‘Eighth Grade’ Trailer: The Social Media Generation’s Own ‘Lady Bird’

We’re ready for newcomer Elsie Fisher to absolutely steal our hearts.
Eighth Grade Still
By  · Published on March 15th, 2018

We’re ready for newcomer Elsie Fisher to absolutely steal our hearts.

The reign of the middle schooler really began with Stranger Things and continued with the new adaptation of Stephen King’s It, but we’re ready to move into less supernatural territory with Eighth Grade. A24’s new coming-of-age film was a smash hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The cast may be made up of mostly unknown actors, yet the quality of Eighth Grade‘s story and first-time director Bo Burnham‘s assured navigation of the post-millennial experience already shines through in the first trailer. Watch it below.

Eighth Grade is about a middle school student named Kayla (played by Despicable Me‘s Elsie Fisher) who is determined to make her mark during the last week of classes before heading off on a new adventure: entering high school. The trailer showcases just how relatable the character is, and there are no quotation marks necessary there. Whether it’s A24’s strategic marketing prowess or Burnham’s sheer talent, Kayla’s struggles don’t feel exaggerated, and her awkwardness doesn’t feel contrived.

Part of what makes the trailer so refreshing likely comes from Burnham’s experience of being a YouTuber. He started his performance career on the social media platform, writing musical comedy songs for the masses. Before long, he was performing on stage at prestigious events and recording stand-up specials for Comedy Central, YouTube, and Netflix. Burnham’s deftness at using social media and describing its pitfalls is evident in the Eighth Grade trailer.

In general, movies don’t always get social media right, despite the fact that these platforms have become part and parcel of our everyday lives. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the like are all never-ending streams of memes, crass comments, and unrealistic materialistic standards; they also connect people all over the world, facilitate activism and let us preserve our happiest moments.

Kayla goes through a huge chunk of the social media experience in the Eighth Grade trailer, which is fantastic; like many younger teenagers nowadays, she’s been using them since as young as the fifth grade. Kayla follows makeup tutorials, uses Snapchat filters, and lets her personality shine through her own YouTube videos. She also can’t stop scrolling through Twitter and gets lost in her own online world, detaching herself from reality. This results in Kayla stumbling when trying to communicate with others in real life, which isolates her but is something she wants to change. It’s unlikely that there will be some kind of unequivocal indictment of social media. Social media can be dangerous in excess but could it be fulfilling if a right balance is met? We may witness Kayla try to have the best of both worlds on and offline.

Much like how Greta Gerwig’s highly acclaimed Lady Bird hit the mark depicting the experience of growing up in the early 2000s, Eighth Grade could be Gen Z’s screen counterpart. Obviously, we can’t totally speak to Eighth Grade just yet since the film only comes out July 13th. But it’s not hard to see the similarities between the film and Lady Bird; how they happen to also be universally identifiable because of how they tackle feelings of displacement and insecurity. If this focus on genuine relatability happens to be a movie trend, here’s hoping that it never goes away.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)