When asked what I did this past weekend, I recounted how I’d shlepped out to New Jersey in a party bus where I partook in my first Medieval Times jousting tournament. But I left out the part of my Saturday where, inspired by last week’s red carpet premiere for Season 3 of Disney’s High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, I blasted the entirety of Olivia Rodrigo’s Grammy-winning album Sour in my kitchen, tenderly wiping the leaves of my plants while whispering, “I love you with the same fervor that Olivia hates Joshua.” But that hatred is apparently no more, as the two were photographed exchanging caresses and giggles on the red carpet.
The enduring love triangle encircling 19-year-old popstar Rodrigo, her rumored ex-boyfriend 21-year-old Bassett, and 23-year-old Sabrina Carpenter, the fellow Disney actor fans believe Bassett left Rodrigo for, is akin to trashy high school gossip that’s based on shards of truth. But whatever the real story, the back-and-forth blame game engineered through lyrics left teen conspiracy theorists (and me) hoping, wishing, praying that this melodramatic love story might be true.
The seeds of a teen idol romance were first sowed during the casting process of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. Bassett told GQ that during his final audition with Rodrigo, “It was very obvious, in my opinion, that she was the perfect one for it… I think people can tell when they watch the show. It was just an instant sort of connection.”
In 2020, fans started speculating that Rodrigo and Bassett were an item, citing social media cameos and the love song they reportedly co-wrote for the series. Later that summer, however, Rodrigo posted a TikTok about “failed relationships.” Around the same time, Bassett was spotted on an assumed lunch date with Carpenter. When Rodrigo released “Drivers License” in January 2021—a song that went on to occupy No. 1 on the Billboard charts for eight weeks—the rumored references to Bassett and Carpenter stood out like a straight man at a gay club (“You’re probably with that blonde girl.../She’s everything I’m insecure about”). By the end of the year, Bassett told GQ that “[Rodrigo] hasn’t spoken to me since ‘Drivers License’ came out.”
Though the pair never confirmed they were dating, Bassett added fuel to the dumpster fire by releasing “Lie Lie Lie” one week after “Driver’s License” about his damaged reputation (though he says it was written months before Rodrigo’s hit wreaked havoc on his personal life). Several diss tracks followed: Rodrigo dropped “Deja Vu” referencing Carpenter (“Another actress/I hate to think that I was just your type”), Bassett dropped an EP that clapped back (“Messing with my life as a career move.../You sensationalize and keep fanning the fire for the sake of headlines”), and Carpenter released “Skin,” in which she allegedly taunted Rodrigo (“You can try/To get under my, under my, under my skin/While he’s on mine/Yeah, all on my, all on my, all on my skin”).
To make matters more complicated, Bassett later came out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community while confessing his fandom of Harry Styles. Still, the two coexisted peacefully on last week’s red carpet, throwing up peace signs instead of screaming or breaking glass, as if the last two years of tabloid fodder never happened.
Perhaps it’s embarrassing that I, at the ripe age of almost 30 years old, have become an internet sleuth over two starlings who could be my younger siblings. But the lyrics of a child have made me believe love is real again. Besides, I want to believe that we inhabit a planet where I still have the privilege of fawning over two blundering adolescents’ love lives. There are probably better brainworms I could be shoving in my ears, but what can I say? Teen drama is a religion worth preaching.