for the championship does give some credence to the idea.
      Coach Bolton: But you're not just a guy, Troy!
      Rifftrax: You're my meal ticket! Son! Son, I mean son!
  • Anvilicious: The first film in particular is very heavy handed with its messages about not following the crowd and trying out new things. Not a bad Aesop but not a subtle one either.
  • Awesome Music:
    • "Get Your Head in the Game".
    • "Work This Out".
    • "I Don't Dance". Bonus points for it being a musical number based around baseball of all things and working.
    • "Bet On It", despite Narm, is still a great song. It's even more awesome in the Stage version.
    • "The Boys Are Back".
    • "Now or Never".
    • "Can I Have This Dance" is absolutely lovely. "It's like catching lightning/the chances of finding/someone like you..."
    • "Scream" is possible the crowning Awesome Music for the series.
    • "Breaking Free."
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment:
    • In the second movie, Sharpay tries to get Troy to perform "Humuhumunukunukuapua'a" with her, an extravagant Hawaiian themed number about a pineapple princess and a fish prince falling in love. Characteristic of Sharpay, this is a huge production number with backup dancers and Ryan narrating, providing sound effects/fog, and playing the ocean and fish. It Makes Just As Much Sense In Context and is never brought up again or acknowledged in the plot. No wonder it's not in the Disney Channel airings, but limited to the home video release. It may be seen as this in universe as well. Throughout the number, we get repeated cuts to Troy, whose facial expressions likely mirror that of the audience. It is brought up one more time when Sharpay demands Troy and Gabriella's duet from Kelsi. Ryan, who was just kicked out of the talent show by his own sister ask what'll happen to Humuhumu and what he's supposed to do with his Tiki warrior outfit.
    • 'All For One' from the end of the second movie has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the film and comes completely out of nowhere as just an ending song where the cast just sing and dance to the music.
    • The dance break in "I Don't Dance" which occurs while Chad is still claiming that he doesn't dance, with nobody during or after this moment bringing up how he took part in what is blatant choreography.
  • Captain Obvious Aesop: "Be yourself and don't bully others." Quite a revolutionary concept, wouldn't you agree?
  • Contested Sequel:
    • High School Musical 2. Some saw it as a step in the right direction but many people pick up on a lot of issues, in particular the Informed Wrongness of Troy's decisions (how dare you miss a baseball game to work for a scholarship!), the wildcats' reactions (focusing on the future is bad), Sharpay taking a ridiculous level in jerkass, and most of all it's not even set in high school!
    • Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure. It's not a musical, and even factoring that and its spin-off status in it has a completely different "feel" to the other movies. And those are the minor points - it forgets that Sharpay was supposed to go to the University of Albuquerque after graduation and that Ryan and Kelsi went to New York (they had to rush just to get Lucas Grabeel into the movie at all, so much that his scene is only in the broadcast version).
  • Draco in Leather Pants: While fans have understandable reasons to sympathize with Sharpay, some of them tend to give her more sympathy than she deserves by saying that she wasn’t a villain. This negates the fact that not only was Sharpay a rude Alpha Bitch to almost everyone she came across, but she (with Ryan) went out their way to convince Ms. Darbus to change the time of the audition schedule just to ensure that Troy and Gabriella cannot audition for the lead roles in the play. This also points to Sharpay not being willing to work for the lead role or feeling entitled to it.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse:
  • Epic Rocking: "Work This Out" in the stage version, and to a lesser extent, "Bet On It". Oddly, "Bet On It" is actually less Narmy onstage, partly to the fact that it becomes more of a Massive Multiplayer Ensemble Number with more emotional weight and less interpretive dancing.
  • Estrogen Brigade: Zac Efron, Lucas Grabeel and Corbin Bleu carried teen heartthrob status among many a tween and teenage girl at the time. Not to mention the protagonists being on a basketball team allows them to wear less clothing in a few scenes.
  • Fandom Rivalry: Averted. Although there is no rivalry (per se) with Glee, it's usually assumed that if you despise one, you love the other. Ironically, many dismissed Glee as simply HSM on antidepressants, while the Disney+ mockumentary show of the series has often been nicknamed "the poor man's Glee"
  • Fanon:
    • Even among non-Ryan/Chad shippers, general fanon is that something went down in the locker room after the staff baseball game in HSM2. Their Sexy Shirt Switch is regularly brought up as proof of it.
    • In the same vein, Ryan being gay has been pretty much accepted as fact among fans, usually accompanied by a handwave that Kelsi is just a beard. Surprisinglynote  few people consider the option he might be bi.
    • Gabriella's mom is nameless in the films, but is usually Isabella or Maria in fanfic.
    • Ryan being dyslexic is brought up in at least 75% of fanfics where he has a lead role, most likely based on him being unable to read Go Drama Club in the first movie despite being portrayed as very intelligent in the later movies.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple: Chad/Ryan, which is both the preferred ship for both characters and the most popular ship in the fandom, easily outnumbering Troy/Gabriella in the sheer amount of fanwork dedicated to it. After the second movie, Chad and Ryan share a lot of tender moments which a good chunk of the fanbase have interpreted as Ship Tease, including a particularly subtle Sexy Shirt Switch.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Matt Prokop's scenes in Senior Year, considering the abuse allegations from girlfriend Sarah Hyland and the fact that they met while auditioning for 3 become much more uncomfortable to watch.note 
    • The lyrics of the third film's finale ("High School Musical") are about the team "taking their final bow". Originally meant to be referring to the fact that it's the final movie of the series, it takes a new meaning when you consider that only Zac and Vanessa really went on to have successful careers (Ashley also, to an extent). In fact, when the main six reunited, Efron didn't show up because he was busy promoting a movie with his co-star Robert De Niro.
    • Dutch Elijah Whitlock, the skater boy who secretly played the cello in "Stick to the Status Quo", was arrested in Salt Lake City for trying to rob a pizza place. He supposedly did it in 2008, according to Buzzfeed—two years after his appearance—but it was discovered by someone in 2015, leading to the meme "You should've stuck to playing the cello."
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Gabriella would later meet Abed in Powerless, a character who happens to also know somebody called Troy, who started as a jock.
    • When Glee premiered in 2009, it was accused of trying to cash in on HSM's success, but Ryan Murphy adamantly denied it (see Fandom Rivalry and "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny for more info). Glee was produced by 20th Century Fox Television, and guess who bought it and the rest of 20th in 2019?
    • There's a years-long joke within the viewership that "real" fans prefer the second film out of the entire trilogy. Then the mockumentary series came out, which has Carlos who declares himself as a "superfan" because he watched the first movie 37 times ... and barely touched the others.
  • Ho Yay:
    • Everything about the "I Don't Dance" sequence in 2. The next time we see Chad and Ryan, they've switched clothes. General consensus among fans is that the entire song is about Chad being in denial about his sexuality and Ryan encouraging him to just let go.
    • Senior Year has Troy practice a dance move, which he and Sharpay were supposed to perform together, with Ryan. When asked to actually do the move with Sharpay, he complains that Ryan was the better partner.
  • Incest Yay Shipping: Advertising marketing paired twin siblings Sharpay and Ryan Evans together. Fans who hadn't seen the films yet assumed they were an item and were Squicked out when they realized what they really are. Some didn't care and shipped them together anyways.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • If you go into a group of people that were kids in the mid-to-late 2000s and shout, "WHAT TEAM?!", at least half those kids will, without fail, scream, "WILDCATS!" in response, often without even thinking about it.
      • Similarly, if you go into a group of people that were kids in the mid-to-late 2000s and ask "What time is it?", you bet at least one of them is going to reply with "SUMMERTIME!"
    • It's not uncommon for the kids who watched the films when they first came out to say "high school was nothing like they promised".
      Wendy: TV lied, man.
    • Not saying that 2 is the best is joked as Fandom Heresy.
    • Troy giving Gabriella a "T" necklace has led to edits of Troy saying different meaning to what the "T" meant, other than his name.
    • Two HSM2 memes that also involve Troy: "Conflicted Troy", based on stills from "Bet On It", and When Your Parents Ask Where All Your Money Went, this time involving promo pics of Efron.
    • The "I Don't Dance" number constantly being referred to as a metaphor for gay sex.
    • The memes from "Gotta Go My Own Way" led to it becoming the Signature Scene from 2.
  • Moe:
    • Gabriella is a sweet girl who has a Break the Cutie moment in every entry. The trope is especially evident in the first where she was a Shrinking Violet, but is still somewhat present in the sequels.
    • Kelsi, especially for being a soft-spoken girl in glasses.
  • Narm:
    • It's practically impossible to watch "Bet On It" without at least cracking a smile.
    • "The Boys Are Back" from Senior Year.
    • "Scream", also from 3. Basically "Bet On It" with a bigger budget that was not at all. The titular scream that ends the song could not be more wooden.
    • Even the franchise itself would eventually acknowledge how silly it is to present a guy being interested in both sports and musical theater as any kind of huge shocking thing, with the Disney+ series having a main character that is into both without anyone giving a damn.
    • Being a musical where everyone sings and dance, it comes off as silly when someone claims to be against singing or dancing, especially during musical numbers:
      • During "Stick to the Status Quo", the entire school perform a Crowd Song to express their disgust at Troy's shocking secret: he likes to sing.
      • During "Stick to the Status Quo", a Hollywood Nerd named Martha admits she likes dancing more than homework. All her nerdy friends get mad at her... while dancing at the same time.
      • During "I Don't Dance", Chad (and every other baller) indulges in full on blatant choreography, even as he continues to say he doesn't dance.
  • Narm Charm: The series in a nutshell. It's ridiculous, corny and twee... but it was insanely popular for a reason.
  • No Problem with Licensed Games: The games are pretty good, but only because of what gameplay they’re based on. The first two games on DS use the Elite Beat Agents/Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan gameplay, while the third DS game uses Gitaroo Man's gameplay. The console High School Musical 3 Dance! game also uses DDR gameplay on dance pads (On Wii, it's Wii Remote and Nunchuk). While it's somewhat simplistic in terms of difficulty, it does serve as a decent rhythm game. Unfortunately, all the games use covers, which is ironic since Disney develops the games and films. The Game Boy Advance game based on the first movie does have it's own merits too, despite being one-half platformer, one half rhythm game.
  • Older Than the Demographic: Despite being themed around high school, the series was not intended to be aimed at teens. Most of its fans were girls aged 15–19, though.
  • Romantic Plot Tumor: The romance arc between Troy and Gabriella is often criticized for being the forefront of the films, mainly for the amount of wangst between the two, and taking away screentime from more likable characters (eg: Sharpay and Ryan). It didn't help that the second film was somewhat influenced by another romance series popular with the target audience.
  • Rooting for the Empire: A lot of people seem to prefer Sharpay and Ryan to the heroes due to their charisma and the fact that they just wanted to have the coveted play roles.
  • Ron the Death Eater: Many of Sharpay's fans tend to make Gabriella out to be an asshole for "stealing" Troy from Sharpay. This is inaccurate because Troy never liked nor dated Sharpay, and Gabriella was just a sweet, intelligent girl who loved math and musicals and liked Troy for who he was (unlike Sharpay, who probably only liked Troy for superficial reasons).
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: As hard as it is to believe today, High School Musical was very popular and praised by critics when the first film debuted in 2006, getting two sequels (with another in development), a spin-off, foreign remakes in Latin America and China, a concert tour, stage adaptations for the first two films, tons of merchandise, and four Spiritual Successors in Camp Rock, Teen Beach Movie, Descendants and Z-O-M-B-I-E-S.
    • Subsequent Disney Channel Original Movies would try to cash on with its success, through copying the style of the film or overpromoting any shared actor in them (or giving them larger roles in the case of Halloweentown), and even other studios decided to take advantage of its popularity, most noticeably Glee.note  Even The Suite Life of Zack and Cody did an episode in promotion. This drove the Periphery Demographic away, and boosted Disney Channel's reputation as a network meant strictly for tween girls and nobody else.
    • Today, while still well-remembered to get a new sequel and spin-off series, High School Musical is largely seen alongside Hannah Montana as the biggest catalyst for Disney Channel's Network Decay and Dork Age, which finally ended in 2017, and has faded out of the public eye outside of its narm, helping to revive musicals, being the Star-Making Role for Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens, and just becoming very nostalgic amongst the Gen Z demographic who watched it as children.
  • Signature Song: "Breaking Free" was supposed to be this, and was for 1, but "We're All in This Together" is probably the most remembered song for the whole series.
  • Strawman Has a Point:
    • Chad's rant at Troy in 1 about how becoming a drama kid would lead to him fading into obscurity, citing Michael Crawford as an example of someone who would never be a celebrity endorsement that appears on the front of a popular cereal box is portrayed as this, but theater is expensive and the lower-income masses are lucky to either afford to go or get their hands on free tickets to stage productions, therefore only the one percent would be familiar with places like Broadway. Not only that, but it has been traditionally very hard for stage actors to transition to mainstream acting, like on television and in the movies, so if Troy were to become an actor, it could be a struggle to garner recognition by the rest of the world, if he doesn't know the right people that will get him there.
    • You can't really blame Troy's dad and his team getting concerned that his attention was pulling away from them, considering they were the ones that elected him as captain and that this hobby could lead to a good place in college and a successful sporting career.
    • Sharpay's actions have been Vindicated by History because some audience members began to sympathise with her fears of being upstaged by already-famous students, considering no one turned up for her and Ryan's performance, yet the entire school showed upnote  for Troy and Gabriella's. Then again, it's likely that the other students wouldn't have become as invested had Sharpay not gone out of her way to sabotage Troy and Gabriella.
  • Surprisingly Improved Sequel:
    • Between a better budget, more production time and the adorable chemistry Troy and Gabriella have developed through Zac and Vanessa's Romance on the Set, Senior Year is probably the best of the three films. Not to mention Troy and Gaby's relationship gets some depth, as with e.g. their confiding in each other about their fears for the future — it really becomes obvious why they like each other and work as a couple beyond "their singing voices sound nice together".
    • Each sequel got better in terms of budget and production, with the first one looking much less cinematic than the third.note 
  • Special Effect Failure: In 2, during the song "Bet On It", has Troy looking into the water of a pond, showing his reflection. Ignoring the obvious CGI effect, the reflection itself was not mirrored.
  • Squick:
    • Off-screen, but in 1, Taylor says brother and sister Ryan and Sharpay played the title roles of Romeo and Juliet.
    • The fact that Ms. Darbus seemed to have no issue with a brother and sister playing romantic interests. Not only that, but the school administrators don't seem to notice (or care).
  • Strangled by the Red String: In a badly-made excuse to stop the rumors that the character is gay, Ryan was paired up with Kelsi in Senior Year. They are good together, if you ignore the fact Kelsi was paired with Jason in the first two and the insane amount of (intentional) flirting between Ryan and Chad in 2.
  • Tear Jerker:
    • Gabriella's break-up songs in each film: "When There Was Me and You", "Gotta Go My Own Way" and "Walk Away".
    • "Right Here, Right Now" in Senior Year as Troy and Gabriella consider their future apart from each other. The cut reprise version - set after they've said goodbye - is even worse.
    • The Senior Year finale has the cast ending the song jumping in front of a literal Title Drop. Then we get a close up of each of the character's faces. There's no dancing, no singing, just them standing there smiling, before taking a company bow. It seems awkward at first, but then it hits you: this is their curtain call. These six talented actors are saying goodbye to their characters, and to us. It's a subtle, but effective, instance of Leaning on the Fourth Wall.
  • Testosterone Brigade: Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Tisdale at the height of their Teen Idol status - with plenty of Fanservice and showcasing of their beauty. Additionally, the beautiful supporting cast like Monique Coleman and Olesya Rulin. Unsurprisingly many fans used the beauty of the actresses as an excuse to enjoy the film as a Guilty Pleasure.
  • Took the Bad Film Seriously:
    • Most of the performances range from poor to OK, with a few cartoony Ham and Cheese characters. But Zac plays Troy with real sincerity, ending up being one of the key things that lifts the film above the mediocre direct-to-TV Disney Channel fare it was intended to be.
    • Vanessa manages to make break-up songs that could be Wangsty into genuine Tear Jerkers.
    • Ashley and Lucas qualify too, albeit in a different way, going for strong, entertaining, enjoyable comedic performances instead. Ashley actually took it so seriously that, when she and fans were unhappy with how Senior Year concluded Sharpay's storyline, she pushed for a spinoff to give her a better wrap-up. Needless to say, these two are overwhelmingly more popular than the lead characters and are often considered the best parts of the entire series.
  • Vindicated by History: Although it was a success, it was despised outside its tween demographic and mocked on the internet for being such a blatantly idealistic story in the oh so cynical late 2000s. Not to mention movie musicals were still far from mainstream (it was common for trailers to hide singing to disguise that the film was a musical even as far as the early 2010s). Years later, it's remembered far more fondly by the now grown-up children and teens who loved it in their youth. The popularity of musicals and appreciation of the messages about toxic masculinity have only helped the film age very well.
  • Wangst:
    • Vanessa seemed to be contractually obligated to sing one overly emotional break-up ballad each movie.
    • Zac became obligated to supply one token emo, narmy song per movie, famously including "Bet On It" consisting of his interpretive-dancing angstily through the golf course in what's supposed to be a serious moment.
    • "NO, NO, NO, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. STICK TO THE STUFF YOU KNOOOOOOOOW." Granted, in this instance, wangst might have been the point.
  • The Woobie:
    • Gabriella's backstory: It's implied her father has passed away and her mom's constantly-relocating job meant she never settled anywhere. Plus she struggles to make friends because of being labelled the 'freaky math girl' wherever she goes.
    • Troy in Senior Year. Everyone around him is pressuring him to do different things, he has no idea what to do with his life, and his girlfriend - who he admits was the one person who doesn't see him as the perfect basketball boy - is leaving.

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