Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Disney musicals: a good thing or a bad thing

Since I have been in at least two different childcare centers over the past few months I have noticed something. The new musicals like High School Musical, High School Musical 2 and most recently Camp Rock that the Disney Channel has been producing over the past few years are immensely popular with kids. These kids range from the 4 year olds that were in my class in North Carolina to the 8,9, and 10 year-olds that were in the camp-esque setting that I will in over the past month or so since I moved to Illinois. Now these shows seem to be geared toward the pre-teen and teenage set, but since they are on The Disney Channel and have catchy pop tunes the range of kids that they appeal to seems to cover a wider range of ages of children. Now I have never seen any of these movies, but have now heard the music for all of them several times especially recently here in IL where the kids seem to play one of the three CDs for these three different musicals everyday and sometimes more than on CD a day.

So a few weeks back I started to think that maybe this is a good thing, that these kids are so into musicals. The whole idea of people breaking out in song during a movie is a bit unique and is not something that seems to be real popular in most genres. It seems most movies or even plays are pretty music free or the music is not incorporated into the action at all. Sure there are musicals that have become popular among adults over the past ten or so years, Rent and Mama Mia! that were so popular they were turned into movies then there are musicals like Jekyll, Avenue Q, Wicked among many others, but these are all geared toward adults so maybe it is good that children are being exposed to musicals that are geared toward them. It would seem to be a good thing that they are being exposed to a new genre of movie and maybe one that will make them want to become more involved in theater as they are in high school or college. Also, does this help to potentially revitalize the stage theater genre. High School Musical transitioned from the TV to what seems to be a very popular stage production that is sold out everywhere it goes.

So this is a good thing, right. Right?? Having never seen any of these movies and only seeing the impact they have on kids, I wonder if they do not continue to add to the increasing pressure on children to look a certain way or act a certain way. I have seen children who want to act out their favorite characters from these movies, but other children have said you can't sing, only I can sing good enough for that person. Now this can easily be blamed on the fact that the children in question were pre-teen girls who have been catty and obnoxious on other occasions about other things. It also seems to be a phenomenon that is more prevalent in girls than in boys. All of these shows have both male and female actors and actresses and yet only the girls are interested in the shows. Is this another fault of the overall society saying that boys who are interested in theater are less manly or worse yet gay?

I have no answers to any of the questions I have posed, but it is another instance where observing children and societies impact on them has proven interesting and even somewhat worrisome to me.


Comrade Kevin said...

I dislike musicals by in large because I place a premium on realism and authenticity to me. One has to suspend a tremendous amount of disbelief to get into many of them.

But as for the resurgence of musicals--though they are no longer in their heyday, there's still demand for them.

Little Merry Sunshine said...

This is quite an interesting topic. Just yesterday, I visited with a cousin of mine in the South. I had not seen her and her family in a year or so. Her 6 year old daughter was decked out. Hair done in a fancy up-do and nails freshly painted - they were much nicer than mine :(. The 6 year old very quickly told me she was going to "Sweet and Sassy" camp, which I then learned is a week-long day camp put on by one of these stores that caters to tweens doing their hair and giving them manis/pedis, playing dress up and doing fashion shows. She then proceeded to tell me ALL the latest gossip on each of the HMS stars - who's getting married (Ashley Tisdale), who's dating, etc.

I have to admit, I was horrified. Now I don't have kids, so maybe, I don't get it. My 6 year old cousin seemed far older than her years, but no in a good way.

I'm not saying that playing dress up is bad. My friends and I did it. But we did it with our mom's old clothes that were going to charity. And at 6, I certainly didn't know celebrity gossip! I didn't know what a mani/pedi was until I was easily in high school and didn't have it done professionally until I was in my 20s.

I'm not blaming Disney muscials for this, but I think it's part of the same conversation. Why are they forced to grow up so fast and be so sexualized so young?