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Headscratchers / Recess

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Why does Randall make fun of Spinelli for wearing a dress in "First Name Ashley"?
Doesn't she normally wear one?
  • It's not that she's wearing a dress, it's that she's wearing a very "girly" dress. Spinelli's usual outfit does have a dress as its base, but it's very plain. It's also overshadowed by the leather jacket, combat boots, and knit cap she always wears, which are much more tomboyish. The dress the Ashleys make her wear looks like something out of an Easter parade, which is why Randall laughs at her.

Why do Mrs. Finster and Principal Prickly have to be such Jerkasses?
Is it even possible to have that big of a stick up your asses that you don't think kids should have time to play?
  • Prickly and Finster seem to follow the out-of-touch teacher archetype. They used to genuinely love teaching and wanted to help children, but over the years they've become cynical and forgot why they ever wanted to go into teaching in the first place. Plus the show is very inconsistent with their levels of villainy. Sometimes Finster is just strict for a playground monitor and Prickly an ineffective principal, other times they want to ban recess and hate the idea of children having fun. It changes depending on the needs of the plot.
    • They both mellowed out considerably by the end of the show. In the first season, they were both sadists who existed just to torment the students. Over time, they became humanized. It may also have to do with Protagonist-Centered Morality. Since the entire show is framed from a kid's perspective, the writers may have chosen to make the stricter adults into outright jerks. Contrast that with a show like Hey Arnold! where every adult is given their fair day from the start.
  • It's also worth noting that though Mrs. Finster and Principal Prickly are short-tempered and grouchy, they aren't cruel. In "The Biggest Trouble Ever," Mrs. Finster makes the kids do chores for breaking the new statue—understandable— and when she hears that they'll be transferred to separate schools, both she and Prickly think it's too extreme. Similarly, if child is actually in danger, they fly into action and protect them. In "The Library Kid," when the title character is stuck on a flagpole and can't get down, Mrs. Finster is genuinely concerned for her, calls the Fire Department, and even screams in fear when she sees the girl trapped. So even though they can be nasty, they do care about the kids.
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  • Another important part is that the kids like it when Mrs. Finster and Principal Prickly are antagonists—it gives them an "enemy" to fight and lets them be rebellious and have fun. In "The Fuss over Finster," Mrs. Finster gets a hairline fracture and ends up on crutches. The Recess Gang has fun pulling off capers at first, but when they see that Muriel is genuinely struggling to keep up with even the slowest kids, they realize that without Finster as their foe, it's just not enjoyable to win. T.J. organizes the entire playground to behave super well and nice to each other to give Muriel a break (he calls her a "wounded lion"), and both sides promise that it will be "business as usual" when she's healed up. All told, the kids and the stricter staff seem to have a Friendly Enemies situation happening, where the antagonism and troublemaking are just part and parcel of their relationship.

Why is Gretchen proclaimed to be so smart, even though seems to do and believe things that are really stupid?
Some examples would be not already seeing through the fact that sometimes it's okay to tell on people, and the fact that she still seems to believe that numbers like a gazillion exist. My only guess is that she's 9, so it's slightly excusable, or she knew the truth all along and, in an effort to fit in more, she just followed Wizard's First Rule.
  • Anyone who knows what it's like to be the most intelligent kid in school loves the fact that Gretchen is human enough not to know everything. Highly intelligent people get just as tired of the stereotypes as anyone else, and one of the more popular stereotypes is that highly intelligent children never have moments of fancy, fantasy, hyperbole, overexcitement, naivete, or any of the thousand moments of humanity that make Gretchen a character with whom both highly intelligent kids and adults who were highly intelligent kids can relate.
  • She's "smart" probably as in a straight-A student with more knowledge about facts and a wider vocabulary than her peers. But since she's 9, she's still prone to making 9-year-old mistakes. And any kid could be nervous about whether it's okay to tattle or not.
  • If you want a counter example to "sometimes it's okay to tell on people", let me Google that for you...
  • She's book smart. Not Street Smart. Two completely different things.
    • Only to people who aren't book smart and need something to hang onto.
    • I feels that episode shows they're not completely different things her book smarts translate to the street.
  • Maybe she was using gazillion as a placeholder for a number large enough she didn't know the proper term for?
  • Because she's also nine. Being book smart doesn't prevent you from being gullible.
  • Also, in the episode with the c-note; Gretchen did not tell them that 100 divided by six is not that much.
  • Although she's exceptionally smart for a fourth grader, she's not Young Sheldon smart. Remember, she's top student in her elementary school, while Sheldon is top of the class in his high school and even the college courses he's auditing. She's still a normal kid for the most part, she even enjoys recess just as much as the other kids.

What was up with the villains' plan in Recess: School's Out?
His plan was to create an everlasting he could eliminate summer holidays. Never mind all the endless side effects it would create, two words can shoot a hole in his plan. SNOW. DAY.
  • Ask any Canadian; if there's always a lot of snow, the standards for snow days get much higher.
    • Ask any Alaskan; there's approximately only one snow day in a decade. If you're lucky.
      • And you can still go on vacation in the winter. I mean really, Some kids find winter more fun.
  • Although the easy way to answer this is he's not a mentally well man.
    • Well duh, he thought that altering the climate would get him elected president instead of executed for crimes against humanity (assuming the lynch mob didn't get him first).
  • I always thought that was part of the whole joke.
  • There's also the fact that before the movie was released there was an episode where the Government did an experiment of actually cancelling recess that resulted in lower test scores in the long term, was he not aware?
  • There's also the fact that a colder summer doesn't translate to no summer vacation. They even have summer vacation in Barrow, Alaska, which has summer temperatures akin to a Nashville, Tennessee type of winter.

Why, in her right mind, did Ms. Finster agree to be the lunch and recess monitor?
She hates it, it's clearly taking years off her life, and she's a full-time teacher in addition. Since she's protected by tenure, I'm surprised that she hasn't told them to get someone else to do it.
  • If you pay attention Finster actually seems to enjoy it, she just doesn't admit it. Actually many episodes contain little hints (and sometimes flat out say) none of the teachers are as bad as they are made out to be. I think it's more of how they are seen through the kids' eyes at the time.
    • Finster doesn't hate it. If she hated it she wouldn't be doing it. They're teachers, they like teaching, helping to form kids, making a difference but they are also in charge of maintaining order and have a job to do. They're strict and they've lost much of their optimism but they are not bad or unhappy people. Occasionally they act a little too selfish and occasionally need to be reminded of the other side's perspectives but in the end they're doing what they want to be doing. Just check out the movie when they aren't the kid's mandatory rivals, they come rushing to the children's aid. They truly love what they do and they care deeply about the kids.

Is Spinelli Asian?
The only explanation I can think of for her strangely drawn face is that it's a stylistic way of showing that she's Asian. Yet Spinelli sounds like an Italian name.
  • Both of Spinelli's parents are clearly not Asian, so unless she is adopted, neither is she.
    • Since Spinelli doesn't resemble her parents, this troper always assumed she was adopted (and Asian).
  • She's Italian according to The Other Wiki, and on the episode where Spinelli joins the Ashleys after Randall reveals her true first name, she also had a great-grandmother who lived in Alaska and ran the Iditarod. Judging by her eye shape, lip shape, and Ambiguously Brown skin tone (which reminds me of the one from that Eskimo hunter on the 1949 Looney Tunes cartoon "Frigid Hare"), she probably could be Inuit (Eskimo) along with being Italian.

Why do the kids NEVER seem to use their own judgement, instead following behind a "playground king" who is really just some sixth grade boy, and using a made-up "code of honor?"
  • The King has enough charisma and wisdom to be a reliable judge when the kids don't know what to do, in theory anyway.
  • Because they're kids. Even though it's over-exaggerated for comedy's sake, in real life, kids literally do have a "follow the pack" mentality that they rarely question in fear of being the outsider.
    • Actually, Gus stood up for himself during his debut episode, tired of being the new kid. King Bob respected that, telling the former new kid that "you never asked".
    • Seconded. Much of the time the kids follow their own judgment.
  • Same reason we have a democracy and follow the Constitution - it's been that way for years and things are decent enough this way that we don't need to change it.
  • Not to mention that it's been said that some playground kings of the past have vastly improved recess for the kids. Some of the kings weren't just your average sixth graders.

The kindergarteners are savages, yet every kid in actual grade levels is shown to be capable of mostly proper grammar and doesn't wear war paint. What, upon reaching first grade, they're instantly civilized?
  • Pretty much.
  • Taking the Fifth Grade shows Hector and Tubby still adjusting to first grade.
  • Kindergarteners can act like older kids. They choose not to. It's kind of their last chance to be savages before growing up.
  • In the Recess universe, it seems like the whole business of "kindergartner=savage" is completely normal. In Taking the Fifth Grade, Gus's parents are driving him to school, and he's already dressed in "war paint" and ready to be wild and destructive. Presumably the Griswolds must be OK with it.

Why did the kids get in trouble for breaking that statue in "The Biggest Trouble Ever", even though the builders were supposed to bolt it down? The episode depicts it as major news, yet not one journalist even bothers asking if the structure was safe.
  • The Mayor was Jerkass and it was clear he was simply jealous that they succeeded where he failed.

The Movie and growing up
How come in Recess: School's Out, the kids are so worried about their futures and such, and say on several occasions "This is the last chance we get to be kids!"? They're only in 4th grade, that makes them around 10 years old. Who on Earth told them that they'd all be adults before they were 11? I love the movie, but that part always struck me as silly.
  • Wait, where did I have heard this similar part before?
    • What does High School Musical have to do with anything? Speaking from experience, juniors and seniors in high school do have to worry about their futures. But to the original Headscratcher, I never noticed before how the kids do that.
      • It's a mix between Fridge Brilliance and Hilarious in Hindsight as elementary school kids today have much more responsibilities than kids of thirty years ago, elementary school students when the show aired, as well as kids starting puberty at a younger age. My niece looked like she was 16 when she was 12.
    • What has kids starting puberty earlier got to do with worrying about the future? As to the original headscratcher, teachers do ask 10 year old children to try and figure out what they want to do with their lives so they can prepare for it easier now whilst they are young?
  • Its simply because kids today, even during the 90's and early 00's when the movie was made, have a very different and difficult journey to prepare for due to how complicated the world has become. Many parents begin preparing their children in preschool because they want them to have a bigger chance at getting into prestigious colleges and careers for which competition has never been stiffer.

Why didn't Gretchen buy the "other dimension" explanation?
I realize the idea that Swinger Girl broke through a dimensional barrier is ridiculous but Gretchen (and the rest of the main cast except Mikey) seemed to act as if there is no such thing as an Alternate Dimension. It's especially jarring for Gretchen as she is privy to everything science-related and I thought stuff like this is actually taken seriously by the scientific community.
  • You have to remember two things. Firstly, this was made in the late 90's, a time where parallel dimensions was still considered mostly science fiction. And secondly, parallel dimensions haven't been proven yet. Whilst scientists do believe they exist, at this moment in time, there is no proof of them. So Gretchen was acting perfectly logical in dismissing the idea.

What's wrong with the kids?
  • They have no legitimate concept of kissing or aging, and believe odd stuff. I know this is an exaggerated version of childhood innocence, but seriously? They just seem stupid and overly naive.
    • Most children become truly aware of the difference between reality and fiction at age seven. Since most of the characters are nine, it makes sense for them to still be a bit gullible and believe some odd stuff. As far as the concepts of aging and kissing go, maybe they're just late bloomers as far as maturity and awareness go?
    • They're only nine years old. At that age, few kids have a legitimate concept of kissing.
    • Not to mention that Recess takes place in the late 90's (the show's original air run being 1997-2001). Kids believed in those things back then before they started to wise up at earlier ages.
    • One part Nostalgia Goggles, one part cultural drift; every generation grows up faster than the one before it. When Recess was on TV, it was aimed at kids around the same age as or younger than the main cast, which meant 6-10 year olds, with Parental Bonus gags. Kids that age today are exposed to much more adult media, and some of them have probably had MySpace/Facebook pages since they were born, so the internet (and the...uh, shall we say social interaction unrestricted by traditional etiquette that comes with it) are a very basic part of their lives. Kids today aren't any more mature, but they have access to a lot more information.
    • As for the kissing thing, it wasn't so much that they didn't know what kissing was, it was a more "cooties" thing in that they didn't know why people would like doing it.
  • This Troper was watching the episode where Gus was introduced. Now the kids have the reason to refer to Gus as "the new kid" due to the rules of the playground but why was the bus driver and even Ms. Grotke calling Gus "the new kid"? The rules only apply to the kids because they don't know any better but why would the ones who know better like Grotke also join in hazing Gus?
    • Probably for three reasons. First, in the first season of the show, it was a bit more exaggerated. Second, Gus might've been imagining that. And three, Miss Grotke's character probably wasn't really set up yet.
    • As for the bus driver, it's possible she genuinely doesn't remember his name since he has only just started.
  • If Recess co-exists in the same world as "Lilo and Stitch" the series, does that mean the realistic 3rd Street School students co-exist with fantasy elements like Aliens, Dragons, Naked Mole Rats, and a wish granting Al Roker?
    • I...don't really know (and Naked Mole Rats aren't fantasy elements...but of course, they don't act like Rufus in real life).
    • If Recess takes place in the same world as Lilo and Stitch it takes place in a world where earth is a mosquito preserve and Hawaii has a decent number of genetic experiments. Seeing Recess as taking place in a universe with all the crossovers in Lilo and Stitch has some awesome potential - the kids having a future in a world even cooler than they believe it is now - but is not necessary for it taking place in the Lilo and Stitch universe. You can just pretend the other crossovers didn't happen, happened differently, and/or the people in the crossovers are similar but entirely different people who live in a different universe than the series they are from. If Recess does not take place in the same universe as Lilo and Stitch either the crossover is only Lilo and Stitch canon but not Recess canon or the kids in the Lilo and Stitch crossover are just similar to T.J. and his group.
  • Also related to the above. Recess seemed like a poor series to be crossed over with. Kim Possible and American Dragon have fantasy topics but Recess seemed fairly realistic. Plus Recess takes place in '97 and '98. Kim Possible and American Dragon are so not 90s, and Proud Family is more like New Millennium.
    • It isnt that far out, remember the movie revolves around a guy with a giant gravity gun he's using to move the friggin MOON, that sounds like a plot straight out of Kim Possible
  • In Taking the Fifth Grade, why would the faculty wait to take all the play equipment and pave the lawn on the first day of school, much less when the kids are supposed to be out for recess?

Why was T.J. so intimidated by Slicer?
  • Having watched the episode recently, T.J. being so quick to be intimidated by Slicer seems more then a little out of character for him(especially since at that point Slicer had no real authority over the school yet, so T.J. was under no obligation to obey him or listen to anything he said) you'd think him and the others would've tried to pull pranks on him to try and get him to leave or something.
    • This seems to be a case of The Worf Effect. T.J. does try to make jokes with Slicer, but the older man completely shuts him down and treats him like a lab rat, as opposed to Prickly, who will at least groan at T.J.'s quips and talk to him. By showing that even T.J. is scared, it helps to emphasize just how bad this new guy is.


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