Bubblegum is back

Jackie Mantey

After living on a college campus for three years, it’s easy to forget that tweens still do exist, so imagine my surprise when my apartment-decor shopping spree led to me being trapped in an aisle of prepubescence. My search for dinner plates had led me to a mirage for 12-year-olds — the High School Musical aisle.

For anyone who hasn’t seen the Disney movie phenomenon, I’m sure you’ve at least heard of its star Zac Efron and the cultural acceptance that bubble gum is back. The more I contemplate how a movie where the two main lovers never kiss and all anger of the characters is expressed via song and dance numbers with passive aggressive lyrics could possibly be so popular, the more I come back to what was popular when I was entering the trauma of my teenage years.

Most of us grew up with Britney Spears telling us to hit her one more time and Christina Aguilera acquiescing that we rub her the right way. At the time when we were determining what exactly sexy meant and the best way to go about getting that pimply kid in class’ attention, we indulged ourselves (much to the cheer of MTV moguls and ad execs) with images of blonde pop stars in their heydays rubbing themselves down on high school lockers.

With the exception of a few of what we called overprotective parents, most of our moms and dads thought these passive-aggressively-horny ladies and boy bands that completed the pop culture puzzle were great. They were better than the acid-dropping rock stars of their day, right?

It’s been many a tabloid disaster since we last actually heard something productive about any of our generation’s pop idols. We’ve watched in awe as we grew up, and they seemingly didn’t. I’d even venture to say that we’ve been incredibly embarrassed a time or two by both them and the fact that that’s the type of sexual exploitation we’ll be known for.

But as I narrowly dodged being left in the dust of one girl’s pre-adolescent epiphany of a Corbin Bleu (another one of the movie’s stars) pencil sharpener, I caught a glimpse of just who she was running to see — her mother.

And I had my answer.

In the background of this heartwarming but ultimately na’ve movie’s massive popularity sit the parents with control of the remote control. American parents, as well as most of the public, are sick of the trainwreck of our gen’s pop stars and watching that trainwreck every night in the news. They’re asserting their annoyance without really knowing it.

Call it learning from our pop stars’ mistakes. Parents want more for their kids than a girl in pigtails humping a basketball. No wonder, then, that a movie that follows the love of a girl mathlete and a boy basketball player searching for scholarships makes them willing to shell out hundreds of bucks on HSM crap and concerts. We’ve gone from pop star skanks to pop star suck-ups.

And I can see where the parents are coming from. The movie’s innocence makes me a little ill, but that may be a good thing. It’s still creepy to see my sixth-grade cousin loaded with Zac Efron posters, folders and T-Shirts, and kids swarming like flies to the HSM aisle, but you have to admit, it’s much better that 12-year-olds are watching two teens not get it on in pursuit of winning a talent show than learning the dance to “Dirrrrty.”

Jackie Mantey is a senior magazine journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]t.edu.