Eighth Grade is a coming-of-age story that focuses on Kayla, on her last week of 8th grade as she starts to prepare for high school and the adult she wants to become. Kayla had a rough time in middle school socially, but he hosts a YouTube advice channel where discusses self-help topics helping people gain more success and confidence in their lives.
Hey guys it’s Will! Thanks for tuning in for another blog post. Today’s topics is, umm like, productivity and like how do you achieve it, anyways? So, like the first and most important part of productivity, is like ummm… setting manageable goals. This is like super important, you guys. Like, if you don’t set up goals that are small enough that you can accomplish you won’t build any momentum. It can be really hard to start something new but the more you knock out these littles tasks it will be supes easier to keep pressing forward. Like this blog itself for me is an exercise of getting in the habit of writing more because like someday I might want to write bigger and longer things but I if I don’t practice here I won’t accomplish those things. I am building towards this bigger thing by starting a smaller… umm… weekly commitment. Well anyways, thank you so much for tuning in to my blogpost. I hope you enjoyed it. It’d be super great if you could like and share it with your friends. Thanks so much. Gucci!
Perks of Being a Catcher Garden State Wallflower on the Edge of 17 In the Rye
This is an example of how a YouTube script for Kayla (Elsie Fisher) would go in Bo Burnham’s directorial debut: Eighth Grade. As someone who is trying to build their own body of work online you could say it was pretty easy to relate to Kayla. Fisher’s performance captures the insecurities and difficulties of the transition from childhood to adulthood. Burnham updates the coming-of-age-story that seem like over plowed territory from Catcher in the Rye to Perks of Being a Wallflower and everything in between.
There was a time when I could not get enough of films in this genre. I was a complicated emotional teen that went through a lot and had a hard middle-school and high school experience. Films like Garden State and Juno really help me accept my beautifully unique quirkiness, my more indie skewing sensibility, and survive my rural football town. Then I watch a lot more of these films and realize something: They. Are. All. The. Same.
I am not trying to rag on films in the genre. They serve a really important purpose for teens in development. It’s really important to be told that you aren’t alone, you’re special, and things are going to get better. As I have finished my transition into adulthood, (I mean hopefully. I’m still working on being consistent with doing laundry), looking back on a lot of these films can be downright cringe worthy. They are extremely formulaic, talk down to their viewers, and melodramatic. What Bo Burnham delivers in Eighth Grade is fresh, interesting, and only sort of about teenagers.
Mitt…Mitt…Mitt…Mitt… Mitt… Mr. Burnham
I have been a fan of Bo Burnham for a long time. I am a stereotypical millennial. I grew up as YouTube was rising. I watch as many of my peers became crazy famous and successful. One high school student used comedic music videos to launch a comedy career. Bo always stood out to me because he was dedicated to craft. He was constantly pushing boundaries, questioning form, and using his fame and success to produce a show. The turning point for my love of him was his comedy special: what.
First, he dropped it right on YouTube and Netflix for free. It showed a business savvy that said he knew what people of my generation actually wanted. To me it’s one of the greatest specials of all time. what. has incredible bits, hilarious songs, and production like something you have never seen before, but the most impressive aspect of it to me was its emotional intelligence. Burnham uses his platform to say something about his insecurities, his introverted disposition, and western society’s desire to beat out feeling and emotion. It’s this self-reflexivity and emotional intelligence that makes Eighth Grade really stand out.
Am I like, Talking too Much?
Eighth Grade has this almost uncanny valley quality to it. Most of the viewing experience you feel uncomfortable. Fisher’s portrayal of Kayla is so awkward and insecure that you can’t help but feeling what she is. Burnham has a way of transporting you back into your own headspace at this time in your life. One of the pressures that sticks with you long after the movie is over is the pressure to be happy. There are multiple times in this movie that Kayla tells her father that he doesn’t need to worry about her because she is doing fine. We also see her project her own depression onto her dad when she asks, if he’s sad because she is his daughter. This film reminds the viewer that this pressure to be happy and some of our own underlying sadness don’t go away, we just get better at dealing with it.
I am an introvert. I struggle in large social settings. I hate parties. Hate. One of the most traumatic scenes in this movie is when Kayla gets invited to the popular girl’s birthday party (because her mom made her). We see Kayla navigate a pool party like its Normandy. She tries to interact with several people and fails. Eventually she ends up sitting alone in an empty living room begging her dad to come pick her up. This is just one example of how hard adolescence can be. I like this moment so much because it is super genuine and real. We don’t need pig’s blood, a Burn Book, or fake prom dates to highlight how hard being a teen can be. Burnham captures it in really real moments like this.
Truth or Sexual Harassment?
There is one big moment I wanted to highlight in this movie. Kayla eventually makes friends with a high school girl named Olivia (Emily Robinson). Olivia was her shadow on a day all of the eighth graders come to high school to get an experience of what it was like. Kayla and Olivia connect in real way. Olivia clearly feels for Kayla’s social situation and she invites her to the mall to hang out with her high school friends. When it comes to giving rides home Riley, one of the boys, is driving and drops Olivia off first. Olivia states that they should drop Kayla off first, but Kayla says its fine. Red flags abound.
I think the most significant part of this scene is that it doesn’t end is full scale sexual assault. We walk into the scene with emergency bells deafeningly sounding off. There is no non-consensual touch. Kayla says no and it gets respected and she gets taken home. Making this high school boy a villain and actually having him force himself on her would have been easy. It would have added a lot of drama and pushed the seriousness of adolescence to the forefront. Instead we see a high school boy play truth and dare and use it as a tool to manipulate Kayla into getting what he wants. He uses his age, the fact that she looks up to him, and her naiveté as weapons against her. But he doesn’t rape her. He stops. Because he’s a good dude.
The MeToo movement has sparked a large conversation as a society about sexual assault. It started with an emphasis on criminality. It has moved to trying to define those grayer areas. What happens to Kayla is pretty normalized. The age gap makes the situation slightly scuzzier, but for the most part it’s pretty standard flirting. Boy’s will be boys. It’s why we have this engrained mythos around good dads protecting their daughters and threatening boyfriends. All men, even the good ones are predators.
The most powerful part of this scene unfolding and the aftermath is the audience gets to see how both the boy and the girl fall into their socialized roles. Riley earlier in the film is pretty quiet and not confident in comparison to the other male friend we meet, Trevor. Once he is alone with Kayla he transforms. He’s funny, he’s confident, and he’s unrelenting. Kayla has never been in a situation like this. She is definitely interested and aware of her sexuality, but her experience is significantly lacking. The audience watches her fall into the role of being quiet and obedient and not communicating her discomfort. The rest of the ride home she is constantly apologizing like it’s her fault she couldn’t give Riley what he wanted. When she finally does get home, the event destroys her. It’s as emotionally devastating as if it had crossed a line into criminality. Something was done to her and it’s not ok. Burnham has made a significant contribution to the discussion we are having. Hopefully this reaches the next generation of boys and they can learn as we as a society better define these grayer areas of conduct.
Eighth Grade is a triumph. Go see it right now. It has been an extremely competitive year for filmmaking, but Burnham’s directorial debut is absolutely in the running for best film of the year. The dedication and focus to small moment is what sells its authenticity. I spent a large part of this review focusing on the challenge of this movie, and don’t get me wrong it’s uncomfortable to sit through. It is still extremely funny and a loving celebration of a challenging part of everyone’s life. Go see it!