I have never been more terrified to see a movie. You hear people sometimes say something similar about horror films they’re too scared to see, but I’m not talking about a horror film in the traditional sense. I’m talking about Eighth Grade. I saw the trailer, and thought it was too real for me, and noped out of it. Then the buzz started building. I continued to resist. Then Stardust couldn’t stop raving about it. And we know I wasn’t gonna let myself get left out of a major convo on the Dust.
Why was the idea of this movie so terrifying? Because my own actual eighth grade experience (and the years around it) were the worst of my lift. I actually think 8th was the worst. In 7th, I still had my plucky spirit, but was starting to face rejection at every turn. By 8th, I’d learned to expect rejection, but hadn’t yet figured out how to accept myself. I wouldn’t learn to adopt more of a DGAF attitude for a couple years. But basically, any time I opened my mouth, there was a high probability that somebody would make fun of me, or shoot me down, or laugh, or roll their eyes, or do anything else to make me feel bad. Oh and then there was that time my classmate set my hair on fire. That was fun. So yeah, I was beyond terrified to sit thru a movie that would inevitably stir some shit up and require me to relive that experience.
The movie revolves around Kayla, an 8th grader in her last week of middle school and looking forward to high school. She’s about as awkward and misguided and clueless as we try to forget we all were. It’s cringingly real. For the rest of the audience at my screening, it was apparently hilarious. For me, I kept getting more and more tense and tried desperately not to cry.
I did eventually break during a rather touching scene with her father. The loving words he told her felt so much like it was my Daddy saying them to me. Hell, I’m tearing up right now just thinking about it.
This was one of the hardest movie watching experiences I’ve ever had, and I’m not entirely sure if it was worth it. I’m happy to have satisfied my curiosity, but I personally didn’t get too much out of it. If anything, I kinda feel jealous of Kayla. The lack of confidence she was expressing isn’t only accurate to what I felt in 8th grade. It’s accurate of how I feel now, mostly because of the experiences I did have in 8th grade. I’m jealous that she started figuring out how to deal with it and present herself proudly in a way that I’m only just now learning (that has also required therapy). Also, while she wasn’t always fully accepted by her peers, she wasn’t as blatantly bullied and rejected. I envy that. I wouldn’t wish my jr high experience on anyone, but part of me was hoping to see it on screen so that it could illustrate to other people how bad that year could be. But this was a movie about hope, and it’s something that may have been helpful to me back in the day. And I truly do hope that some eighth grade girl out there can be inspired by this film and lead a more fulfilling and confident life than I had at that age.
Eighth Grade – \m/ \m/ \m/