Eighth Grade: a movie about our generation

Faiza Shaikh, Staff Writer

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“Is that what eighth grade was really like for you?” asks my mom as we exit the theater. I nod. It was a surreal experience to re-live my last year of middle school a few months after it ended. ‘Eighth Grade’ is a blockbuster of awkwardness and the Generation Z kids are the stars.


The film opens with Kayla, our heroine, looking earnestly into a camera. “Being yourself is really hard, and the hard part about being yourself is that it’s not always easy,” she preaches to a YouTube account where she offers advice to her sparse subscribers. Kayla herself is as shy and uncomfortable as a middle schooler could be (she’s voted ‘Most Quiet in her yearbook). And, like most kids her age, she’s absorbed in her phone. In a particularly shocking scene, kids are sitting during a shooter drill, the artificial glow of their phones illuminating their faces.


Technology plays an important role in the movie, just like it does in life. Phoebe Amirault, who acts in the film, agrees.“I do think [ technology] plays a pivotal role,” she says, “It’s how kids communicate, see what’s going on in the world and learn new things. It definitely is something that shaped the way people grew up.” Additionally, on importance and effect, Amirault states, “People who didn’t grow up in the time that we did don’t understand that technology affects our lives every day. They think it’s easier for us with technology, but really in a sense it’s complicating our lives and affecting how we see the world.” Certainly, most  can agree. The world has changed much since the time our parents were born.


Fortunately, writer/director Bo Burnham knows exactly what the kids of today are dealing with.  Burnham was in high school when he got popular online. In an interview with NPR’s Terry Goss,  Burnham says, “”I think [social media] widens and deepens the experiences of what kids are going through. It forces kids to not just live their experience, but be nostalgic for their experience while they’re living it — [to] watch people watch them.” Amirault has nothing but good words to say about Burnham, “[Burnham] was such a sweet guy, he wanted to make sure we were having fun and were comfortable with what we were doing. He treated us with respect.”


Generation Z has grown up watching rom-coms from the 90s, and dramatic high school operas from the early 2000s, touting them as legendary movies.. However, never has a movie so precise and realistic about the struggles and insecurities of being a teenager in this decade come out.  A teenager herself, Amirault elaborates on the integrity of the film,“I think Kayla accurately represents a teenager growing up in this age because she looks like a teenager and  goes through problems that aren’t shown as much as they should be. I love how authentic ‘Eighth Grade’ is, it is a perfect representation of middle school or  high school today.” Furthermore, Kayla is relatable in the sense that she really doesn’t know who she is, and who she wants to be. At its heart, that’s what “Eighth Grade” is really about- growing up in the digital age, and finding your place in a changing world. Finally, a movie about our generation.


Special thanks to Phoebe Amirault


https://www.npr.org/2018/07/18/630069876/director-bo-burnham-on-growing-up-with-anxiety-and-an-audienceeighth grade movieeighth grade movie