"I'm in with the in crowd
I go where the in crowd goes
I'm in with the in crowd
And I know what the in crowd knows..."
— Dobie Gray
A character is afforded entrance to an elite group by virtue of an unexpected success or new connections. If he is already one of the local elite, the new group he joins is even more so - more exclusive or secretive, or traveling in even higher social circles, or recognized over a larger geographical area - something with some cachet. The group could be a winning sports team, a selective private club, or just the "in" clique of "beautiful people
Enjoying his newfound elevation, he snubs or is pressured to snub his old friends
, who respond with anger or dismay at his apparent betrayal. However, after extended exposure to the members of his new social circle, he invariably finds them shallow and/or bigoted, particularly against some faction represented in his previous social circle. At the risk of ruining any future chance for social improvement
, he leaves his new clique and returns to the forgiving arms of his original band of friends.
Often the basis for a Very Special Episode
. This plot can also develop out of a Rags to Riches
See also I Just Want to Have Friends
, Celebrity Is Overrated
, Lonely at the Top
, Pygmalion Plot
, Pygmalion Snap Back
and Slobs Versus Snobs
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Films — Live-Action
- The entire plot of Mean Girls. Cady originally wants to avenge the maltreatment of her best friend by the Alpha Bitch, Gina, and to do that, she tries to infiltrate the popular clique...and succeeds, but at the cost of becoming an Alpha Bitch herself and losing all her friends in the process. Cue Must Make Amends.
- And a substantial chunk of Never Been Kissed.
- The Devil Wears Prada.
- How To Lose Friends And Alienate People.
- Heathers has a dark, dark take on this trope. It opens with a dream sequence in which the trio of Alpha Bitches use Veronica's head as a croquet peg.
- Take this trope, add fights between super-powered teenagers, and you get Sky High.
- Jawbreaker, where the newly popular character is forced to abandon the in-crowd because she cannot bring herself to cover up a murder for them.
- Happened in I Was A Teenage Faust. The main character becomes one of the cool kids but quickly realizes how boring they are.
- Teen Wolf: Scott becomes popular after he becomes a werewolf.
- Teen Witch: Louise Miller, becoming a witch.
- The Princess Diaries: Mia Thermopolis, becoming a princess.
- Cant Buy Me Love: Ronald Miller pays a popular girl to pretend to be his girlfriend
- Teen Spirit: Lisa Sommers, former prom queen dies and returns from limbo in order to turn Lisa into the most popular student.
- Gilmore Girls had Rory joining the Powderpuffs (that's "Powderpuffs" — not to be confused with a certain cartoon Power Trio known as "Powerpuffs").
- Good Morning Miss Bliss episode "Clubs and Cliques", now shown as a rerun of Saved by the Bell. Zack, an 8th grader, was seemingly invited to join a fraternity-like club at the high school. As a pledge, he had to do a bunch of embarrassing dares, many of which involved hurting his friends. In the end, it turned out that Zack's "sponsor" was actually a pledge himself, and his dare was to get an 8th grader to believe he was invited to join. Reset!
- Family Ties "It's My Party" has a variant: Jennifer and her friend Chrissy make new popular friends to the exclusion of a third friend.
- The live-action version of The Tick did this in the episode "The Big Leagues", where the Tick joined The League of Superheroes, which doesn't admit women or minorities, causing a rift between the Tick and his friends Captain Liberty (a woman) and Batmanuel (a minority). The comic and animated version both feature The Comet Club, which doesn't allow sidekicks (not even to warning the heroes of a possible supervillain attack; the Doorman can only sense sidekicks).
- In Red Dwarf, the android Kryten is turned into an organic human. When talking to his sentient spare heads, he gets high-and-mighty with them. After that he realizes that he's turning into a jerk.
- This is the basis for multiple episodes of Frasier. Of course, with the two main characters being elitist snobs they find the "shallow/bigoted" part absolutely delightful and it's invitably some misfortune that rips them kicking and screaming from their new group.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer has this befall Xander by dint of collective possession by hyena spirits. Needless to say, snotty in-crowd bullying isn't the worst of it.
- The Freaks and Geeks episode "The Little Things" finds this happening, sort of, to Sam.
- Very neatly averted with Undeclared. Steven is asked to join a campus fraternity, which his friends all object to, since they believe college fraternities to be a waste of time. Fortunately for Steven, the fraternity (in addition to its headmaster being a complete prick) isn't even all that cool or hip but actually kind of dorky and lame.
- Family Matters:
- Eddie is offered the chance to join the coolest fraternity on campus if he dumps Urkel as a friend.
- Laura gets her own episode where she actually joined the most prestigious sorority on campus by inviting Urkel to a Beauty and the Beast party. Being so in love with Laura and wanting to see her happy, he plays along. When Laura sees that the other "beasts" are being treated cruelly by her new sorority sisters, she quits the sorority.
- Played straight on What's Happening!! when Rerun joins the football team and becomes popular, dating the head cheerleader. He snubs Raj and Dwayne and calls them names. When he is told that he will be kicked off the team for failing English, he asks Raj to help him pass by writing a speech that he has to give. Raj sabotages the speech, Rerun fails English, is kicked off the team, and is friends with Raj and Dwayne again.
- Deconstructed in an episode of Cold Case. The Victim of the Week's friend wanted to be a cheerleader so bad that she allowed herself to be gang-raped as part of her "initiation" and helped cover up the murder of her friend who had found out.
- The Sesame Street skit In with the In Crowd.
- The Parent 'Hood: Zaria is offered membership in an exclusive girls' club, but she has to play a mean and embarrassing prank on a friend as her final pledge task.
- The Wayans Bros..: Shawn's encouraged by an old high school friend to join an exclusive businessmen's club. He disses Marlon, T.C., and Dupree because he feels that their lowbrow behavior would ruin his chances of getting in.
- Steve and Cedric are invited by Byron to join the exclusive Onyx Club on The Steve Harvey Show. They are accepted as members and attend the club's Casino Night. Lovita wins $10,000 in a raffle but refuses to give it to their charity as is the club's tradition. Steve and Cedric are upset because it means they could be kicked out. Lovita decides to give the check back but Steve and Cedric resign their memberships when they learn that the money would go towards getting Tiger Woods to play on their golf course. Lovita takes the money and gives it to Meals on Wheels instead.
- Subverted in Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide when a "popularity list" is created and Moze is now part of the cool kids. She find them boring and doesn't understand their sense of humor. But when she outright says that she misses her friends, the cool kids just say that she should return to them, and there are no hard feelings about the whole thing.
- One Tree Hill: The Adorkable Mouth fits this the best. He himself doesn't do something specific to become part of the popular crowd, but his friendships with Lucas and Haley get him pulled in, and he becomes close friends with popular kids like Nathan and Brooke.
- Does this count? Subverted: Less Than Jake released an album called "In With the Out Crowd". The album itself drifted more into a punk/indie feel rather than their traditional ska sound (playing songs that are more mainstream-esque). After pressure from their fans they decided to go back to their roots with their next (and Word of God says last) album GNV FLA.
- Subverted and parodied in the song "¿Por qué no puedo ser del jet set?" ("Why can't I belong to the jet set?") by Argentinian group Soda Stereo, where the narrator complains about how hard he tries to be in with the in crowd.
- This is the origin of Bally's Dr. Dude. He was once a spineless bespeckled computer Nerd until he invented the EXcellent Ray to transform himself into the Guru O' Groove.
- Detention, "Little Miss Perfect"
- The Weekenders, "The Lone Wolves Club". Slight subversion in that the members of said club turn out to be a bunch of nerds.
- SpongeBob SquarePants played with this, by substituting "spatula" for "friend".
- Danny Phantom. Butch Hartman has a tendency to apply this trope with a SLEDGEHAMMER...
- Occasionally used in Kim Possible where the sidekick Ron Stoppable becomes special for the token episode. Most notable is the episode where he got 99 million dollars, deeply annoyed his few friends, got friends with some yes sayers (and the Alpha Bitch), and lost it all due to being robbed while having all his money in his pocket. 990,000 hundred-dollar bills would be nearly ten cubic meters of paper! That's one deep pocket!
- The Simpsons:
- Marge once had a chance to become a member of a country club thanks to her thrift-store bought Chanel dress making a high school acquaintance mistake her for upper class. After it leads her to blowing up on the family she decides to not attend a party at the club, thinking they would never be accepted anyway - and ironically in the next scene we see it was a welcome party, the Alpha Bitch of the episode hoping she didn't push her away.
- Another episode deals with Homer wanting to join "The Stonecutters." When he finds out that he's automatically in because his father is a Stonecutter, everything goes well until he made a Fee Fi Faux Pas at the first meeting and is made to walk home naked dragging a boulder ("The Stone of Shame.") However, the club notices a birthmark on his posterior that marks him as The Chosen One, but then he finds that being the club's leader isn't all it's cracked up to be.
- In an episode of American Dad! Francine joined a clique of cheating wives.
- In the fourth season finale of The Venture Bros., Triana reveals her friend Kim, last seen in the second season double-dating with her, Hank, and Dean, and being mistaken for a fellow villain by Dr. Girlfriend, went through this - followed by rehab, going born-again, and moving to Florida.
- ''My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic':
- Played with and subverted with the episode "Sweet and Elite". When Rarity begins climbing the Canterlot social ladder, she reluctantly puts off Twilight Sparkle's birthday dress and party. But when her friends learn she wants to socialize, they actually encourage her to do so as it's good for her business. And when the Canterlot elite snub Rarity's friends the pony at the top of the social ladder throws his support behind them.
- Played straight in "One Bad Apple" when Babs Seed joins Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon rather than the Cutie Mark Crusaders. Until we find out that she did it to avoid the bullying she'd come to Ponyville precisely to escape, and she has a Heel Realization
- Sesame Street has fun with this in the animated song "In With the In, Out With the Out, Crowd" muses on being inside or outside with one's friends.
- The Berenstain Bears episode "The In Crowd" has Sister Bear get sick of being called a "little cub" by the older, more popular girl bears. To change things, she joins in the activities of their clique, only to find that it consists solely of standing around looking bored, listening to the same song over and over and over... the enjoyment in that wears thin rather quickly.
- Pretty much the entire premise of As Told by Ginger: Most episodes involve Ginger trying to balance her life between her new "in crowd" friends and her old "loser" friends.