A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Promotes open communication between teens and parents, including through device-free dinners (in one scene, Kayla is on her phone for a whole meal, until her father asks her to take out her earbuds so they can talk), social media boundaries, and one-on-one sharing of what's going on at school and personally. Explores the difficulties of going through adolescence in the age of social media -- and the courage it takes to love and speak up for yourself as a teen.
Positive Role Models
Kayla isn't perfect, but she's kind, curious, courageous, and hopeful, even during moments of sadness. She learns to love herself and speak up for herself, and she has hope for the future. Her father, though also not perfect, is concerned, caring, and encouraging.
Violence & Scariness
The middle school goes through an active shooter drill in which an authority pretends to shoot the kids who didn't hide properly. He makes the kids repeat what they're supposed to do during a real school shooting.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A teen boy is thought to be masturbating in class during a sex ed video about puberty: His T-shirt is pulled over his head and knees, and noises and hand movements can be seen. A girl stares longingly and lustfully at a boy her age. Suggestive comments and conversations about hook-up culture, sharing nude photos, and "how far" Kayla has gone or is willing to go physically with a boy; she tells someone she's really good at oral sex. Kayla then researches oral sex on YouTube; video screen shots and brief glimpse of a sex toy are shown. She picks up a banana to, presumably, practice but is interrupted. A boy takes his shirt off during a game of Truth or Dare and asks Kayla to do the same; she refuses.
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Strong language, often used by teens: "f--k," "s--t," "d--k," "ass," "goddamn," "p---y," "Jesus Christ," "loser," etc. Also sex-related terms, including "blow job." Middle-finger gestures.
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Products & Purchases
Several brands visible: MacBook, iPhone, LL Bean, Adidas, Steph Curry jersey, Instagram, Chevy Tahoe, Gatorade, Buzzfeed, Speedo, Vans, Coca-Cola/Diet Coke, Snapchat, Charlotte Russe, YouTube, Mountain Dew, Claire's, Hamilton calendar, Rick and Morty.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A boy is shown sniffing a marker, presumably for a potential high.
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Parents Need to Know
Parent need to know that Eighth Grade is an extremely realistic, relatable indie dramedy directed by YouTube star Bo Burnham about going through adolescence. Elsie Fisher (the voice of Agnes in Despicable Me) stars as socially awkward eighth grader Kayla, a social media-savvy teen who's enduring the awkward transition between middle and high school. The biggest red flag here is the frequent strong language ("f--k," "s--t," "p---y," and more). But despite the swearing and some suggestive comments and conversations about hook-up culture, implied masturbation, oral sex, sharing nude photos, and "how far" Kayla has gone or is willing to go physically with a boy, this is a good (if slightly cringeworthy) movie to watch with your teen. There's so much here for parents and their teens to unpack, from mean-girl behavior and too much/inappropriate screen use to the importance of being careful around older teens (particularly for girls) and saying no to unwanted sexual advances. Ultimately, it also promotes open communication between teens and their parents, as well as courage, since Kayla learns to love and speak up for herself. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Fisher is fabulous in writer-director Burnham's poignant, sensitive exploration of the challenges of early adolescence in the age of social media and constant phone use. Burnham understands that middle school is the most awkward time in most kids' life and that the eighth grade in particular is a fragile transition year as young teens struggle with social status, puberty, and preparing for high school. Kayla knows she's considered one of the quietest girls in her class, and she's fine with that, because at home she records and uploads videos of herself talking about gaining more confidence, getting out of her comfort zone, and other self-help topics. Personally, her goals are pretty universal: She wants more friends, in particular one Best Friend, and a possible romance. But her social anxiety and earnest demeanor make it difficult for Kayla to relate to other teens, especially well-liked girls like Kennedy (Catherine Oliviere), or Aiden (Luke Prael), the boy Kayla is crushing on, who's apparently only interested in girls who've gone past second base.
Eighth Grade is (thankfully) not as explicit as Thirteen, but it's nearly as heartbreaking for different reasons -- at least for parents of teens. Luckily the movie has a somewhat hopeful message, as Kayla recognizes that making a connection with her father and finding friendship are both possible, if not with the so-called popular kids she admires. The pain Kayla expresses is incredibly realistic, and it will squeeze adult audiences' hearts as they watch a young girl attempt to find her place in an unforgiving social environment. There's a wonderful "aha" moment when Kayla finds her voice, and the inner middle schooler in all of us will cheer for the shy girl who's willing to tell the truth to her peers: Don't front, it's OK to be grateful and kind and to have fun playing games with your family, and to not be in a rush to grow up before you're ready.
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