HSM empire costs parents plenty


We, as human beings, tend to have a penchant for things that are bad for us. Twinkies, camping and advertisements for any food product containing the word “cheez” in the description come to mind.

In that vein, everyone under 14 (and others who are old enough to know better) has gone bonkers over High School Musical. It’s just one of those things that’s so darned bad — it’s good.

A TV ratings blockbuster and musical bonanza, the must-see-it/have-it/memorize-it marketing blitz of this movie is being driven by the nine- to 14-year-old set.

For those of you just coming out of your self-imposed cave dwelling exile, the three-time movie franchise tracks the star-crossed romance of a gorgeous jock and a stunning whiz kid through high school, socially awkward situations (see also: high school) and cliques (see also: more high school).

Of course, this being Disney’s world, good overcomes acne (and evil), beauty flourishes, everyone can spontaneously break into song and a guaranteed happy ending prevails.

It’s kind of like West Side Story without the fabulous acting, or Grease without the vocal talent of Olivia Newton John.


The first two cinematic entries into the HSM empire debuted on The Disney Channel for free. If by “free” we mean you pay dearly for cable or satellite and have access to the mouse’s monolithic and heavily marketed plasticine world.

High School Musical and High School Musical 2 each debuted on The Disney Channel, played in an endless loop from that point on, and easily grossed something like 400 bazillion dollars for the Disney Corporation in spin-off marketing of toys, clothing, music, school supplies and for all I know q-tips, to children.

For the third version of High School Musical (known as HSM3 to those in the know) the mouse took off the gloves and sent it straight to theatres.

If you want to see HSM3 in time to be mesmerized — and memorize every single line — it’s going to cost ya’ kids.

Oh, who are we kidding? It isn’t going to cost the kids a dime. Their parents, however, are definitely going to pay.

From High School Musical DVDs, CDs, clothing and other branded items, it is guaranteed the HSM empire will be haunting our lives for years to come.

The HSM franchise has crept into every nook and cranny of modern childhood. It’s pure marketing genius and retailers are going nuts trying to get children to spend, spend, spend.

This wouldn’t really be an issue if they weren’t so bent on getting them to spend our money.

Trust me parents, grandparents and doting aunties and uncles. We are the real targets here. My daughter is nine. It’s not like she has a platinum card or a decent mutual fund.

Kid stuff

According to Columbus, Ohio-based Resource Interactive, teens and tweens (ages 9-12) influence approximately 90 percent of all grocery and apparel purchases.

Kids, we are told, are always hungry to spend, rarely have jobs (and therefore have no concept about income and outgo which makes any one of them entirely eligible to run our government, come to think of it) and have tremendous power over their parents.

Thus, retailers have embraced their new best friends: the teen and tween market.

I had no idea my nine-year-old wielded such power.


As the creators’ wallets get fat, ours become lighter. Granted, we had it coming.

It wasn’t so long ago our parents shelled out their hard-earned dollars for our “Fonzie” T-shirts and Grease albums.

Meanwhile their parents ponied up for Howdy Doody merchandise and hunted down Daniel Boone’s coonskin cap in time for those mid-50s holidays.

Today you can buy everything from High School Musical toothpaste, body wash and hand cream — to wallpaper, paint, bedding and apparel.

Alas, one of the only items that won’t break the budget — the hand cream — is almost always sold out. That’s not greasy kid stuff. Perhaps Avon will re-stock this must-have item if only enough fans with chapped hands write in and demand the kind of soothing that can only be had by lotion with plastically pretty teenagers dancing on the label?

We can also open our pocketbooks to buy High School Musical lip gloss, body glitter, nail polish and a punching bag (OK, that last one is a product some of us only wish existed).

Of course, I love my daughter and want her to be happy. Yet, I’m no marketing fool. I manage our money wisely. I don’t give in to every little whim and wish of America’s marketers. No matter how relentlessly they peddle their wares to my kids.

Uh uh. Nope. Not this mom.

Me, I’m holding out for the Hannah Montana toothpaste.


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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.



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