Sharpay Is Actually The Heroine Of The High School Musical Series And I Stand By That

Ashley Tisdale listening to Vanessa Hudgens sing in High School Musical.
(Image credit: Disney)

I am a part of the High School Musical generation. What does that mean? 

That means I was one of the millions of fans who tuned in to watch these movies whenever they would premiere on the Disney Channel. I was there the day High School Musical 2 broke records, in the theaters when High School Musical: Senior Year came out, and was first to watch High School Musical: The Musical: The Series on Disney+. I freaking loved these movies and honestly, I stand by them as being fun musicals to watch, no matter how cliche they can be. 

But in my quest to re-watch these movies as an adult, I started to realize something – why is it that Sharpay is always painted as the antagonist of the franchise? It’s heavily established in the first movie that she’s the mean girl, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to realize that Sharpay, at least to me, is a heroine of the High School Musical series – a morally gray protagonist, if you will. And today, I’m going to go over my reasons why. 

Ashley Tisdale in High School Musical 2.

(Image credit: The Disney Channel)

First Off, She’s Just A High Schooler – We All Make Mistakes When We’re Teenagers

I feel like many arguments that I’ve heard when it comes to Sharpay being the villain is that she was A) supposedly mean to everyone she talked to and B) constantly chasing after Troy when he was with Gabriella (or at the very least, talking to her in the first movie.)

I always have two counter arguments to that now. First off, I don’t think Sharpay was mean – she sort of reminds me of Santana Lopez from the hit Ryan Murphy-created show, Glee, where she was legit just brutally honest. Every time she really spoke, it was always something about theater, which she was an expert in, or in regards to how people should stick to what they know – because if you’re not going to put in the commitment to something new, what's the point?

I don’t see her as mean. To be honest, I see her as someone who knew exactly what she wanted, and was willing to do anything to get it. Did she have an attitude at certain people? Of course, but again, she was so young, people change all the time.

In terms of her chasing after Troy, yeah, I don’t totally disagree with people's issues that, but at the same time, literally every girl in that high school was lusting after him – it’s Zac Efron, for Christ’s sake. Of course they would be. He’s a good-looking dude! But I’ll say this – she was a teenager. We all make stupid mistakes as teenagers and grow from them, and her chasing after Troy was a stupid one that even she has grown from in Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure. 

Ashley Tisdale in High School Musical.

(Image credit: Disney Channel)

Secondly, This Girl Has Performed Since She Was A Kid – And They Were Trying To Take It Away From Her

One of the biggest gripes I had with this film series is that Sharpay was painted as someone who was a jerk for wanting to have major roles in a musical, something she has done since she was a child. Let me tell you how this story really goes:

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Sharpay has been performing with her brother since they were kids. Every year, it’s the same theater kids, the same people they’re used to being around, and now, all of a sudden, the jock of the school and the new girl want to take on the main roles. Of course Sharpay, who has spent years of her life dedicated to theater, would be upset. 

She feels as if the popular kids are suddenly infringing on the very thing that she is utterly devoted to, something they had never taken seriously up until now. We all saw how they reacted to Ms. Darbus and her theatricality in their homeroom – they made fun of her, but at the end they are trying to beat out Sharpay and Ryan for what reason? Just so the popular kids could have a part in the show? That’s main character energy right there – and not the good kind. 

Ashley Tisdale in High School Musical 2.

(Image credit: Disney Channel)

Sharpay Is Actually Also A Great Friend To Have

And to be honest, I actually think Sharpay would be an excellent friend. I look at her brutal honesty as something that’s valuable in a friendship because she’ll always be real with you. There’s no sugar-coating, there’s no lying – she’s just who she is and if you don’t like it, you can go. 

Sharpay is also very passionate. When she sets her mind on something, she makes sure she can do anything in order to achieve it, so if she really cares about you, she’d do anything to make you happy. Even at the end of High School Musical 2, we see a shift in her when she awards the Star Dazzle Award to her brother for all his hard work – showing that underneath her brutal honesty, there is a caring heart there. 

And not like this really matters in the grand scheme of things, but due to Sharpay’s background, she has connections. We all saw in HSM2 when Sharpay was literally able to hook Troy up with her family’s connections to play with actual NCAA basketball players, something that is not easy to come by until you’re scouted into a school.

Ashley Tisdale in High School Musical: Senior Year.

(Image credit: Disney Channel)

To Be Honest, Sharpay Deserved The Roles Far More Than Troy And Gabriella

I’m going to be honest here and say that I seriously think Sharpay deserved so many more roles than Troy and Gabriella. 

That’s not to say that the High School Musical cast isn’t talented, but Sharpay was bred to be a performer. She has trained for this for years and you can tell just by the way she walks and talks. She plans out these elaborate performances with her brother, practices choreography, and uses her acting skills – and sometimes this is all just for a callback. Meanwhile, Troy and Gabriella show up in a basketball uniform and a science coat and they get the parts – nah, that’s not right. 

Even in the last movie, I felt like the musical was written to star around Gabriella and Troy rather than even have an auditioning process to see who really deserved the main role, which is unfair for people who have spent their entire lives pursuing theater. It’s not right in the slightest. 

Ashley Tisdale on High School Musical: Senior Year.

(Image credit: Disney)

Even In The Third Movie, Sharpay Is Still Perceived As An Antagonist As She Competes For A Freaking Juilliard Scholarship

While in the third film, Sharpay’s antagonist role is diminished a bit just because a new transfer girl comes around named Tiara who tries to steal Sharpay’s thunder, she’s still not presented in the best light as she is competing for a Juilliard scholarship. 

Granted, two of the people she is competing against are Ryan and Kelsi, two of the most talented people besides her in the school. But the last one she is up against is Troy, who arguably doesn’t deserve that scholarship. The acceptance rate for Juilliard now is 8%, and I’m sure back then it wasn’t that much higher, so why should someone, who literally just took up theater a year ago, deserve a scholarship? 

I don’t blame her for going after what she wanted and causing a little bit of mayhem, because to me, that doesn’t make any sense. Sharpay may have been a little slick with her skills – like letting Troy know about Gabriella’s early acceptance to cause strain between them – but to be honest, I still don’t see that as super problematic. I see her as taking a shot for her future, because high school, at the end of the day, doesn’t really matter. 

To be honest, I don’t care what anyone else thinks when it comes to Sharpay, because I still stand by the fact that she’s really not as horrible as people think she is. I’d give anything to see Ashley Tisdale in the role of her again after all these years – and maybe, she just might be seen as the protagonist this time around.  

Alexandra Ramos
Content Producer

A self-proclaimed nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire, Alexandra Ramos is a Content Producer at CinemaBlend. She first started off working in December 2020 as a Freelance Writer after graduating from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in Journalism and a minor in English. She primarily works in features for movies, TV, and sometimes video games. (Please don't debate her on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!) She is also the main person who runs both our daily newsletter, The CinemaBlend Daily, and our ReelBlend newsletter.