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Nothing Can Prepare You for the Terror That Is… ‘Eighth Grade’

"It looks like everything eighth grade was for you: Funny, horrifying, and weird as hell."

Eighth grade, admits Joshua Rivera, “is horrible for everyone, but every once in a while during your adult life it’s hard not to freeze in abject horror at the thought of having to go through all that again, only right now.

Director Bo Burnham’s film Eighth Grade, gives “you a firsthand look at growing up in 2018, and it looks like everything eighth grade was for you: Funny, horrifying, and weird as hell.” To read the full article, click here.

The film, John DiLillo writes, follows “a girl named Kayla going through the most objectively horrifying time in a young person’s life. Burnham doesn’t hesitate to embrace that; he shoots a pool party at an unfamiliar classmate’s house with the purest form of unadulterated horror. Music blares and middle-schoolers in slow-motion blow water out of their nose with gusto. It’s all incredibly mundane, but it makes for the most uncomfortable viewing experience of the year so far, partially because the feelings of horror and anxiety are so real and familiar.

Eighth Grade’s masterstroke is that it doesn’t have to put Kayla into frightening places in order to make you worry about her. Everything in middle school is frightening and uncertain and disturbing on a host of different levels.” To read the full article, click here.

It “tries to capture what it’s like to be in junior high right now and it’s pretty horrifying,” Mike Ryan agrees. “Namely, the integration of social media: which takes what used to be long days at school trying to keep up and feeling left out and replaces that with the feeling of trying to keep up and being left out every waking moment.” To read the full article, click here.

“At the core of Eighth Grade is that fundamental anxiety: the way Kayla feels like she must broadcast her life, even when what terrifies her the most is what other people will think of her,” says Logan Hill. 

“Part of Kayla’s anxiety in the movie is she’s worried that the movie of her life would suck,” Burnham tells Hill. “That’s a really anxious way to live.”

“Burnham has tapped into a byproduct of social-media-saturated adolescence that’s often overlooked in favor of parental panic and worst-case-scenario horror stories,” writes Emily Yoshida. “In Kayla’s world, there is a premium on always having something to say. Her eyeballs are hooked to a steady IV drip of her classmates’ snaps and celebrity YouTube videos—everyone has something to share or teach or perform. 

“No wonder she thinks the best way to make her mark is through a YouTube channel, where she, in all her infinite eighth-grade wisdom, offers advice on such YouTube-worthy banalities as ‘being yourself’ and ‘gaining confidence.’ (Sample advice: ‘The hard part about being yourself is that it’s not easy.’)” To read the full article, click here.

“I went online to watch a bunch of videos of young people talking about themselves,” Burnham recalls in an interview with Michel Martin. “And the boys tended to talk about videogames, and the girls tended to talk about their souls. So it was, like, OK. I think [this film is] probably going to be about a girl. And I also wanted to make a movie about this age that didn’t feel nostalgic and wasn’t a memory. I like nostalgic movies, but I wanted this to be visceral and present.” To read the full interview, click here.

“Having a 13-year-old at the center of the story was crucial, Burnham tells Mark Jenkins. “There’s a transparency to that age that I think is very beautiful. We become self-aware at that age. That’s when the self-awareness turns on.”

“All of a sudden you see yourself in the fluorescent-light reflection in the bathroom mirror and go, ‘Oh my God, I’m a human being. With all these flaws. I need to start fixing myself.” To read the full interview, click here.

“I think the way that I understood [Kayla] was I believed I could understand her,” Burnham tells Ryan. “That was almost part of it: believing I could see myself in her. And believing, yeah, you’re different than me, but you have access to all of my same questions and fears and thoughts as me.”

“Burnham says he identifies with Kayla’s anxiety,” continues Hill, which is exponentially magnified by social media; he’s suffered from something similar for much of his life. To read the full interview, click here

“That’s the thing about the Internet,” Burnham continues in his interview with Martin. “It’d be so much easier to address if it was just bad. If it was just bad, we’d just tell the kids and everybody to get off their phones. But the truth is, it is—it just deepens every possible thing, the good and the bad. It’s giving exposure to voices that would not be heard. It’s giving visibility to people that wouldn’t be heard. And it’s setting the country on fire. 

“We’re connected more than ever, and we’re lonelier, and we’re numb, and we’re stimulated. You know, we’re self-expressing and we’re self-objectifying. So it’s all of the things, which is confusing to me and why I felt like I just wanted to explore it subjectively from emotional standpoint.” To read the full interview, click here.

Read more: Bo Burnham on Eighth Grade, Anxiety and Why Social Media Is a Curse

Read more: Teens, Tech and Emotions: How Bo Burnham Graduated to Eighth Grade