Why is middle school such an under-used setting?

themistermanguy

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If there's a show aimed at a young audience on TV that takes place in school, chances are it's going to be High School. High School may be one of the most overused settings in TV, and in kid shows, it's often portrayed as the best years of a kid's life. But what about Middle School, that awkward stage in between elementary and high school. If high school is considered the peek of adolescence, middle school is probably the weird beginning. But looking at a list of shows with middle school settings on Wikipedia remind me just how underused of a setting it is. If and when a Jr. High setting is used, it's often butchered and sanitized to target an audience much younger. Granted you can say a similar thing about High School settings, but High School is a setting that's used even outside kid shows, From kids superhero cartoons to teen/young adult dramas. Middle School in comparison, gets the short end of the stick. There's rarely a show or movie that actually portrays a realistic middle school setting. The closest thing we can probably get is anime, but middle school in Japan is treated much closer to high school in America than in the US from what I've heard. So why is middle school such an underused setting? Is it because it's often considered the worst years of your life (which would actually make sense)? Is it because America doesn't want to portray 12-13-14 year olds as actual 12-14 year olds who swear and talk about sex? What is it?
 

KyuubiNoKitsune-Hime

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The major reason is that for younger kids High School is portrayed as a cool place, where you reach the pinnacle of cool, especially in media targeted at girls. For older kids, high school is seen as this torture test you must endure until you get to senior year, which if you're cool, or a jock, you get pay back, if you're a nerd you continue to get abuse. For adults it's a symbol of one of the worst times of life, or the best time of life because someone peaked there.

Middle school in contrast is kind of dull, really it's really just the freshman/senior dynamic, and most people don't remember it as well as high school, kids look foreword to high school more. At least in the American sense. High school is the time of social climbing, it's also the climax of school life. There's also the golden rule of narrative: "Is the most exciting time in your characters life? If not, why aren't you showing us that?" High school always seems more exciting, middle school is more just a transitional period. Also most middle schoolers are smack in the middle of puberty, that's a time of life that sucks for most of us.
 

Redryhno

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Easy answer honestly. Do you remember any shenanigans you got into in Middle School? Do you remember anything particularly traumatic? Do you remember much of anything that happened? I sure as hell don't, not really. Band geek, that's about it. I don't even really remember much of high school outside of a few specific instances. Middle School is sorta just there.

For most people, high school's where they had their first shenaniganery happen. And it's also a good setting if you want an adult story with a kid's take on it. And that's ignoring that you can still have adults play parts in it and be plausible in addition to being more believable as characters instead of kid actors for the most part.
 

BloatedGuppy

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High school is the more fertile ground for stories. I'd think the younger you go, the more difficult it would become to create compelling narratives, unless you were aiming for Degrassi style after-school homilies or family-friendly Peanuts level fare. The only middle-school show I can recall watching was Azumanga Daioh, and frankly it's never entirely clear how old those girls are supposed to be.
 

KyuubiNoKitsune-Hime

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BloatedGuppy said:
High school is the more fertile ground for stories. I'd think the younger you go, the more difficult it would become to create compelling narratives, unless you were aiming for Degrassi style after-school homilies or family-friendly Peanuts level fare. The only middle-school show I can recall watching was Azumana Daioh, and frankly it's never entirely clear how old those girls are supposed to be.
A general rule to go by, if the girls are wearing sailor style seifuki(uniforms), and the boys solid color suits, it's middle school. High school tends to be more skirt and blazer for girls, pants and blazer for boys. There are exceptions, but generally that's how it works.
 

MASTACHIEFPWN

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Probably because everyone was awkward as fuck during their years of middle school.

Ah, Abercrombie and Fitch shit cologne kids.

Seriously, though, thinking back to 6-9th grade makes me want to puke most the time.

Seriously, though, I had zero choice in electives in middle school. 90% of the tips were fucking shit-obvious or useless. Look at me, a College sophomore bitching about show aimed at 12 year olds.
 

KyuubiNoKitsune-Hime

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MASTACHIEFPWN said:
Seriously, though, I had zero choice in electives in middle school.
That's odd, I got all of the electives I chose in middle school, both years of it. It wasn't until high school I had any trouble picking electives.
 

gorfias

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Its also shorter than High School. Shows like Glee could pretend its nearly 30 somethings were still in High School for years. You take someone that is 12 at the beginning of the show, after 3 years 1/2 your cast will have changing voices, etc.

Harry Potter did it for a movie. There were characters in Freaks and Geeks that could pass. But for the most part: too volatile a stage of life that lasts 3 rather than 4 years.
 

MASTACHIEFPWN

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KyuubiNoKitsune-Hime said:
MASTACHIEFPWN said:
Seriously, though, I had zero choice in electives in middle school.
That's odd, I got all of the electives I chose in middle school, both years of it. It wasn't until high school I had any trouble picking electives.
Well, to be fair, my school required us to do five electives a year, and we did each once per week, so it was an unusual system. So I probably had to do every option that would have been given somewhere else. We didn't get to pick them, and they were as general as shit. (P.E., Spanish, Music, Art, and some weird one that had to do with reading)

It wasn't until my senior year of High school that I got free reign on electives, as there were only two required classes. All the other years you got like 1 or 2. I think it was just one, honestly.
 

Kaimax

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BloatedGuppy said:
The only middle-school show I can recall watching was Azumanga Daioh, and frankly it's never entirely clear how old those girls are supposed to be.
Prince of Tennis, those steroid filled middle-schoolers....
You have Ryoma who looks like a proper sized middle schooler, but then you have Tezuka and the senior characters..I swear first time watching it I kept forgetting about it, and thought that they were High-schoolers.
 

MHR

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Cuz middle school is dumb. Too early before high school "growing-up" hi-jinks and the most popular setting, and too late for the Li'l Rascale/Rugrats dynamic.

And middle school was the worst. Nothing good happened there for me except "education," which was just another word for waiting for the dumb-dumbs to catch up. If I had to relive my entire life, when I got to that period, I think I'd just take up recreational drugs or start a slenderman cult or something just to get some damn excitement going.
 

FPLOON

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I don't know... I mean, I loved the fuck out of Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide and 100 Things To Do Before High School carries a similar charm that Ned's Declassified had considering they were both created by the guy responsible for the existence of Johnny Test before that show devolved to being "whip sound the show: animated in flash"... Also, I kinda have a soft spot for the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series pre-movie adaptations... and All Grown Up was a pretty good series in its own right in my opinion...

Other than that, apparently I remember too much that happened in middle school for me... Granted, I technically went to two middle schools (one in 6th grade and one in 7th and 8th grade) with 6th grade being the worse year out of the sheer shit and bullshit that happened that year alone ranging from the daily fights between students (not including the fight between an 8th grader and the fucking janitor) to literally hearing people fuck each other in another room while the sea gulls attacked any visible food on campus like they took directions from the movie The Birds, 7th grade being the year I embraced the Macbook while later missing out on being crown middle school king at the dance due to both poor grades and the getting down with the sickness, and 8th grade being the year I worked on the school yearbook, was always excused from class just to dance for someone's birthday to the tune of a censored In Da Club mix (which lead to showcasing that at the school's "first" talent show), and playing the side-lead Chad in the middle school production of High School Musical where one of the rehearsals was literally the cast sitting and watching the whole movie on DVD... and that's not even scratching the surface that would make my high school years seem more normal than having a dick-touching club in elementary school!

Oh sorry... What was the question again? I almost blacked out into my own montage of a flashback...
Kaimax said:
BloatedGuppy said:
The only middle-school show I can recall watching was Azumanga Daioh, and frankly it's never entirely clear how old those girls are supposed to be.
Prince of Tennis, those steroid filled middle-schoolers....
You have Ryoma who looks like a proper sized middle schooler, but then you have Tezuka and the senior characters..I swear first time watching it I kept forgetting about it, and thought that they were High-schoolers.
Oh shit! No wonder I was questioning why a high school tennis team wanted to winning a middle school tennis championship! :p
 

NPC009

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High schoolers are at that point in life where they have a lot of freedom and very few responsiblities, which leaves a lot of room for adventure. American teens even get to earn their driving license, meaning they aren't stuck at whatever place the school bus/mom drops them off.

Also, since the teens in high school are nearly adults (just without the responsibilities), adult viewers can still somewhat relate to them. Middle school is basically just a bunch of (dumb) kids.

Okay, I guess Japan does have more stories set in middle school, but that is mostly because they want the characters to be a little more grown-up than the (intended) audience. ...which sometimes leads to weird things, like 14-year-olds living on their on in modern Japan and 15-year-olds looking more menly than most grown men.
 

themistermanguy

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FPLOON said:
I don't know... I mean, I loved the fuck out of Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide and 100 Things To Do Before High School carries a similar charm that Ned's Declassified had considering they were both created by the guy responsible for the existence of Johnny Test before that show devolved to being "whip sound the show: animated in flash"... Also, I kinda have a soft spot for the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series pre-movie adaptations... and All Grown Up was a pretty good series in its own right in my opinion...
This actually goes back to my problem with middle school settings. When a show does decide to take place in middle school, it feels like it needs to restrict itself to be suitable for 8 year olds. Often having it most important elements (puberty, raging hormones, sex-talk, etc.)downplayed significantly, or surgically removed in order to be appropriate for a much younger crowd. Even Ned's Declassified, a show Nick marketed to a slightly older audience, still had to be shackled by a TV-Y7 rating. I know getting middle school kids to play more realistic middle school kids is hard to do with child actor laws and stuff. But it would be nice to see a middle school-based show geared towards a more teen/young adult audience.
 

Zontar

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Storywise it's because it's easier for stories that are interesting to be made in high school when compared to middle school.

Production wise it's because it's a lot easier to find talent that can pass for highschoolers then it is to find talent that can pass for middleschoolers.

Personally I think the reason why middleschool is generally forgotten in entertainment is due to the fact it makes no sense when you think about it. Having k-6 and then 7+ be separate schools instead of adding a third in the mix is much more natural, I find middle school to be odd at the conceptual level, so if I ever wrote a story I sure as hell wouldn't use such a foreign setting.
 

Random Argument Man

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Wasn't Assassination Classroom an anime in middle school?

Anyway, I work with middle school students. Instead of having 1 or 2 students who do random shit, you have 13. Do you really want that?
 

Addendum_Forthcoming

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Don't know.... why isn't there more shows about the joys of British-style boarding schools? Then you get the best of both worlds, with the added nuanced life lesson of getting to look a senior square in the kneecap while they beat the shit out of you when you refuse to give them money. I wish we had middle school here .... I mean I've heard Japanese people recount middle school and it seems pretty idyllic. All I can remember of years 7-8 is hiding from 17/18 year old rugby players. Given that idyllic nature, I'm guessing nothing stressful seems to happen. But nothing is preferable to bloodied, and spitting teeth in the teacher's carpark.

Though from the perspective of a show meant to be dramatic, maybe not.
 

kurupt87

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Middle School isn't universal. Where I am you have Primary School, then Secondary School. Then perhaps College then onto University.
 

Zontar

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kurupt87 said:
Middle School isn't universal. Where I am you have Primary School, then Secondary School. Then perhaps College then onto University.
Sounds like what we have in Quebec. It's k-6, then 7-11, then CEGEP for 2 years (unless you're taking a 3 year course and leaving for work after that) and then University.