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‘Eighth Grade’ & The Other Films That Capture Being A Teenage Girl

by Kat Hughes

Eighth Grade UK release

Adolescence is one of the trickiest times of your life. It’s the period when you start to really define your identity and start seeking independence from your parents. At the same time, your body is changing, the transition is completely awkward and, at times, embarrassing. As chaotic and emotionally exhausting as the years are, they have been the inspiration for an abundance of quality cinema. There’s something about the teenage experience that keeps drawing audiences back, and as this week’s new release Eighth Grade proves, filmmakers are still able to tell new stories. Directed by Bo Burnham, the film perfectly encapsulates the awkwardness of being a teenage girl, which got us thinking about other films that nail that tumultuous time. Here are some of our favourites.

Eighth Grade

Eighth Grade joins teenage girl Kayla (Elsie Fisher) as she is about to finish the eighth grade. Sadly for Kayla her middle school years have not been all she dreamed of. She’s not the happy, bubbly, popular person that she aspired to be, often going through a whole day of school without even speaking to anyone. Despite the bleakness of her school day reality, Kayla comes alive at home where she moderates her own You Tube blog, during which she is full of life. Essentially an introverted extrovert, Kayla seeks to follow her own You Tube advice by setting herself a mission to become one of the popular people. What follows are a series of awkward, embarrassing, and all too real scenarios that take you right back to your teen years. There’s a sequence that is so cringe-worthy, it may go down in the film history books; men have apple pies thanks to American Pie, ladies get ready to cringe whenever you see a banana. An important film for young girls to watch, Eighth Grade demonstrates the hardships of the age without getting too bleak. It also contains some very important messaging about embracing who you are.

Thirteen

She may now be known as the director of Twilight, but director Catherine Hardwicke burst onto the film scene with the exceptional Thirteen. Although set over the same teen years as Eighth Grade, Thirteen veers into very different territory. Whereas Eighth Grade has an almost saccharine edge to it, Thirteen is all grit and stark realities. The film was co-written by Hardwicke and actor Nikki Reed, and was loosely based on Reed’s own teen experiences. The story sees straight-A student Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood) fall under the spell of teen tearaway Evie (Nikki Reed). Her newfound friendship leads Tracy down a dark path filled with drugs, petty theft, teenage sex and piercings. It’s essentially every parent’s worst nightmare sprung forth on the screen, but is one that is a sad truth for many young women.

Pin Cushion

Eighth Grade and Thirteen both do a great job with the Universal themes of being a teenage girl, but if you want a specifically British take, seek out Pin Cushion. Directed by Deborah Haywood, Pin Cushion joins mother and daughter BFF’s Lyn (Joanna Scanlan) and Iona as they move to a new town. The pair, both extreme naive innocents, find their new world vicious and cruel, and both retreat into fantasy lands in order to cope whilst at the same time lying to the other about their reality. Pin Cushion encapsulates the wickedness of teenage girls horrifyingly accurately. I actually grew up in a Midland village not too far away from where Pin Cushion was filmed and I can strongly attest to it’s accuracy. A story of broken bonds, bullying, tenderness and cruelty, this film takes the emotions on an almighty journey, breaking your heart in the most beautiful way. What Pin Cushion also does that others on this list do not, is that it also highlights how hard it can be for adults to, especially those that are vulnerable to the world around them.

Ginger Snaps

Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Bridget (Emily Perkins) are inseparable sisters with a taste for the macabre. Viewed as strange outsiders by the other kids at school, they are perfectly content to spend their days photographing each other in various dead poses. Things take a turn for the worst when, on the day Ginger starts her periods, she is attacked and bitten by a werewolf, meaning that Ginger’s monthly change is more extreme than for other girls. Yes, on paper Ginger Snaps might technically be a horror film, but it’s a horror film that also does a pretty spot on job of portraying the horror of female adolescence. In particular, it highlights the ‘changes’ that us females go through wrapped up inside a nifty werewolf film that also demonstrates the powerful bonds of sisterhood. This theme is something that director John Fawcett would use again in his co-creation of television series Orphan Black. 

Mean Girls

Based on the book by Rosalind Wiseman, and written by 30 Rock‘s Tina Fey, Mean Girls follows previously home-schooled Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) as she enters high-school for the first time. Being deemed pretty by the school’s Queen of mean, Regina George (Rachel McAdams), Cady is brought into the elite group known as The Plastics. She soon finds herself seduced by the group and the power that comes with it. Teenage girls can be some of the most cruel creatures to walk the Earth. Some, not all, seem intent to destroy those that they deem to be lesser. Be that they dress in clothes that don’t conform with their brand of cool, listen to music that isn’t in, or just march to the beat of their own drum, these cliques of girls can make other girl’s lives Hell. Mean Girls examines this phenomena through a veil of comedy.

Eighth Grade arrives in UK cinemas on Friday 26th April, read our review here

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