Bo Burnham’s “Eighth Grade” Proves That Middle School Sucks


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Middle Muddle: Those recovering from middle school -- there are many at North -- will likely enjoy “Eighth Grade,” a film by director Bo Burnham.

Oh, middle school: the single most awkward and frustrating time of our lives. A place where we were expected to act like adults but were treated like children. We were able to take on serious responsibilities, things like babysitting, but still were given assigned seating in classes. We were given multiple hours of homework but were not allowed on screens after 9:30 a.m.

Middle schoolers are quite possibly the most misunderstood and underestimated age demographic in our society today. However, “Eighth Grade,” the directorial debut of comedian Bo Burnham, is the film both veteran and current students across America are praising for its realistic depiction of these troubling times and for reminding everyone just how challenging middle school can truly be.

“Eighth Grade” follows Kayla Day throughout her last week of middle school. The film’s protagonist is an awkward tween with extreme social anxiety and a noteworthy lack of friends. One of the main ways the film distinguishes itself from other school-themed movies is the focus on Kayla’s anxiety. Most films about kids like to avoid discussing mental illness for fear of off putting audiences. However, Burnham’s unflinching portrayal of anxiety in teens has proven quite successful. Students everywhere are taking comfort in knowing that they are not alone when it comes to these issues.

The problem with most big corporations trying to be relatable by making movies about high schoolers — I’m looking at you, Disney — is the outlandish and unrealistic dialogue. High schoolers in movies should not be talking like a middle-aged screenwriter trying his hardest to sound hip. Burnham’s dialogue was pulled from hours of research online – particularly YouTube videos of kids in middle/high school – laser focused on the current dialect of teens. When asked about the relevance of a film like this for kids actually in middle school, sophomore Sophie Terraso said, “It’s an important film for kids to see because it’s told through the lens of a kid.”

Although “Eighth Grade” takes place in a fictional middle school, there are numerous similarities between the social dynamics within Kayla’s school and North Atlanta. Burnham’s ability to write relatable but not stereotypical characters adds a degree of believability to the film. Sophomore Tyler Hubbard noticed a major similarity after viewing the movie over the summer. “It shows Kayla trying to fit in with the crowd and trying to figure out who she is, which is something we all are trying to do in eighth grade,” Hubbard said. “We all just want to fit in and sometimes that’s a hard thing to do,” he said.

Even with a summer release, “Eighth Grade” throws kids and adults alike back into the terrifying world of middle school. Based on the wonderful critical and public reception of the film, Hollywood would be wise to take note and green light more films like this one in the future.