Posted on: September 11, 2018
Featured Expert: Dan Laluna, Psy.D
Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade brilliantly tackles the awkwardness of pre-adolescence through its protagonist, Kayla. While Eighth Grade does not reinvent the wheel in terms of what eighth graders transitioning into high schoolers go through, what it does is capture is the same struggle that previous generations have experienced, but in modern times and in the modern age of social media. Notable in the film is the usage of YouTube videos, Instagram, and Snapchat as the present day vehicle through which pre-teens establish and develop views of themselves, others, and the world. The social media age may be the new vehicle and setting at present time for bullying and push/pull for independence and separation from parental figure, as well as the inquiry, exploration, and uncomfortability with regards to sex illustrated in Eighth Grade. However, the generationally universal recurring themes of trying to find oneself amidst arguably the most awkward stage of psychosocial/human development are as present as ever. Similarly to, though not as extreme and fear-inducing in the hearts of parents as the likewise brilliant and important 2005 coming-of-age film, Thirteen, Eighth Grade is not afraid to tackle the adult content that pre-teens may experience and eventually have to deal with, such as body image, anxiety, identity exploration, and sexual harassment.
Despite the R Rating of the film, this movie is exactly the type of movie that parents should see with their pre-teens/teens in order to better foster or create an organic and genuine conversation. I imagine this film would also provide a sense of validation for eighth graders and other kids of today’s social media generation who may feel as if adults or older individuals from a prior generation just don’t understand what it’s like to be a kid growing up today. This coming-of-age masterpiece is one that should be viewed by parents, teachers, therapists, and other professionals whose jobs involve interacting with individuals who are the age/grade of the central protagonist. Eighth Grade provides its fair share of awkwardness and cringe-worth scenes/dialogue for both teens and adults who will view the film. However, that is just part of what makes this film as raw, genuine, and honest as one could hope for a coming-of-age movie like this.
Be on the lookout for these three critical/essential scenes in the film (Spoilers ahead):
Pool Party scene at Kayla’s classmate’s birthday party (also known as the scene that depicts insecurity and anxiety inducing feeling of trying to fit in in a setting where one may find it almost impossible to feel okay with him or herself): After going to a party she was reluctantly invited to, Kayla struggles finding the best way to interact with others, dealing with body image and navigating around already being labeled as “the quietest student.”