Jul 4, 2013

Uncle Tom Award #3: High School Musical

Time for another Uncle Tom Award, given to the actor, director, or producer who most effectively promotes heterosexism.  Award #2 goes to Kenny Ortega and Lucas Grabeel of High School Musical.

The Disney franchise (2006, 2007, 2008) was a parody of 1980s teen comedies, a boy-girl hetero-romance, and a paeon to "being who you are," as high schoolers Troy (Zac Efron, left), Chad (Corbin Bleu, below), and their teammates are torn between the machismo of sports and gender-transgressive singing and dancing in the Drama Club.

Lucas Grabeel played Ryan Evans, stylish, feminine, gay-coded brother of the quasi-villain Sharpay (Ashley Tinsdale).  Many fans point to the song "I Don't Dance," in which he tries to convince the Chad to perform in the upcoming talent show, as gay-subtext classic, loaded with innuendo and homoerotic energy.  Here's a clip.

 In the stage version, he's gay.

But not in the movie.  He couldn't be.  Director Kenny Ortega explains: "None of the kids can be gay, because they're too young to have sex."

So parents festoon their boy babies with bibs reading "Chick magnet."  Kindergarten boys and girls exchange valentines, and everyone says "Oh, how cute!"  But being gay is not about desire or romance, it's about sex, so if you aren't sexually active, you're not gay.

That's pretty disgusting.

 Attuned to the many "Ryan is gay" rumors, the writers gave him a girlfriend in the last installment.

Lucas Grabeel has been the subject of some gay rumors of his own, especially after he played Danny Nicoletta, the photographer friend of Harvey Milk who struggled to keep his memory alive, in Milk (2008).  He responded to them with an offensive statement on his website.  He really, really, really doesn't want you thinking he's gay:

"As an actor, you play roles. I'm NOT Ryan Evans. I'm NOT Kelly Kuzio from Veronica Mars, I'm NOT Lex Luthor [from Smallville]... I'm Lucas. But when I go to WORK,  I assume the character of whom I'm playing.. In the movie Milk, I PLAY gay.  That doesn't mean that I am gay. Sean Penn, one of the greatest actors of our generation, is playing Harvey Milk, a gay character... but he is married to Robin Wright-Penn. Most people in this movie are straight men playing gay men.... Emile Hersch, James Franco, and Diego Luna are just a few...."

Wow, quite a list.  Is there anybody in the world, who is really, actually gay, Lucas?  Or are gay people mythical creatures, like unicorns?

Why did you even agree to play a gay character?