High School Musical 3′s Ryan Evans still a coded gay character


Actor Lucas Grabeel plays HSM‘s "Ryan"
Photo credit: Steve Granitz/WireImage

Once
upon a time in Hollywood,
there was the Hays Code, a set of rules that major motion picture studios were
forced to follow. The code forbade, among other things, nudity, crude language,
mockery of religion and “lustful kissing.” Also not allowed were references to
“sex perversion,” including homosexuality.

Did
that mean there were no gay characters in movies? Heck, no. They were just
“coded.” The persnickety and purse-lipped Franklin Pangborn, constantly
exasperated by the foibles of W.C. Fields, or the fey Edward Everett Horton,
forever complicating romantic matters between Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers,
were never identified as gay men. But they didn’t have to be — the audience saw
their demeanor, their behavior, the way they spoke, acted, and dressed, and
their queerness was forthrightly implied if never directly named.

Franklin Pangborn (left) and Edward Everett Horton

If
there’s anyone in contemporary show business that has to follow rules even
stricter than the Hays Code, it’s the makers of children’s television. So when
the Disney Channel struck gold with the High School Musical franchise,
it’s no surprise that they never explicitly told the audience that the
character of Ryan Evans was gay. But again, they didn’t need to.

Portrayed
by Lucas Grabeel in all the HSM films — including the new,
theatrically-released High School Musical 3: Senior Year — Ryan loves
dance, choreography, yoga and musical theater. (We also learn in HSM 2
that he’s a helluva baseball player.) His sartorial choices lean toward Boy
Carrie Bradshaw ensembles; during the screening of HSM 3, I jotted down
notes about Ryan’s outfits, including “cardigan,” “kneeboots,” “tight pink
pants with matching headband,” “sweater vest with asymmetrical argyle pattern,”
and “A Chorus Line top hat and tails.”

Some of Ryan’s many wardrobe changes in HSM3

But
in the great tradition of characters played by Pangborn, Horton and Tony
Randall before him, Ryan is something of a eunuch. The HSM movies wind
up with most of the major characters paired off into couples, but Ryan never
has a significant other of either gender to call his own. He seems chummy with
songwriter Kelsi (Olesya Rulin), but their relationship plays more
fruit-and-fly than as a love connection.

HSM 3 has Ryan choreographing the spring show — one character refers to his warm-up exercises as "some kind of crazy Fosse yoga thing" — and competing for a scholarship to Julliard. When a teacher informs him he’s a finalist, Ryan (seemingly involuntarily) blurts out, "Dance!"

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