The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Middle school was a wild time for most: socially, mentally, physically, etc.
Many of us grew up on the internet, consuming whatever content we came across on Tumblr or chatting with strangers on Omegle or Kik. The vastness of the internet means that we cannot have all experienced the same middle school experience, media-wise. Still, there are certain pieces of media that seemed to characterize the era.
I have been spending my twentieth and twenty-first year of life revisiting some of these movies and shows that were huge during my middle school days. While some aged better than others (and its sometimes embarrassing to tell an acquaintance that, no, I did not see Euphoria last night; I was watching Pretty Little Liars instead), the practice of rewatching movies and shows that were at their peak of cultural relevance about ten (wow!) years ago.
the hunger games
This book-to-movie series (a phenomenon that truly characterized my middle school years, with honorable mentions of the Divergent series, Maze Runner series, etc.) was major for me in junior high. I read each book first and was then able to see each movie in theaters as they rolled out over a few years. I’ll be honest, these ones aged much better than I’d imagined. Watching the first movie of the series, The Hunger Games, and then the second, Catching Fire, I was so immersed in the plot that they flew by. I was seriously not expecting to be sucked in like that as an adult watching them. Once I reached the two later movies, Mockingjay Part 1 and Mockingjay Part 2, I was definitely less into it. I still watched them in quick succession though, because at that point, I needed to see the end of the series for the satisfaction of completing the rewatch and being refreshed on the whole series.
Now for a rating of this series as a whole. In terms of Katniss on girlbossery? 11/10. In terms of staying on team Peeta? 10/10. In terms of enjoyment? 8/10.
Pretty Little liars
This notorious TV show was one I watched in middle school. I never finished the series though, so some of it was brand new to me in my rewatch (not to mention that the obscene amount of major events that happen in each episode alone meant that there was a lot of content I did not remember). I got an HBO Max subscription just to watch this show, which I did at a rapid pace, as I did very much get sucked into it. Ultimately, it felt like watching for the first time, as my memory of the show was very general. This is not an example of a show that aged well in an intended way. If you pay too much attention to the plot, it falls apart. If you pay too much attention to the acting, it’s unwatchable. However, I had a lot of fun watching this one, as it is just interesting enough to keep us watching complemented by a combination of being made poorly and aging poorly, resulting in a lot of entertainment in the form of humor.
Hanna Marin’s fashion? unmatched. This one is really hard to rate. I genuinely enjoyed it as a 10/10. However, as far as the number of the main characters who had at least one age-inappropriate relationship? My count is 5/5.
Disney Channel original movies were huge for my adolescence at least. My all-time favorite has always been Lemonade Mouth. Even as I’ve gotten older, this movie and my love for it have aged well. The music is genuinely so fun; I find myself listening to it on my own after any time I rewatch the movie. Every character and their individual struggles and the character arc is enjoyable to watch (especially Mo is She’s So Gone; I can only dream of being half as cool). Of course, the cliques and depths of many of the characters are laughable, but this is just another dimension of the entertainment that Lemonade Mouth provides.
This one gets a 9/10 overall. Wen gets a big fat crush 10/10 from me though.
Another Disney Channel original movie, Starstruck is one I loved when I was younger. Sadly, this one did not age as well for me though. I think that because it came out so close to Lemonade Mouth, I associated both of these movies with the positive regard I have always held for Lemonade Mouth. Upon a rewatch last year, though, I was severely disappointed by Starstruck. It simply lacks the plot, characters, and incredible music that Lemonade Mouth embodies, and rewatching it was a disillusioning experience for me.
I hate to say this, but I would not watch Starstruck again (and I’m a serial re-watcher of any media I like). Overall, this one gets a 4/10 from me.
The Carrie Diaries
The Carrie Diaries serves as an example of a TV series from my middle school time that I only watched for the first time as an upperclassman in college. My roommate had fond memories of this show from her younger years, so recently we have been watching through the first season together. In my opinion, the main character Carrie is mostly annoying, but her friends (AND BOYFRIEND; Austin Butler hmu) make up for it. The show is super fun to watch, despite some questionable acting, frustrating main characters, and way too much info about Carrie’s dad’s sex life. As someone looking to move to NYC, I am learning a lot from The Carrie Diaries about how not to act like a newbie to the city.
This show is super binge-watchable so it gets a 7/10. It’s not on any streaming services so we had to buy it on YouTube which is a 1/10 super annoying predicament (although it’s good enough that I will be buying the second season on YouTube soon enough, so maybe I can’t complain too much).
The Twilight books and movies actually came out a little bit earlier than my middle school years, but they very much fit the vibe created by the rest of this list, so they are an honorable mention here. I had never read or seen any Twilight anything until 2021 (late to the game, I know). As a newer viewer, I will say that I do believe they deserve their cringey reputation. However, they are a must-watch in my opinion. Watching the Twilight series with my friends as adults was so fun. There is plenty to laugh at and pick apart in this movie (duh!), and I’ll say it, Robert Pattinson is hot. Watching Twilight has expanded my cultural horizons, allowing me to understand references to the series in other media.
I’m not going to say these movies are good. To me, the last ones are not even watchable. Concerning the extent of fun provided through watching, though, Twilight gets a 9/10 and a 10/10 on being a constant source of humor for my friends and me.
Impact of Media
These movies and shows are just some that peaked in their relevance around my middle school years. Most of my middle school experience has been meticulously deleted from my memory to minimize embarrassment, but revisiting some of this media from back in the day has provided a unique source of fun entertainment for me as an adult. Can’t say I don’t recommend it.