The year was 2006: Many of us were still in school and we all rushed home to catch our favorite afternoon shows. At night, we would tune in to Disney Channel to watch their original films. When “High School Musical” premiered on this year, it became an instant cult-favorite.
The story was pretty straightforward. We have a couple, Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) and Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens) who are trying to pursue music in their school by auditioning for a play. We also have the theater-trained Evans twins, Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) and Ryan (Lucas Grabeel), who are perceived as the antagonists because they’re also competing for the lead roles.
Of course, Troy and Gabriella got their happy ending when they get picked to play the lead roles, and also succeed in their respective competitions (basketball and the scholastic decathlon). The cast then gathers to dance and sing “We’re All In This Together” as the credits roll.
Years after the movie and its two sequels premiered, fans started to argue about how Troy, not Sharpay, was the real villain in the movie. Several “Sharpay deserved better” posts popped up on Tumblr and Twitter, explaining how her ambition and her theater experience was seen as evil because it went against the protagonists’ goals. Especially since Troy and Gabriella were always late to auditions, almost broke school property just to make it to the final callbacks, and his skipping the school play last-minute to be with Gabriella in the third movie.
Sure, she’s a diva and she was framed as the bad guy in all three movies. But The Film Theorists enumerated how Sharpay was betrayed several times by the people around her, yet she was still gracious enough to congratulate them and offer help when needed.
After a long time of arguing, Ashley Tisdale finally spoke up and said, “Sharpay was chasing her dream, Troy and Gabriella were chasing each other.” OOOOH!
Sharpay was chasing her dream, Troy and Gabriella were chasing each other ? https://t.co/9tTVhSZq66
— Ashley Tisdale (@ashleytisdale) September 16, 2019
We’re not going to lie: We were rooting for Gabriella when we were younger, too. Now, we realized we can actually relate to Sharpay as adults—“HSM” fans have noticed as well. Here’s why we can empathize with her now:
Relationships aren’t the priority
We all had that phase where we wanted Prince Charming (or in this case, Troy Bolton) to swoop down and save us. But as working women living in this economy, we know that focusing on dating isn’t productive nor sustainable. It’s certainly not wrong to be ambitious and to chase your dreams, and you can do so while dating around or keeping a long-term relationship. Sharpay doesn’t have a solid love interest in the “High School Musical” franchise, and that’s absolutely fine because she’s also focused on her future as an actress.
Helping with networking
Being an adult is hard and it’s not embarrassing to ask others for help, especially with connecting to people to seek opportunities. In “High School Musical 2,” Sharpay gives her classmates part-time jobs at her family’s country club, which later led to Troy meeting basketball players from a prospective college. But what happens next? He gets fired because he was on a date with Gabriella instead of working.
Before I digress further, networking with people is important when you’re an adult, or for any young person who’s looking for a stable career. It also helps to have a list of people to call when you need help with something. If there’s one thing we can learn from Sharpay, it’s that we can get far in life when we know who to call or go to.
Ruined plans can get to our nerves
Sure, Sharpay can be sly and she did try to stop Troy and Gabriella from making the final callbacks. But when people betray you or change plans last-minute, even you’ll be pissed. When we were younger, we thought Sharpay was being snobby and b*tchy when her plans fail. Now that we’re older, we definitely know how she feels, especially when people don’t cooperate.
Working independently is important
In the spin-off film, “Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure,” Sharpay’s dad allows her to move to New York to pursue acting. The only condition was that she finds a career without the help of her wealthy parents. Throughout the movie, you’ll see Sharpay going to auditions and working odd jobs to make ends meet while she tries to become an actress. See? Even a rich girl like her needs to hustle.
Who doesn’t want to live fabulously?
Hey, if you’re working hard and you have the means to get yourself something nice like Sharpay, it’s not really a bad thing. You don’t have to chill at a fancy pool in a country club or have butlers serve you drinks. What we learned from Sharpay is you can live a fabulous life without hurting people.
Art by Tricia Guevara
For the latest in culture, fashion, beauty, and celebrities, subscribe to our weekly newsletter here
Do you know all the words to these movie soundtracks?
Adulting 101: Office fashion edition
Becoming a Disney princess isn’t as easy as it seems
The most underrated bad-ass Disney princesses