Eighth Grade

Saw this with CJ.  Good movie.  If you’re wondering, can you see this with your adolescent, definitely yes.  If you’re wondering, will my adolescent have a deep conversation with me afterwards about the challenges of growing up, well, that’s not really CJ’s style but good luck with it!

My favorite thing about Eighth Grade is the way it captures the adolescent challenge seeing other human beings as actual people, like oneself, with their own interior lives.  Other people, for Kayla, are still mostly instruments, things to do something with, or things from which to get a response.  Or maybe she’s just at the moment of learning that other people are not just that?  Very good the way she records Olivia’s name in her phone as “Olivia High School” — other people are roles, they fit in slots — the crush, the shadow, the rival.  Olivia, older, engages with Kayla’s real self in a way that Kayla isn’t yet ready to reciprocate.

But why did she have to say at the end that high school was going to be cool, except math?  Come on, teen movie, be better.


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5 thoughts on “Eighth Grade

  1. bf says:

    I was having a discussion recently about how teenage girls are bombarded with a constant flow of tips where society tells them what they should be interested in (good looks, popularity) and what they shouldn’t be (mathematics). Thanks for adding one more piece of evidence.

    I am wondering was the movie written by a man? because I have no experience being an 8th-grade boy, but as a girl I certainly saw other people as having interior lives well before 8th grade (which is age 14, if I understand the US system at all).

  2. Tom Church says:

    @bf: yes, the movie was written and directed by the male comedian/musician Bo Burnham. I did hear a podcast interview with him where he said a number of details were changed from his original script by the the lead actress and the rest of the cast during filming (notably, all the script’s references to Facebook were replaced with Snapchat and Instagram bc his cast told him no one uses Facebook anymore), but that the overall script remained basically as he originally wrote it. So individual details (like the reference to math) could be coming from the kids, but overarching themes like interiority are from him.

    Generally, 8th graders in the US will all be 14 at the end of the school year, so most are 13 at the beginning.

    @jse: I liked the movie very much for its realism, especially the dialogue, which stood out among movies for NOT “projecting to the back of the playhouse”, but rather speaking the way we (and our teenage siblings) actually speak. The comment about math struck me as well, but after reflection I’m not sure whether I mind it — after all, it’s hard to say it’s not realistic. The scene in the car might also send a discouraging message to kids, but I wouldn’t change it for the world — I thought that scene was as thoughtfully done as anything I’ve seen.

  3. Richard Séguin says:

    I haven’t seen the movie, but I did recently discover that this sort of contempt for mathematics probably goes way back in time. Near the end of his life, Flaubert was working on Bouvard and Pécuchet, yet another novel mercilessly disdainful of the bourgeoisie. In conjunction with the story, he was compiling a “Dictionary of Received Ideas” as another way of mocking them. Two entries in it:

    Mathematics — Dry up the heart.

    Spelling — Like mathematics. Not necessary if you have style.

    It’s unfortunate that the media keeps reinforcing these views. It’s a cheap way of obtaining solidarity with large swaths of their potential audience.

  4. Robert Blade says:

    Great movie and enjoyed your take on it. But one minor point: the character’s name is Kayla; the actor who plays her is Elsie Fisher.

  5. JSE says:

    Oops, thanks, fixed!!

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