Skip To Content

    Who's The Real Villain In "High School Musical" – Gabriella Or Sharpay?

    Are you #TeamSharpay or #TeamGabriella?

    For years, there's been an ongoing debate about who the REAL villain in the iconic High School Musical franchise is.

    The main cast of High School Musical jumping into the air gleefully
    Disney Channel

    Is it Sharpay or is it Gabriella?

    Gabriella and Sharpay edited to be scowling at each other
    Disney Channel/Austin Allie

    I'm going to give you the information from an objective (ok, fine... semi-objective) stance so you can decide for yourself. Let's get started!

    To start off, Gabriella transfers to East High and immediately has a romantic connection with Troy. Sharpay has had a crush on Troy for a while and is understandably upset about this.

    Gabriella and Troy looking lovingly into each other's eyes
    Disney Channel

    Some might say this is the first sign that Gabriella is the villain, but Gabriella just transferred to that school, and what Sharpay doesn't know is that Gabrielle and Troy have already had a previous romantic encounter at a ski lodge at the beginning of the movie. Regardless, Gabriella doesn't know Sharpay and doesn't owe her anything. So while Sharpay's hurt feelings are completely valid, Gabriella's done nothing wrong... yet.

    Then, Sharpay and Ryan audition for the school musical with a song that Kelsi wrote. But, without consulting Kelsi at all, they COMPLETELY change her composition.

    Sharpay and Ryan performing on stage
    Disney Channel

    A lot of Sharpay lovers would say she made the song better. While Sharpay's version of the song is admittedly great, I can see how going behind Kelsi's back like that could definitely come off as disrespectful.

    But then Ms. Darbus overhears Gabriella and Troy singing Kelsi's orginal version of the song, and she decides to give them both a callback.

    Gabriella and Troy are staring at each other and singing by a piano
    Disney Channel

    This is another moment where Sharpay lovers would say that Gabriella and Troy are in the wrong. But while Sharpay's frustration towards Gabriella and Troy being handed an opportunity that she's worked really hard for is valid, Ms. Darbus is the one to blame here – not Gabriella. And is anyone really to blame? The high school musical is a school activity that everyone should be allowed to participate in, right?

    So then Kelsi requests that Sharpay and Ryan sing her song the way it was meant to be sung. In response to this, Sharpay says, "You do not offer direction, suggestion, or commentary."

    Sharpay staring rudely
    Disney Channel

    I think this is a moment where we can all agree that Sharpay was waaaay out of line. There's no reason to treat Kelsi – or anyone, for that matter – so poorly and make her feel inferior. If Sharpay wanted the song to be more upbeat, she should've had a calm discussion about it.

    Then Sharpay finds out about Troy and Gabriella getting callbacks, and she's VERY upset. So what does she do? She convinces Ms. Darbus to switch the date of the callbacks to the same day as Troy's game and Gabriella's decathlon so they can't make it. Yikes...

    Sharpay and Evan in the school hallway looking bewildered at the callback list
    Disney Channel

    I've seen some people argue that Sharpay did this because Troy and Gabriella needed to get their priorities straight, but.... that's a bit of a stretch. It's obvious that her goal was to get them out of the drama club and have the lead role for herself and Ryan.

    So... was Sharpay wrong in this situation? In my humble opinion – yes and no. Her anger is completely justified. Two new people who have never sung in a musical before could possibly get the lead roles that she's probably worked really hard for her entire life. But the way she handles this situation is inexcusable. There's no denying that.

    Despite Sharpay's best efforts, Troy and Gabriella manage to make it to the callbacks and get cast in the lead roles. However, they were late to the callbacks which – in the world of showbiz – is a HUGE no-no. But does this make them the bad guys?

    Troy and Gabrielle on stage singing together

    I don't think so. And after all, they wouldn't have shown up late if Sharpay hadn't tried to sabotage them in the first place.

    Oh and let's not forget when Zeke comes up to Sharpay and asks her to watch him play basketball and offers to bake her something to which she replies by screaming at him and storming off.

    Zeke asking out Sharpay and her pulling a stink face
    Disney Channel

    Not to be a Sharpay apologist, but what we need to understand is that she was in a very bad mood. He decided to hit on her at the worst possible time. She just had food dumped all over her (by accident) so waiting until she wasn't covered in cheese fries or whatever would probably have been Zeke's best bet. Was yelling at him the right reaction? No. But we all let our emotions get the best of us sometimes, right?

    But at the end of the film, just when we think Sharpay is Regina George incarnate, Sharpay wishes Gabriella good luck during "We're All in This Together."

    Sharpay wishing Gabriella good luck in the show
    Disney Channel

    We love a good redemption arc! This is the moment where we can all see that Sharpay isn't a villain. She's just a teenager who's very, very passionate about the arts. Underneath all the anger and attitude is a good person. Does this excuse any of her actions? No. But does it prove she's not a villain? Maybe so...

    However, the story doesn't end there.

    At the very beginning of High School Musical 2, Sharpay gets Troy and Kelsi a job at her parents' resort.

    Sharpay sitting by the pool looking very luxurious
    Disney Channel

    This was a very kind thing for Sharpay to do, for Kelsi specifically. This would've been one of her best moments if it wasn't for the fact that she got Troy the job just so she could steal him away from Gabriella. Her goal to tear their happy relationship apart is... not exactly redeeming.

    Then Troy negotiates with the manager of the resort to get all the Wildcats – including Gabriella – a job for the summer. Sharpay finds out when they arrive at the resort and forces the manager to be extra hard on the Wildcats (excluding Troy, of course).

    Sharpay looking kind of evil but also summery
    Disney Channel

    What Troy did was very kind. He knew all of his friends needed a job and pulled through for them. That definitely seems like a good guy to me! And sure, Sharpay is angry at first but she gets over it and stops trying to tear Troy and Gabriella apart, right?


    Sharpay starts giving Troy a lot of amazing opportunities like meetings with college basketball players, promotions, and scholarships.

    Sharpay smiling at Troy at a fancy dinner party and he looks uncomfortable
    Disney Channel

    I think we can all agree that this seems very generous and kind at first glance, but it all comes down to the intention behind her actions. If Sharpay's only goal here was to help Troy out then I wouldn't say anything. But this was all part of her plan to spend more time with him and win him over. I wish I could give Sharpay the benefit of the doubt here, but she's making it really hard.

    That's when Troy – charmed by all the perks of spending time around Sharpay – starts to abandon all the people he loves. He ditches them to play basketball with college players. He forgets about commitments he made with his friends. He even misses multiple lunch dates he planned with Gabriella.

    Troy in a pool swimming by himself because he lost all his friends
    Disney Channel

    While Troy is wrong for ditching his friends and his girlfriend, I think we need to be a little more understanding. Sharpay is offering him college scholarships, and all he has to do is have a few dinners with her family and sing with her in one little talent show? That's not a big price to pay for going to college for free. Sure, what Sharpay is doing is sneaky and manipulative, but TBH Troy would be a fool to skip out on something like this. I think all the Wildcats could've been a bit more sympathetic especially since Troy has a lot riding on this summer AND he's unknowingly being manipulated. But still, the Wildcats' emotions are completely valid. We'd all feel upset if we felt abandoned by someone we love.

    But what about when Sharpay bails on her own brother in favor of Troy?

    Sharpay being a prima donna at the country club resort
    Disney Channel

    Sharpay's parents own the resort... Couldn't she have made them let her sing two songs at the talent show – one with Ryan and one with Troy? Or, better yet, she could have just honored her commitment to Ryan and left Troy alone. She made poor Ryan buy a costume and practice a number that no one would ever see because she planned on ditching him for Troy the whole time.

    *Sigh* Ok... when Sharpay steals the song Kelsi wrote for Gabriella and Troy, that's pretty bad.

    Troy and Sharpay on stage singing together while Troy looks disinterested
    Disney Channel

    This one's pretty self explanatory. Even though Kelsi didn't want to give Sharpay the song, Sharpay stole it anyways. Things aren't looking so good for Sharpay in this sequel.

    Then all the Wildcats decide to participate in the talent show. But, of course, Sharpay finds out and makes a new rule that all the staff must be working the night of the show.

    Sharpay smiling at her evil plan
    Disney Channel

    This was very petty on Sharpay's part. The Wildcats were just looking to have a bit of fun, and she felt threatened by it. She could've easily let them perform and rigged the competition if winning was THAT important to her. But then again, I'm not sure it was. Her goal was to make the Wildcats miserable so that they would leave and Troy would be alone to spend all his free time with her. So by refusing to let the Wildcats participate in the show, she was only digging herself further into a hole of villainy. Smh.

    After a very dramatic breakup (and an even more dramatic musical number), Troy discovers what Sharpay's been doing all along. He responds by bailing on the talent show and giving back all the opportunities Sharpay had manipulated him with.

    Sharpay at her high school locker looking incredibly peeved that she was caught
    Disney Channel

    It's unfortunate that Troy had to miss out on everything Sharpay was offering, but his relationships and his integrity were clearly more important to him. Besides, he got loads of great opportunities without Sharpay's help. And something a lot of Sharpay lovers would say is that Troy is wrong for bailing on Sharpay, and it's Gabriella's fault that he bailed. But, if you remember earlier, Sharpay bailed on her own brother. Also Gabriella never got upset with Troy for singing with Sharpay or tried to make him stop. Troy made that decision on his own because he felt as if he was losing himself as a person.

    At the end of the movie, the Wildcats perform at the talent show anyways, and Troy – as a gesture of good will – brings Sharpay up on stage. Then Sharpay has her own redeeming moment where she selflessly gives the talent show award to Ryan.

    The cast of High School Musical 2 about to jump into a pool together
    Disney Channel

    Once again, Troy's gesture shows that Sharpay isn't all bad. It also shows that despite all the wrong Sharpay has done, Troy still wants to show her kindness and make her feel included. It was also pretty nice of her to give the award to her brother even if it was the very least she could do.

    So, that's it? Everyone's redeemed and happy, right? Nope! There's another movie.

    In the third movie, Gabriella convinces all the graduating seniors to participate in the school musical. Sharpay – up to her usual antics – is after Gabriella's role because it's next to Troy. When Sharpay finds out that Gabriella has gotten accepted into college early, she decides to manipulate Troy into convincing Gabriella to leave so she can have him all to herself.

    Sharpay on stage giving Gabriella a dirty look
    Disney Channel

    Sharpay already had a good solo in the musical so there was absolutely no reason for her to be after Gabriella's role besides being closer to Troy. Why is this girl always scheming for that boy?!

    But then comes the night of the performance, and Troy leaves to chase after Gabriella. Since he's not there, his understudy goes on with Sharpay and bombs the performance. This throws Sharpay off, causing her to break character mid-performance.

    Sharpay looking shocked beside Ryan
    Disney Channel

    Many would say that Sharpay didn't deserve this and that it was pretty unprofessional of Troy to bail last minute. But after all the wrong she's done, I'm not so sure. It's unfortunate though because this performance foiled her chances of getting into Juilliard – aka, her dream school. But a lot of other people would say that it's her fault for breaking character (even if her costar was terrible).

    And to make matters worse, Sharpay takes her original solo back and gets into a catfight with her understudy on stage after Troy and Gabriella finally get to do their duet.

    Sharpay sabotaging her understudy's role
    Disney Channel

    Yeah... needless to say, Sharpay definitely didn't get that scholarship to Juilliard. Some people blame Gabriella and Troy for that, but truthfully, Sharpay was the cause of her own downfall. Breaking character and getting into fights mid-performance just... wasn't it. She was unprofessional and therefore paid the price.

    Throughout the entire franchise, Gabriella has done nothing but encourage Troy to follow both of his passions – basketball and musical theater. Does that sound like a villain?

    Gabriella and Troy having a picnic together
    Disney Channel

    Supporting her boyfriend in doing whatever makes him happy is definitely a good girlfriend moment for Gabriella. Could Troy ask for anything better?

    Yet again, at the end of HSM3, Sharpay has another redeeming moment, although it's a lot less prominent than in the first two movies. All she did here was smile at Gabriella, but it was clear that she was happy, and that the two girls were forming some sort of bond or – at the very least – mutual respect.

    Sharpay smiling at Gabrielle during graduation
    Disney Chanel

    At the end of the day, what we need to realize is that minor good moments don't always make up for the bad ones. But also, being the villain in a story doesn't mean you're pure evil 100% of the time. Sharpay was imperfect, and I think that's what makes her such a good character. Despite her many devious schemes, we can all relate to her at some point or another.

    My opinion? Gabriella Montez is the heroin of this story. And even if that makes Sharpay the villain, that's fine by me. Why? Because Sharpay is without a doubt the most iconic and unforgettable character of the HSM franchise

    So, do you agree with me? Let me know what you think in the comments! And remember, even if we don't agree, we're all in this together! ❤️

    Disney Channel