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What’s up with the 1980s-themed soundtrack for 2005’s Sky High, a film ostensibly aimed at millennial teenagers? I’ll Melt With You? Everybody Wants to Rule the World? Sure, they’re new versions, but not particularly different from the originals (I didn’t realize that the Go-Gos number, Can’t Stop the World, was a remake until I looked it up, for example). These songs were hits before the kids in the cast were even born. I have two theories. Either (a). director Mike Mitchell was making subtle homage to 80s teen-flick demigod John Hughes, by choosing songs from his era, or else (b). the movie was secretly aimed, not at teenagers, but at 40-year-old men.

I was exactly 40 years old in 2005, and I loved it. So there’s one data point in favor of (b). Not that there’s anything wrong with 40-year-old men, except for the back pain and the onset of chronic disillusionment. But enough about me.

Lets talk, instead about supporting character Warren Peace, the “bad boy” with a heart, played to smoldering, sweet perfection (just like a S’more!) by male model/pop singer Steven Strait.

Just in case you can’t tell which actor I’m talking about, even after watching the above video: Steven Strait is the cute one. Duh! He’s also the one with the fire coming out of his arms. Of course he is. My heart goes pitter-patter, even now. He was 19 when the movie came out (legal! barely!), so it’s not completely sad that I had a crush, okay? Only slightly sad. Steven Strait isn’t the only reason I liked the movie, mind you. He’s just what you might call a major contributing factor.

I also liked the soundtrack, as the director intended.

I also liked the story. The son of the world’s two most powerful and popular heroes has to go to his first day of superhero high school with a terrible secret: he has no powers. He’s the non-cute kid in the red, white and blue. Anyway, he’s “outed” pretty quickly by the superhero equivalent of Harry Potters’ “Sorting Hat” — a trial-by-power wherein a car is dropped on him, among other things — and then tracked into the “sidekick” vocational path. In his own words, he’s placed with “the losers.”

Spoiler alert: about twenty minutes later, his powers show up, but he stays friends with the losers, who help him save the day. The end.

I have a Twitter friend who felt that the moral of the story should have been “just accept who you are,” and that the kid getting superpowers screwed up the vibe. But that moral, as good and meaningful and true as it happens to be, would never have convinced anybody. It would’ve had no impact. No teenager (or forty-year-old man, for that matter) is going to accept any implied lack of specialness. Everybody wants to rule the world. Right? Especially everybody who goes to superhero movies, like me (and you), wants to rule the world. Superhero movies are about feeding the power fantasy, not about tamping it down. We’ve all got real life to do that for us. Sky High‘s actual moral is much more apt to have an impact, because it slyly panders to the audience’s sense of entitlement, while pointing the way to healthy, ethical behavior: even special people — like you, and you, and you — don’t get to be assholes. So stop being an asshole. 

As you might imagine from the title, this post is the third in a series of ten. You will find more posts in this series behind the “More” link, below.

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