Do the social circles in american high school settings actually exist?


Sometimes known as CaitieLou
May 27, 2009
JimmyPage666 said:
Isn't this yet another thing that's just exaggerated in movies? Hollywood does love its stereotypes.
Hollywood does exaggerate it, but I can promise you from painful experience it does exist.

The main thing Hollywood exaggerates is that in movies it seems as though there's no mingling of the groups. And there is, to an extent. I was sort of an art and video games geek, and I had many friends into art and video games, but I also had many friends who were bookworms and band geeks. We were kind of in the same general category of "nerds," and everybody else in similar categories were also basically in our group.

Then there were a good many individuals who were nice enough to basically ignore all of this and be open and nice with everybody. I tried to be nice to everybody who wasn't hostile immediately hostile to me, so those individuals became my friends even though they were more or less in the "sporty" or more "popular" groups. And I had a cousin who was sporty so she also kept me on a pretty even keel with her group, as well.

But there were certainly circles of girls and guys who made a point of harassing others, especially us art, book, and band geeks. At first I categorized them all in the "popular asshole" category, but as I got older I realized that even though they were "popular" there were circles even within the popular group of nicer and meaner popular kids. My last few years of high school I just grew out of it and stopped caring, and so did many others, so I was able to form friendships and become acquainted with people who until then were a bit "off limits" due to their categories. There were still those who held to their cliques and designated roles to harass and vilify the ones they found "weird" until graduation day, but at least for me, my last couple of years had only a minimum amount of that shit going around.


New member
Apr 1, 2010
Yea clicks exist, at least they did in my school. Certainly not to the moronic extent they do in the movies but they were there certainly. Mainly for my school it fell into the nerds/geeks, jocks, popular girls and then the general population of people who didn't fall into anything in particular. God school sucked lol.
Mar 18, 2012
Lilani said:
But there were certainly circles of girls and guys who made a point of harassing others, especially us art, book, and band geeks. At first I categorized them all in the "popular asshole" category, but as I got older I realized that even though they were "popular" there were circles even within the popular group of nicer and meaner popular kids.
Yeah, in my last school they were the "sporty" crowd, though what they really were was the "I'm not going to do anything with my life" crowd. The popular assholes were generally the rich kids who could get away with a lot because they would get bailed out. I think they just had lots of people pretending to like them because their daddies had money or thought proximity to it gave them power or some such nonsense. Kids fall for that shit the whole time but they grow out of it. Then they become adults and pretend to like different bullying assholes.

The people who were/are still really popular didn't bother with that clique bollocks. Fortunately.

Something Amyss

Aswyng and Amyss
Dec 3, 2008
chadachada123 said:
I guess it depends heavily on the school. *Shrug.*
I'm wondering if the year can also play into it.

See, I had a shitty time in elementary school. So bad, my broke ass parents tried to get me enrolled in private schools. The problem? There were no openings and waitlists the size of small countries. For a year or two in either direction of me, parents were reporting the same issues for their kids. It seems like it was an epidemic. But then, it seemed to level off again. I don't know what it was, but something about my specific generation in my locale made for a hostile environment and there was a lot of "clique" breakdown.

But the weird thing is, this didn't even hold through high school. Things seemed to get less cliquey the further up the grades we went.

I don't think people are as rigid as things are portrayed, but I could easily see people feeling pressure to conform to expectations. I went from trying hard to fit in to playing RPGs with members of the football team because I didn't give a damn and found other people who didn't.

Lieju said:
We don't have the school-sports-culture in our country. So there are no 'jocks'.
Keep in mind the "sports above all" culture is so big we have a trend of rape victims being scorned by their community for bringing to light their rape. And I wish it was just Stubinville, because that was bad enough.

The leve of indoctrination is high enough that it's easy to see where the stereotypes come from, if nothing else.

But mostly, I think people undersell our sports culture.

JimmyPage666 said:
Isn't this yet another thing that's just exaggerated in movies? Hollywood does love its stereotypes.
Next thing you're going to tell me is that "flamboyantly gay guy from almost any Roland Emmerich movie" isn't real.


Sane among the insane.
Sep 12, 2010
I think it's more a screen writer's convenience. Yes, they do exist, but much more blurred. I knew plenty of people who sort of mixed and matched. I knew several people that played Magic and they spanned the spectrum from gothic to prep, for example.

People tended to stick with their own groups of friends and while those friends may fit neatly into one of the traditional cliches, they were not likely to only associate with that type of people. Most likely, you were friends based on similar interests. So, if you like video games, and so does the "Preppy Jock" and the "Redneck", you were probably all friends.

Happiness Assassin

New member
Oct 11, 2012
Not the extent that they do in movies and on TV, but like minded people do tend to gravitate to one another. They never really went along the strict lines of jock/geek/goth/etc. that is usually portrayed, but certain groups of people did exist. I would probably count myself belonging to 2 such groups: the "nerds" and the "overachievers." While certainly not mutually exclusive, groups like this were fairly distinct enough to be considered groups on their own.

With the nerds, we had a few of the same classes (all computer-based). We also hung out at lunch where we discussed things like games, anime, and all things like those. We even pretty much had our own club (tech club) where it was little more then an excuse to do things like build robots and play video games on school grounds. I joined this group more out of wanting to find people with similar interests.

With the overachievers, I found myself in this groups as I was placed into all the AP classes and I realized that all my classes had the same people in them. After each class, we moved as a group from one classroom to another. I was a part of this group out of necessity, whereas most of the people in that class had been friends since grade school and were (for lack of a better word) "groomed" by their parents to excel in school. I sat next the valedictorian in 2 of my classes and the salutatorian in another.

In other words, there is no real hierarchy, but defined groups exist, without a doubt.


New member
Feb 22, 2012
If it really is like that, I pity the poor bastards who have to go through it :(

I'm British, and my school was nothing like that. Sure, we had star athletes, but we also had star musicians and actors, and that didn't make them any more popular if they were dicks anyway. We also had the self-appointed "popular girls", but by the end everyone had realised how ridiculous they were and they became the butt of all the jokes. Mostly though, everyone just mixed together and, get this, befriended the people they got on with best, not just those who shared their main hobby. It astonishes me that that wouldn't be the norm, and again, I feel sorry for anyone who didn't get that opportunity.

I mean Christ, if I'd had to slot into just one category I don't know what I would have done. I was a straight-A student, a star musician, did a whole bunch of sports, was a student politician, a goth (on and off over the years), an army cadet (my school had a lot of military connections) and, of course, a massive nerd. I was the girl who did everything, and admittedly I took it to an extreme but still, it was the norm to mix and match like that. Popularity-wise I was somewhere in the middle: I got on well with most people and people knew who I was, but I preferred to stick with a relatively small group of close friends who also had a wide range of hobbies and interests.

What I'm really trying to say is, why limit yourself?


New member
Apr 3, 2009
In my school (UK) we did have cliques- Like everyone has said, they were not as prominent as portrayed in American movies but they certainly were something to be mindful of. In my school we had:

Popular kids (mostly smart intelligent, good looking middle class kids)

Chavs (Basically the opposite in every category to the above)





These last three were all quite small, distinct cliques from eachother, the mosher's were generally troubemakers like the chavs, the goths were isolated and bullied by everyone but the nerds, the emo's were second in respectability to the popular kids, as they were largely middle class kids with a bit more eyeliner. I don't think emo's exist as a clique anymore, or perhaps they have been replaced by the "scene crowd" or whatever you youngsters call it.

There were also many students who fitted into neither category or associated with multiple groups. What was really interesting though was how these cliques disappeared overnight the day we got into our high school's 6th form college.

Imperioratorex Caprae

Henchgoat Emperor
May 15, 2010
In my day, almost 20 years ago, yeah they were prominent, but not everyone was part of the cliques. I recall it being prominent but there wasn't a lot of animosity between them all.


New member
Dec 13, 2008
You know, my British Sixth Form had pretty much those cliques, I think going from the main secondary school into its Sixth Form whittled down my year group a bit, making them more defined.

There were the popular kids (one of my mates always called them 'preppy' but I thought that sounded stupid)- Kids that did well academically, drank but didn't smoke or do drugs, listened to bland indie music and were probably the biggest group. I didn't really hate them individually but they were fucking insufferable as a group- everyone was expected to join in in their fun and do things their way; Sixth Form socials would be organised by them, the music in the common room was always their music, they loved to bother us and never really understood that we liked to keep ourselves to ourselves.

The nerdy kids were all nice enough. Pretty much your stereotypical geeky kids- did well in school, socially pretty awkward, barely drank and I'm pretty sure most of them are still virgins to this day. Still, we got on with them and they were the only other bunch of kids that didn't view as a fucking weirdos (probably because they were a bit weird themselves and a lot of us were a bit nerdy).

Most of the 'cool' kids from school didn't get into Sixth form, but they were, again, pretty stereotypical. The girls who developed early, the guys who did well in sports etc. I think the ones that did get into Sixth Form sort of amalgamated into the popular kids, but they were much more open to things like smoking, drugs and sex. Never really knew them well, but the ones I knew in lower school were total bastards.

Then there were us guys, the weirdos, the metalheads, the emos etc. We drank a lot, were pretty open sexually and had an adventurous attitude towards drugs. There were some funny rumours about us (sex rituals on the beach, apparently), but I guess it was sort of our fault for how little we interacted with everyone else. We were kind of bastards really, by the end we were so tired of the whole thing that we were basically re-enacting the goth kids from South Park- Sitting around drinking coffee and complaining about how annoying everyone else was.

I can actually think of surprisingly few people that didn't fit into those groups (what that says about them or my memory, you can draw your own conclusions), but lower school was a lot more mixed up. I guess after four years we'd all figured out who our friends were and thought 'fuck it' to the rest. That might have been just me though.


New member
Apr 26, 2009
Yes, but not to the extent that movies generally show. From my experience, everyone with similar interests just sort of splintered off into their own groups or friends who've been together for a long time stayed together and it was just multiple cliques of random kids with random interests, where each group would have the one kid who was friends with everyone.

There weren't ever any jocks picking on nerdy kids like the movies stereotypically show or shit like that, it was a lot more tame.


New member
Nov 30, 2010
tl;dr I went from a mixed race/culture/language school to a monolingual/mono-culture school in South Africa. Two very different experiences.

I'm a European-African. Grew up in a homeland; the traditional Setswana territory in the northern part of South Africa. It was meant to be a home-land, independently governed from the National Party.

Throughout my childhood schools were very mixed, as many South Africans who didn't want to live under apartheid, moved to the homelands instead. This meant all colors and creeds. An example; a long time friend from pre-school was coloured. In a South African context colored refers to having mixed race parents or simply being of mixed race. Being a colored wasn't illegal of course but a white man marrying and having a baby with a Zulu woman was; so they fled to this homeland. I believe that they had actually fled arrest by the South African police, as both my friend and his father refused to ever tell us what the exact narrative was there. About anything else they were completely open.

We never experienced cliques as portrayed in the movies. The atmosphere in school was always very open. Bullies or whatever, pick on outsiders. Outsiders, strangers or just anyone you feel uncomfortable with is a potential "danger"; femmy kids, the nerds or geeks; at the very least The Outsider is an easy target. There were just too many different kinds of people for anyone to ever be labeled The Outsider.

Do you pick on the Chinese kids because they listened to corny electro pop? Do you pick on that group of tiny Muslim dudes because, well, they were tiny?(I walked over one accidentally one day. Came around a corner, felt my hip hit something and the next thing I know this tiny guy is sitting on the ground with a nose bleed.) Do you pick on the Indian kids because their dads aren't shy about under the counter cash deals in their family owned stores? Do you pick on the other white kids because someone might think you racist to pick on non-whites? Do you pick on one of the two Xhosa kids in the school? The gay kids, the mix group of computer nerds... who exactly is an appropriate target?

Who to pick on? Who to form a clique with?

You see? The problem was variety. The other problem was that when you messed with someone there, inevitably were other people, from other friend-groups, who would come and kick your mouth in; an African tradition. Mess with the goose and you mess with the gander. I was always an enthusiastic supporter of communal justice; if you fuck with the tribe the tribe fucks you up.

It was harmonious chaos and a kind of ecstasy.

At the end of the day we all just kind of mixed. My friend-group was about 5 strong by default; three white, one colored dude and an Afrikaans speaking Indian guy. Sometimes guys from other groups would show up and spend a week or so hanging around with us during break times. Sometimes girls. Sometimes one or two of us would disappear to other groups for a while. I was infrequently cheating on my friends with two other groups.

Another long time friend, we called him The Englishman; his grandparents are British and there weren't many of him in the school. He always saw the place as the ass end of the world and couldn't wait to "Get among white people.". Remember here, that "white people culture" was something we did only when our parents got home; I barely spoke Afrikaans outside of home. In reality we had no idea what culture meant outside of the symbols that people hung on their walls; to us it meant that our parents spiced their foods differently. Indian homes are always the most colorful and decorative, cheerful and spiritually decorated with Hindu symbols; as a kid, I'd often imagine having grown up with this one Indian guy's family. His mother always made separate food for me, without all the spicing; this European stomach can NOT do HOT.

But we learned soon enough. And as adults we cannot help but frequently note how glad we are that we had had that exposure in our young years. We see racism, politics, business and all manner of corrupt bullshit going on in this country and after a couple of beers we want to sentence every asshole in the world to experience our childhoods; how can you harm other people?

Apartheid was long gone and the country had seen more than a decade's worth of democracy before I was finally introduced to "my culture". With only two years of school to go we moved to a different town. During the apartheid years the town had been a central point of indoctrination for the Afrikaner population; Church on every corner, bible in every classroom etc. To sum it up, I went from a multi-cultural school to a school where the hard-line, conservative Afrikaners sent their children to get a "proper education"; what you and I would call "teaching your kid to be a Jesus loving racist".

When we had gone looking at schools, I had only seen buildings and shrugged, telling my dad "This is a school. That other place was a school. Let's pick one and get on with it."

It's only when everyone spoke the same language, listened to the same music, heard the same religious and cultural message that I saw cliques. The rugby players (see jocks) didn't speak to the computer geeks unless it was to "bring one down" for being too smart or whatever. I grew up with computers and watched anime and played games but I also cycled, played tennis, cricket and did athletics. I did public speaking and poetry competitions, my parents had always said "Participate." and I had said ok, there was nothing else on the calender.

I wasn't unpopular in the new school, but that was because I had taken advice from my dad. He told me "You wear glasses, you look strange, it's a new school, someone's going to mess with you. You beat him!" So a guy hassled me, I beat him bloody. What made me nauseous was that I'd suddenly gained some kind of "don't mess with the new kid" reputation and this brought one or two spineless hangers on who would have loved for me to be their friend. Respect through violence was a new, disgusting and annoying concept; what this practically translated to was that I ended up protecting a piece of shit who had a compulsion to call other people's sisters sluts, claiming to have slept with them. Every time someone wanted to beat his ass I'd step in and say "I'm not going to allow you to hit him. Do it when I'm not around.". I knew someone was out to get him when he got extra-clingy. It's only in hindsight that I realize I could have just told him to fuck off. This kind of shit does not sit well with me. If you're a man and you have something bad to say about someone else then you have worked for your ass beating. That's your shit, you own it.

The first year in that school was a haze of baffled disillusionment. I couldn't believe that people could be that shuttered and also be living inside South African borders. In the old school no one had cared that the gay kids were gay, everyone was covered under the mob justice understanding. In the new school there were people who had been attending school together since they were five years old and still hadn't spoken a word to each other. Baffling.

In my second year I was in trouble all the time. The school was/is still in the nasty apartheid habit of forcing religion on the pupils. The one Afrikaans Muslim girl in the school was not allowed to attend assemblies because of the prayers, the pastors, the helpful police inspectors who came to lie to us about drugs and STDs, the oh-so liberal lady pastor who taught us that women were, as Pierce in Community phrased it, sex cooks. I had been particularly offended when the one gay kid had disappeared from school for three weeks because his parents had sent him to one of those Pray The Gay Away things. Fuck, I wanted to burn that place to the fuckin' ground.

I remember a pastor holding up Metallica's Master of Puppets album up and telling a thousand school kids, with a straight face and a literal tone that Metallica were Satan worshipers who practiced black magic, hidden messages and all that bloody toss. That afternoon my father received yet another call about my inappropriate behavior. My dad would assure them that my religious and cultural troubles would be addressed with all seriousness at home. And then good old dad would high-five me for the same reasons that he had moved his kids away from apartheid South Africa.

It was only then, after two deeply troubling years, that I'd understood why movies portray school like that. Hollywood almost seems to want to celebrate what they understand as teen culture while completely missing the idea that something has to be completely fucking whack for kids to be so divided, so segregated.

So apart.

I feel very lucky.


New member
Sep 13, 2008
At my Uni, I'm quite high up in the student sports. Cliques are a thing, but besides a few friendly rivalries noone really gives a shit about what team you're from. If you're sound, then that's it.


New member
May 20, 2009
This certainly isnt the case in the UK. If you want an idea what your average state school in the UK is like then watch inbetweeners

At my school anyway we just tended to get along with people we got along with. I had friends from a load of different groups but these groups were just random though

We had a brief spell of moshers/metalheads vs chavs when I was in primary school (late 90s, early 00s) but as soon as we got to high school it died down and as soon as they realised they had the same drug dealers they formed a weird hybrid group

Ive probably made it sound really bad now but everyone was pretty reasonable including the chavs.

Perhaps you get more cliques in a private school or a catholic school but a normal bog-standard state school everyone pretty much gets along with most people (including the chavs)
Apr 5, 2008
Until recently, I worked at a huge school in London, a secondary school with 2100 students (300 per year group from 11-18). I can say for absolute fact that cliques do exist though I think they're more evident in larger schools. When I went to school, with a year group of 100 it was not nearly so evident.

I think the phenomenon has two bases...first, it's a pragmatic thing. In large year groups, the chances of everyone knowing everyone are non-existant. 1 person cannot know and interact with 300 peers as friends, let alone close friends. Maybe know them by name, form and/or subjects studied but little more than that. Groups of "like minded" students with similar interests interact with each other (proximity being a major factor) more and form friendships/relationships within the group which is much more manageable.

The second thing, I think it's a "teenage" thing too. As teenagers, students are children becoming adults, physically and emotionally maturing and trying to find their own identity. Even excepting hormones and attraction, teens still seek out friends and, for better or worse, seek out approval. There is a "hierarchy" within a year group and even within cliques and teens seek a high "status" as it were, giving them belonging to a social group.

I think the different cliques in schools are an extension of us as humans' "tribal" inclinations in a way. Teens form their social circles with like-minded peers and there's inevitable rivalry/exclusion between different cliques. The "swats" (geeks in america), "sporty kids" (jocks), "arty kids" gravitate toward each other through shared interests, similar hobbies/backgrounds, etc. In a way it's quite natural...after all our friends are usually those we have lots in common with.

One problem, a big problem, is that in the forming of these different circles some few don't really fit in anywhere and get called loners, oddballs, etc and it's a breeding ground for bullying and other similar abuses.

While I'm sure what we see in the movies is an exaggerated US High School experience, there are without a doubt cliques in most High/Secondary schools and I can't imagine it changing...or needing too. It's a natural extension to making friends, find a social status within a hierarchy and forming an identity all of which are intrinsic to being 11-18 years old.


New member
Jun 26, 2013
In the US, schools have one additional reason to clique up: prison culture.
American schools use the prison model for education, meaning that finding a clique is actually a defense mechanism as well as a desire for acceptance.


New member
Jun 26, 2011
It's much easier to use stereotypes then create original characters. Shows based in highschools are hard for me to watch since they so often follow these safe tropes(my roommate loves Inbetweeners. Guh!).

A small amount of my peers did try their damnedest to emulate a particular trend, these were usually pretty gullible people who weren't ashamed to hate things with little reason. Most only did so for a couple years at most, and like I said it was only a minority.

Mr. Eff_v1legacy

New member
Aug 20, 2009
I went to a pretty ethnically homogeneous high school, yet there were pretty defined cliques. Of course they merged a bit, but you knew where most people stood. It was really weird, come to think of it. I remember at one point when there was close to being an all out brawl between "jocks" and "bangers".