We’re back at it again with the queer subtext in Disney movies. This time, we’re going old school. And by old school, I mean High School. High School Musical 2, to be exact. The 2007 summer flick showed Troy Bolton and the Wildcats basketball team facing a brand-new status quo – the class divide. But this isn’t a Marxist reading of High School Musical 2 (that’s a hot take for another day), so I’ll get back to the point.
If it isn’t already glaringly obvious, you might be wondering: what kind of queer representation could High School Musical 2 have to offer? Sure, Troy is wearing a quantity of fake tan unmatched by anyone but Liberace, and arguably his series-long inner conflict about choosing Basketball or The Arts could be an allegory for bisexuality. But if you look past Troy, who was an asshole in this film anyway, you’ll see that the song “I Don’t Dance” was the real queer awakening story all along.
In this unforgettable dance number, Troy’s slogan-shirted, aggressively “straight” best friend Chad Danforth trades in his beloved basketball for a baseball bat, as he leads the Wildcats in a staff baseball match at the Country Club Lava Springs. But he’s in for a surprise when Ryan Evans, the twin brother of Sharpay and heir of Lava Springs, steps up to the challenge.
High School Musical 2 [Dir. Kenny Ortega, 2007]
Chad checking out Ryan Ryan is a Top
Two bros, dancing in a dance-off, 2 hat brims part 'cause they're gay
You just have to look at Ryan’s extensive collection of very flamboyant hats to know that the boy isn’t straight. When he and Chad look into each other’s eyes, fondling the baseball bat as they battle for dominance of the field, the sexual tension is unexpected, yet undoubtedly there. So palpable is their connection, that it incites a three minute dance number where Chad insists he does not dance, whilst being powerless to stop himself from doing so – he is clearly in denial.
The lyrics of the song speak for themselves. “You never know if you never try,” croons Ryan. “There’s just one little thing that stops me every time,” Chad responds (could it be internalized homophobia?). Mere moments later, Chad says to Ryan “I’ll show you how I swing.” The pitchers and catchers (I literally cannot make this stuff up) then take to centre field for a jazzy dance off, with Chad and Ryan playing off each other in what could only be described by any Attenborough fan as a mating dance.
Eventually, much to our disappointment, the song comes to an end, and Ryan begins to walk away, defeated, as Chad celebrates with his teammates. Just as Ryan thinks all hope is lost, Chad stops him in his tracks. “Hey Evans. I’m not saying I’m going to dance in the show. But if I did,” he says, as his eyes flick up and down Ryan’s body, “What would you have me do?” Ryan gives a smirk in response that says it all.
So, Chad has been awakened. He must accept the fact that while Ryan may have lost the match, he has won his heart. And if that isn’t enough evidence for you, the next time we see both characters, they are eating lunch together IN EACH OTHER’S CLOTHES.