When Troy Stecher arrived at practice Saturday, he had been moved to forward. With the Sedins. Stech forgot it’s April Fool’s Day…
“I thought it was a little strange, but tried to embrace the opportunity. I was lost out there. I screwed up my first drill. I totally forgot what day it is. When they told me, I felt so dumb. Got me. They started a war, I’ll give Burr a call for tips!” - Stecher
HSM AU where Gabriella never moved schools and Sharpay got a chance to pursue her crush on Troy and her career and dreams unapologetically without being villainized for it and had to learn how to be nice and friendly while not sacrificing her drive and independence.
The first year, when Troy is looking at the audition call sheets curiously remembering his karaoke with that cute girl during the holidays, Sharpay comes over and invites him to join. He laughs it off but can’t take it off his mind. In the end, he auditions late for a minor role. The teacher likes him so much, he’s in the second call for a principal role. He still struggles just the same between basketball and singing. Sharpay, looking forward to spend time with her crush, volunteers to sing with him too in the second audition, ignoring Ryan’s complains. She can sing with both of them and, since she’s the only female contender, that way they can see how both pairings work.
A Little Thing About Troy Bolton and Why I'm So Defensive of This Poor Kid:
Troy Bolton is a tragic character when you really stop to think about it. Yeah, I’m well aware that he wasn’t intended to be (we’re talking about a series of subpar Disney Channel movies aimed at twelve year-olds), but consider this:
His entire life, Troy has been brought up to be a star basketball player. He’s the basketball coach’s son. Everyone in the community refers to him as “the basketball guy”. As long as he leads his teammates to victory and continues to be the star athlete of East High, everyone adores him. That’s a ton of pressure to put on a kid, but no one ever stops to think about how Troy might feel about it, or how the application of all of that pressure might affect him psychologically.
Then, when he’s sixteen, Troy realizes that he’s pretty good at singing. In fact, he actually enjoys it. He believes that Gabriella, the girl who just happens to aid him in this discovery, is someone that he can confide in, someone who would like the real Troy, the kid behind this image of East High’s “Primo Boy”.
Of course, we learn that Troy is completely wrong about that. Gabriella ultimately turns out to be just one more person that only values Troy based on how associating with him can benefit her. She never supports him, unless doing so would make her look good, or he’s doing something that she can profit from. She sees the “real him”, alright, and she uses that insight as a means of mocking (“The Wildcat Superstar is afraid?” “You’re crazy, Wildcat”, “You have your team and I have mine. It’s where we belong. Go Wildcats”) or emotionally wounding him (“It doesn’t just seem like new stuff. It seems like a new Troy”, “The club talent show is a big deal to Sharpay, and, evidently, for your future. So, it’s cool. Make it happen. Wear your new Italian shoes”). She pressures him to live up to impossibly high standards (“I thought you were my fairytale, my dream when I’m not sleeping, a wish upon a star that’s coming true”, “I hope some of those activities include a job”, “Let’s just focus on right now! ‘Cause I’ve never been in one place for an entire summer”, “I want to remember this summer”), and when he inevitably fails to meet those standards, she harshly criticizes him, heaps on passive-aggression and guilt, and then abandons him until he apologizes for causing his own abuse at her hands.
Troy spends a good chunk of his summer vacation getting sexually harassed by the daughter of his employers’. The sexual harassment is not only played for laughs, even when it takes a turn for the skin-crawlingly disturbing, but Troy also gets blamed for it by Taylor, a character who holds a grudge against him simply because he’s a jock and a boy, Gabriella, and the narrative, itself.
His friends demonstrate how fragile their sense of loyalty truly is, as well, that summer. The very moment that Troy stops doing what they want him to do, they turn on him.
Only once is Troy ever allowed to get angry at this behavior, by the way; in the first movie, when his friends/teammates’ selfishness and inconsiderate behavior almost ruins Troy and Gabriella auditioning for the musical, and would, as a result, obstruct the ultimate message of and resolution to the film.
After that, Troy’s self-esteem begins to plummet drastically. And, this plummet is visible to the audience. He dubs himself a “jerk” for being concerned with his future. He believes that Chad- his best friend since preschool- and Gabriella- who has only been in his life for about six months, or so, at that point in the series- know him better than he knows himself. Troy is convinced that his future isn’t important if him trying to ensure a decent education for himself makes his friends unhappy. He allows his friends and girlfriend to bully him out of going after a scholarship, informing Sharpay that although performing in the talent show for the boosters from the University of Albuquerque could change his life, he’s “more interested in what [his] friends think of him”. He then apologizes to Chad for trying to better himself.
Troy is so focused on pleasing other people, he just stops caring about his own future until around the last few months of his senior year. And, when it looks like another momentous opportunity is being extended to him during that time period, a potential scholarship to Juilliard, his friends and girlfriend all laugh at him. Not a single one of them is ever reprimanded for doing that, making it seem like the narrative wants you, the viewer, to think that Troy, himself, is one big laughing stock, and the very idea that he could ever get into one of the most prestigious performing arts universities in the United States is outright laughable.
Troy reaches a point where he feels like he needs Gabriella to pick out his clothes for him so he’ll “look right”. His truck constantly breaking down results in Chad getting angry at him for needing help pushing the truck home, and Gabriella laughing as the engine splutters, and expressing complete apathy as the vehicle breaks down right outside her house. She stands there on her balcony, watching as Troy is left with no option but to walk home, too busy wallowing in self-pity to do anything for her boyfriend that she supposedly loves.
Troy is guilted into encouraging Gabriella to accept the early enrollment at Stanford, and when he does, which is actually incredibly mature and selfless of him, Gabriella whines about how it’s unfair to her, and that she wishes everything would slow down to a stop, just for her, or that she could go back to kindergarten.
Sharpay, the very girl that sexually harassed him relentlessly, the previous summer, winds up taking Gabriella’s role as Troy’s girlfriend in the school musical.
When Troy considers looking into colleges outside of the one his dad wants him to attend, he’s scolded for it and pushed into having his second onscreen emotional breakdown. This one is astonishingly not made into a farce, unlike the previous one.
Troy is told that Gabriella extensively stringing him along, only to decimate his hopes at the last minute that she’s actually going to follow through on her word and come down to attend the prom with him, makes her “one step ahead”.
In the end, he “decides” that Gabriella getting to have her cake and eat it, too, is more important than his psychological well-being, and he follows her to college. Not a single person tries to talk him out of it.
Think of how people would have reacted if the roles were reversed, if a teenage girl followed her selfish, passive-aggressive, emotionally abusive boyfriend to college, and was never allowed to figure things out for herself, or even accept credit for her own personal accomplishments, because the narrative was biased in her boyfriend’s favor and gave him credit for things that she did.
Think of the outrage that would have ensued.
I will never understand why this was allowed to happen, and I’ll never not be angry about it. The appalling level of negligence and apathy that the writer showed to his main character, who happens to be a truly likable, sympathetic, good kid, is why I can’t stomach watching High School Musical 3: Senior Year all the way through ever again. Seeing Troy be forced to bend to his abusers, apologize for “causing” them to mistreat him, and wind up following his main abuser to college to please her, because she couldn’t make an effort to be with him, is like someone telling me that I deserved to be mistreated by my dad, that he was right in how he treated my family, that he deserves to have his house back, and that we should be more understanding of how he feels. That we should just accept him back into our lives and apologize for getting a protection order against him. It’s like telling anyone else with a history of abuse, or who is currently in an abusive relationship that if they don’t do exactly what their abusers want them to do and it makes their abuser angry, that they’re a “jerk”, that their abusers clearly know them better than they know themselves, and that they aren’t worthy of love or friendship because they aren’t putting their abusers first at all times. It’s saying that if you just give in and let other people control your life without question, then and only then can you be happy.
And, that’s WRONG. I shouldn’t even have to get into how WRONG that is.
Sharpay kind of got the short end of the stick from the writer; never being really developed due to the “Status Quo Is God” trope resulting in her continuously reverting back to her scheming and manipulative state from the first movie, no matter how many times she learns her lesson, and being characterized as the “villain” when she’s actually more sympathetic and likable than Gabriella.
As did poor Ryan, who they not only tried to unceremoniously shove back into the closet, but also receives very little screen time, in spite of his undeniable status as a fan favorite, is short-changed in the merchandise department, and, according to the merchandise that he is fortunate enough to appear in, isn’t allowed to have any friends other than his sister, Sharpay. Even though Zac Efron and Lucas Grabeel went to great lengths to depict Troy and Ryan as being very close, as in 'sexually and romantically interested in each other’ close, and Ryan is one of the only characters that treats Troy as though his feelings matter.
But, what happened to Troy is utterly inexcusable. Peter Barsocchini, Kenny Ortega, and anyone else involved with sealing Troy’s fate should be ashamed of themselves. Not only for promoting this repulsive victim-blaming mentality and glorifying a character as vile as Gabriella Montez, but for some of the most unforgivably bad writing I’ve ever seen. Kids movie or otherwise.