Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Night of All Nights: Nightmare vs Dream, and Sex for All!

Rather than writing about a contemporary novel, I'm going to focus on a very relevant and influential tween sensation: High School Musical 3. I'm horrified enough to dedicate this blog post to the song that reveals their feelings about prom, "A Night To Remember."

The song is an exchange between the male and female characters, emphasizing their delight or disgust at the prom - based strictly on their expressed genders. It blatantly enforces stereotypical gendered and heteronormative expectations of prom night. A friend of mine, who I frantically whispered cynical comments to during this scene, said to me, "Are you really surprised?" I guess I'm not, but I am disappointed to know that most people who watch this movie will be internalizing more gender fallacies.

The lines sung by the boys express dismay at having to pay attention to their clothes and general outward appearance, noting that they "don't have the choice" of whether to dress up or not, and saying that it's too late to back out now. The girls, in contrast, are preparing for "the night of all nights" and "dressing to impress the boys." The boys complain that their clothes make them look weird, while the girls emphasize that whether they go "movie star glamorous, sassy, or sweet," no one better wear the same dress. The song reinforces stereotypical female types - the movie star, the sassy girl, or the sweet girl. The pretty good girl or glam mean girl. Regardless, all are high maintenance, of course, getting makeovers and massages. This representation, like the rest of the movie, ignores girls that are not middle to upper class.

For the guys, it is explicitly stated that this night is the night of their nightmares, while it is the night of the girls' dreams, the night they've been waiting all their lives for (yes, it actually says that). They couldn't possibly have higher aspirations than getting dressed up and parading their sexualities! The song continues in this fashion until something changes the boys' minds:

"Then something changes my world / The most beautiful girl right in front of my eyes."

That physical transformation, and the realization (or remembrance) of their dates' sexuality, fills the guys with a previously absent exuberance. All the hassle is worth it because they might get some. In fact, they are guaranteed to get some. They begin to agree with the girls' ecstatic lines.

One particular line of the song is easily interpreted as an innuendo - "Let's dance / On the night of nights / You know we're gonna do it right" While it could be taken to mean that they are going to dance "right," it seems more likely to me that the guys are saying, "You know we're gonna do it, right?" It is, after all, the night of all nights, and the girls' sexuality is what's making the hassle of dressing up, and spending time doing stereotypically feminine things, worth it.

As the song comes to an end, the boys' responses begin to mirror sexual cries, while the girls repeat the same innocent sounding lines, emphasizing that the sexual pleasure and prowess belongs only to the boys. The girls say "It's gonna be our night, all together, come on now, everyone" the guys respond, "Oh yeah," "Say it loud," and "That's right."

As was tackled in some of our readings, prom night is seen as a night of "coming out" as a sexual being, coming into one's own in a purely physical sense, and as practice for the unavoidable wedding. I was reminded most strikingly of what we discussed in class by the lines:

"Whos that girl? (Shes so fine)
Whos that guy? (I dont recognize)
Whos that girl? (She looks so good, yeah)
You'll never really notice, but you probably should."

The expectation is that, on this one night, girls will be recognized for the beautiful sexualized goddesses they are. From all the prom stories I've heard shared, this is rarely the case. The presentation of prom as one masculine boy and one feminine girl coming together to come out, to become adults, not only makes for almost guaranteed disappointment, but leaves out anyone who doesn't fall into stereotypical gender roles. But for those who do, you're guaranteed a sexual reward: either validation or possession.

1 comment:

Ariel Dansky said...

I've never seen any of the High School Musical films, so reading your entry satisfied my curiosity of what exactly this hyped up High School Musical stuff is all about.

I agree that it's sad that this is what is so popular with young girls and that they will, as you said, be internalizing more gender fallacies and patriarchal crap.

"One particular line of the song is easily interpreted as an innuendo - "Let's dance / On the night of nights / You know we're gonna do it right" While it could be taken to mean that they are going to dance "right," it seems more likely to me that the guys are saying, "You know we're gonna do it, right?""

LOL. It's so true!!