Created By: GabiC on July 30, 2012 Last Edited By: GabiC on August 3, 2012

Sitting In The Middle Back Seat

Three characters in a car. One sitting in the back always sits in the middle.

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Am I the only one who's noticed this? At first, I thought it might be a case of People Sit On Chairs. But a) people don't tend to do that in real life, they're more likely to sit behind one of the front seats and b) it seems to be done to accommodate interesting shots, such as framing the person in the back between the two car seat. Or to let the driver use the rear view mirror to interact with the passenger behind them beyond just dialogue. Is this tropable?
Community Feedback Replies: 14
  • July 30, 2012
    There is definitely something to this. With three people in a car, the person in the back seat is always positioned between the two in the front. Depending on how the car was built, the passenger will either be blatantly in the middle, while others will still have back-seaters positioned in between, but clearly on either the right or left.

    Seen It A Million Times. However, the only examples I can recall off-hand are Two And A Half Men and The Big Bang Theory. They often have 4 to a car, so that they aren't squarely in the middle. But I know I've seen cases where the one in the back isn't even pretending not to be in the middle.
  • July 30, 2012
    That70s Show must have done it a zillion times. I think it's tropable.
  • July 30, 2012
    • The very first episode of How I Met Your Mother has ted in the front seat of a taxi while his friends are arranged just like this on the backseat
  • July 30, 2012
    This is related to the camera trope of looking directly into the car's windshield so we see the people inside, especially common in TV.

    There's a Wendy's commercial that does this.
  • July 30, 2012
    also closely related to Social Semi Circle, another seating arrangement used to let the audience see everyone together in a single shot.
  • July 31, 2012
    Pretty sure it happens either in A Night At The Roxbury or in one of the SNL skits that movie was based off of, when Doug and Steve had a third guy in the car.
  • July 31, 2012
    It doesn't matter if you have Seen It A Million Times. What is the meaning behind it? Are they trying to say something about the story or characters or what? If it's just a seating arrangement it's very much People Sit On Chairs.
  • July 31, 2012
    ^Did you actually read any of the replies? Tropes Are Tools.
  • July 31, 2012
    It's obviously a shot staging tool, so that the actor in the back seat can be readily seen in the shot. It can also be used to imply solidarity (as often this character leans forward and puts an arm around the necks of both front seat occupants).
  • July 31, 2012
    It can also symbolize a third wheel situation, where the one in the back is there as an annoyance to the couple. Sitting in the back lets them interact with both members of the couple at will. An example is the "Are we there yet?" scene in Shrek 2.

    The shot also allows the viewer to see the couple's faces, while the third wheel is unaware.
  • July 31, 2012
    Done a lot in That70s Show, and in fact makes up a lot of the title sequence.
  • July 31, 2012
    I think a couple of examples are missing the point of the trope. I question if either the How I Met Your Mother example and the That70s Show example shouldn't count, because there are three people in the back. True, they are all visible from the front, but in those cases, it should be noted as such. This trope is far stronger when the person in the back is alone rather than others.
  • August 1, 2012
    I agree that this should not include examples where there are three people in the back seat.
  • August 3, 2012
    Agreed, but I do think there it has happened in How I Met Your Mother with only one person in the back. And it happens in an episode of Breaking Bad, towards the end of season 4 I think.