Guys 'N' Divas: Battle of the High School Musicals
By Kari Croop,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Teen theater documentary could dig a lot deeper.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
The take-away is that students can accomplish impressive things when they work hard -- and work together. There's also a subtle message that a school doesn't have to have lots of money to put on an entertaining production. But that doesn't stop some schools from spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to be "the best." Although brief, it's worth noting that there's a scene in the opening sequence that includes a blackface gag, as well as a joke about Nazis.
Positive Role Models
Most of the students profiled are positive role models who work hard and take their participation seriously (one is austistic, while another spends his spare time as a minister). But some of the adults in charge let their competitive spirits get the best of them.
Violence & Scariness
A student talks about bullying at school and domestic violence in his home; another mourns when an older friend is strangled to death by a python.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some theatrical kissing and talk of "hooking up," but nothing overt. One featured male student is openly gay (and has been bullied for his sexuality); another female student says she's been called a lesbian.
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Language is unbleeped and runs the gamut from "damn," "hell," "sucks," and "crap" to "bitch," "ass," and "creepy f--k." A gay student says he's been called "fairy" and "faggot."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A student mentions that he knows high-schoolers who "party" but that he doesn't indulge -- although he bought cigarettes when he turned 18. Another student admits that he once sold drugs, although he's since reformed.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that, because this documentary about high school musical theater airs on pay cable, viewers will hear unbleeped swearing (including several uses of "f--k"). There's also some candid discussion of issues like bullying, domestic abuse, sexual orientation, and gang-related drug activity, although that isn't the real focus. The bulk of the film concentrates on what it takes to mount three different high school productions from start to finish -- and the answer, in some cases, is lots of money.
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They filmed only the main characters
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What's the Story?
In GUYS 'N' DIVAS: BATTLE OF THE HIGH SCHOOL MUSICALS, filmmaker Barry Blaustein (Beyond the Mat) captures the inherent drama of the high school theater scene by shadowing three different student productions in southern Indiana: Floyd Central High School's Zombie Prom, New Albany High School's Kaiulani: The Last Princess, and Jeffersonville High School's Starmites. The plot centers of which of the schools, if any, will win admission to the prestigious International Thespian Festival, an annual showcase of the nation's best high school theater fare.
Is It Any Good?
Blaustein kicks off his homage to high school theater by talking briefly about his own theatrical experiences as a teen (an animated opening sequence that includes an unfortunate "blackface" gag and a joke about Nazis). But then he basically disappears for the rest of the movie, dropping in only with occasional voice-overs. Still, maybe that's best. After all, it's the students' stories that really make this film worth watching.
But that's also where Blaustein misses the mark. The downside to focusing on three different schools is that he has to split the movie's time between them, a structural problem that ultimately leaves the viewer unsatisfied. Would it have been better (and more revealing) to limit the action to just one of these schools as the students launched a production from start to finish? Maybe. But since, as a director, Blaustein triple-casted his lead, we'll never know.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about whether what they see in this documentary bears any resemblance to their local high schools' musical theater programs. Do you think these schools take their programs too seriously? Is competition good for everyone involved -- or only for those who "win"?
Is there a relationship between the quality of a school's productions and how much money it spends to put them on? Did it surprise you to learn that a high school could spend up to $200,000 to bring one show to the stage?
Did you think the film did a good job of capturing the reality of high school theater? Why or why not?
- Premiere date: August 27, 2009
- Network: Showtime
- Genre: Reality TV
- TV rating: TV-14
- Last updated: September 19, 2019
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