Bo Burnham and his movie “8th Grade“ give viewers an inside look at what it’s like to be a teenager when every moment is a photo-op and anxiety is the new norm. At age 27, Burnham still remembers what it was like to be a teenager under the ever-watchful and over-scrutinizing eye of not only himself but the other kids in his class. The millennials, and now Generation Z, have been entrenched in the world of social media since they were little, so to speak to them and really reach them, parents and teachers have to learn a whole new language.
The Trap of Performance Anxiety
Kids spend their time either looking through a viewfinder or looking into a lens. Bo Burnham has taken his experiences growing up in the age of social media and given kids a voice that will hopefully create a dialogue in which everyone can be on the same page. While constantly feeling like they have to act or be a certain way, it’s topped off by the strained communication between the tweens and their parents. Anyone who has raised a middle school-aged child (boy or girl) understands that the language they speak is not easily learned and can be widely misinterpreted. It’s like mixing numbers and letters in algebra. They don’t seem to belong together, but in the end, with a few acrobatic moves in between, everything eventually comes out in the wash.
Being Yourself When You Try to Maintain an Image
Bo Burnham is the youngest comedian ever to be featured on Comedy Central. Part of the reason for his success is that from a very early age he knew how to be himself without worrying about the hard stuff. He began to realize how the anxiety he felt growing up was still shaping kids today, only now, social media is playing a much bigger role. The stress of constantly performing creates a level of anxiety that most teens can’t outrun. They are constantly trying to maintain the perfect image with their friends while still relating to their parents.
The “emotional inventory” he came up with during the making of “8th Grade” encompasses all of the feelings young students endure as they try to navigate the hurricane-tossed seas of youth. It also takes a hard look at how parents must stand by and watch their kids flounder around without the aid of a life jacket or even a pool noodle. The parents learn rather quickly that there is no owner’s manual to refer to, and if one were to be written, it would be in an alien code that is practically decipherable.
Bo Burnham is one of the most unique artists of his time. His ability to relate to kids and the things they go through on a regular basis makes him easy to relate to. Both parents and their children can gain insight from the comedic spin he puts on what teens go through. While he may take things to the extreme to make a point, it’s easily accepted that both sides sometime need the exaggeration to be fully understood. He also makes it possible for the parents to get a new understanding of their children without having to constantly stalk their YouTube channel or Instagram account. Whether you are a parent or a kid, be observant, be aware and be like Bo when it comes to being true to yourself in all of your awkward glory. Let your light shine and maybe someday the letters and numbers will all make sense.
Wendy M writes on a variety of topics with health and environmental topics being her most common subjects. She has most recently been published on both eHow.com and Livestrong.com. Wendy specializes in health, fitness, diet and alternative therapy pieces.