Is the movie “Eighth Grade” appropriate for 8th Graders?

by | Sep 4, 2018 | Academic Expeditions Blog

After working with 8th graders for years (Middle schoolers make up the majority of our groups that travel with Academic Expeditions), I was very keen to go see Bo Burnham’s debut film “8th Grade”, and so I did this week. The movie centers around shy Kayla whose self- absorption in social media is contrasted with outward attempts to fit into the “cool crowd”. The primary question I had going in was, “Is this a movie made for 8th graders or for grown-ups reflecting on their most awkward years?” During the movie, I thought I had my answer: I felt it was not appropriate for an audience of minors, mostly due to language and sexual references. But upon reflecting afterwards, I felt this movie should not just be enjoyed by adults who are happy those years are behind them, but by those going through it now. I hope 8th graders do see it, but that they do so with their parents, and not with a pack of their same age friends in an outing to the mall. A parent sitting next to their 8th grader, and an 8th grader sitting next to their parent, will both most certainly cringe while watching this movie together. But I think that can be a good thing, inviting discussions afterwards that might be hard to approach otherwise, to ask each other what parts felt relevant.
The movie itself is very well done. It captures the context of the age very well, with real age actors, pimples and braces and all. Take away the cell phones and social media, and it felt very familiar to my own middle school years in the 1980’s. While I could also identify with Kayla’s awkwardness and her mis-steps trying to belong and grow up, I was probably too much of a “boy” to think that much about it, and the presence of siblings and church kept me out of the more inappropriate contexts.
The examples of public smart phone obsession might be exaggerated, but I appreciate that it shows the public rudeness in such obvious ways. We probably all think that level of obliviousness, “that’s not me” but want the point hammered home for all the “other” transgressors. That’s probably a main theme of the movie: for those on the journey of physical and social puberty, when the obsession with “image” is at its extreme, the painfully obvious is needed to awake those that are painfully oblivious.

(Reviewed by AE Staff Isaiah Mosteller)

Check out the Movie Trailer below: