High School Musical, Girl Power Princesses and an Old School Sleuth.
It's a tidal wave.
And it will take over virtually every American home in which a 'tween-aged girl -- and occasional boy - resides as of August 17. For all of you who do not have a person between the ages of 8-12 in your household, allow me to enlighten you: August 17 is the premiere date for the Disney Channel's much anticipated TV movie, "High School Musical 2."
Who cares about a made-for-TV sequel for pre-teens? Well, judging by the success of the first film, the original "High School Musica l" (think "Grease," only without sex, profanity, drag racing or Olivia
Newton John's leather hot pants) millions of people care. The "High School Musical" franchise you see, has a gravitational pull of its own. Look at the numbers: According to USA Today , this thoroughly wholesome flick about an extraordinarily brainy girl and a basketball star boy who fall in love and beat back high school stereotypes in order to try out for their school's musical has been seen by an
estimated 160 million people since its January 2006 premiere. Its DVD and CD sales have earned Disney over a half a BILLION dollars. Its soundtrack was the number one CD of any genre in 2006. It has spawned an ice show and over 2,000 theatrical productions across the country.
The mega-hyped arrival of "High School Musical 2 " caps a summer of some pretty decent fare when it comes to providing kids --girls specifically -- with positive messages about strength and intellect, a
refreshing antithesis to the summer's real-world cautionary tales playing out on national newscasts about young DUI/drug addled starlets.
The original "High School Musical," which continues to post monster ratings for the Disney Channel, has a premise a working mom could appreciate: Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) plays a super-smart teenaged girl who moves to a new high school in the middle of the school year because her mother got a job transfer, which the single mom promised would be the last one until her daughter graduates. Gabriella falls for Troy Bolton (Zac Efron), who's the star player for his championship- destined basketball team coached by his father. Both teens fight stereotypes - smart kids must only love books, jocks are dumb, cheerleaders are brainless, etc.- and demonstrate to their peers that anyone can be anything. There's even a token pregnant chemistry teacher thrown in the mix.
While encore "HSM" showings dot cable TV schedules, this summer, movie theaters offered up a couple of films emphasizing to the younger set that girls can not only be wise and determined, but they can kick some serious behind.
Take "Shrek 3 ." Ho-hum. Another sequel. The ogre's green mug was plastered over seemingly every food item in grocery stores coast-to-coast, prompting children of all ages to pine for items like
Shrek yogurt. "Is this purely a merchandizing machine?" I asked myself when my husband and I brought our three kids to see the flick earlier this summer. Much to my surprise, it was not. The movie had a girl-power thread running through it. Princess Fiona, who was pregnant, and a band of princesses brought down an evil Prince Charming who'd taken control of Fiona and Shrek's castle. To the tune of Heart's "Barracuda," Fiona and her princess friends - Snow White, Rapunzel, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty - joined forces to defeat the bad guys, inspired by Fiona's mother, the Queen, who head-butted a wall to break them out of their confinement in the dungeon. In this movie, according to actress Cameron Diaz who provided Fiona's voice, the princesses realize that "they can actually be in
charge of their own destiny."
As real-life young female celebrities were thrown in jail or arrested or were rehabbing someplace and their tales were told on newspaper front pages, the movie "Nancy Drew "
arrived. And instead of sexing up the Nancy we knew from back in the day, the film's producers let her be an old-fashioned gal who wears plaid, penny loafers, headbands and cardigans. While mean girls in Nancy's new school texted insults about her to members of their clique and mocked her for notfollowing the crowd, Nancy (Emma Roberts) remained true to herself. Oh and she took on decades-old murder mystery of movie star.
The messages these films sent our daughters: Be yourself. Be smart.
Be tough. Be not afraid. Not too shabby for summer fare.
"High School Musical," the original Disney movie, is available on DVD  .
"HighSchool Musical 2 " premieres on the Disney Channel on August 17. Clips from "Shrek 3 " can be seen here, and a promotional trailer for "Nancy Drew" is available here .
Meredith O'Brien is the author of A Suburban Mom: Notes from the Asylum, a collection of humor columns, and the mother of three. She writes the Boston Mommy  blog about
parenting for the Boston Herald's web site and teaches journalism at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.