Fear of Female Sexuality – Eighth Grade

8th Grade Movie PosterI saw the trailer for Eighth Grade a few months ago, in the company of some teens, including a girl a year younger than the character in this film. I asked her if she’d be interested in seeing the film, and her response was “no,” because, being made by adults, it would not be a realistic portrayal of teen life.

It’s a fair point. Fast Times at Ridgemont High, about the last year of high school, was made around my last year of high school. Almost nothing in the film resembles my experiences of high school. The best line in the film, at least for me, was a line that was not included in the theatrical print, and used as filler in the TV version (how I first saw it). Now the film appeals for its incidental nostalgic scenes of my youth – clothing, hair, jeans, and video games at the mall.

However, Fast Times includes an accidental pregnancy, and, like much of what is supposedly a comedy, the circumstances of the pregnancy are grim. The sex was lousy, and the boy is unable to come up with the money to help pay for the abortion, or even give the girl a ride to the clinic. It’s a cautionary tale, not over-emphasized, but effective, and the main reason why I think the film is great for teens to watch, even if not everything rings true to their experience.

Unfortunately, Fast Times was (and still is) a Restricted movie in the United States. Teens are not supposed to see it. This is part of a long history of teens not being admitted to cautionary films about them, including Kids (1995), Bully (2001), and Hounddog (2007).

Eighth Grade has received rave reviews, scoring 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, and even conservative reviewers recommend that teens see the film. Adults seem to think it is realistic, but whether teens agree, I’m not sure. Regardless, it includes cautionary tales and models good decision making, and is probably a good film for teens to see. Yet the MPAA says no.

The distributor is taking advantage of the controversy over the R rating to promote the film (of course), recently offering free unrated screenings.

Part of the reason for the rating is sexuality. As humourously detailed in This Film is Not Yet Rated, realistic and sensitive portrayals of sexuality, especially female sexuality or teen sexuality, and especially both, have always been difficult for the MPAA (and other agencies). The other reason is language. Bad words are easy to track, and most classification agencies have some seemingly objective rules around them. For the MPAA, language alone can get a film an R rating.

My research has shown that the vast majority of films get a lower age rating in Canada than given by the MPAA, and that’s true for Eighth Grade. It’s 14A in most of the country, and in the Maritimes and Quebec there are no age restrictions. Only Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia felt a sexual content advisory was warranted. So in most of the country, people 14 and up can see it without restrictions. That’s better than in the United States, but wouldn’t it be better if every child could easily see a film that models a good way to react when someone pressures you to take off your shirt? It might not be part of everyone’s experience, but cautionary tales do no harm.

So far, this film has not been rated in other countries. I’ll update this post when there are other countries to add, but I expect most agencies will have lower ratings than the MPAA.

Trailer

Ratings

Area
Classification
Advisory
Additional Information
Maritimes
pg

Parental guidance is advised. Theme or content may not be suitable for all children.

Language May Offend, Mature Theme
Quebec
generalq

The film is appropriate for viewing, rental or purchase by persons of all ages.

Déconseillé aux jeunes enfants
Ontario

Suitable for viewing by persons 14 years of age and older. Persons under 14 must be accompanied by an adult. May contain violence, coarse language, and/or sexually suggestive themes.

COARSE LANGUAGE

SEXUAL CONTENT

Limited use of slurs
Coarse language
Sexual references
Illustrated or verbal references to drugs, alcohol or tobacco
Crude content
Scenes that may cause a child brief anxiety, or fear
Mild sexual innuendo
sexual innuendo
Manitoba

Suitable for persons 14 years of age or older. Persons under 14 years of age must view these films accompanied by an adult. Films in this category may contain violence, coarse language or sexually suggestive scenes, or any combination of them.

Sexual Content
Alberta

Suitable for persons 14 years of age or older. Persons under 14 must be accompanied by an adult.

Synopsis:
Comedy. During the last week of grade eight, a teenager (Elsie Fisher) decides to step out of her comfort zone and tries to make some new friends.Content elements:
Infrequent use of the sexual expletive in a non-sexual context; infrequent use of scatological slang, cursing, profanity, and vulgar expressions.
Infrequent use of sexual language and references, some in an educational context – no nudity, some detailThematic elements
Navigating adolescence;
Identity and belonging;
Self-discovery and expressionClassification rationale
Rated 14A for some coarse language and sexual references
British Columbia

May contain violence, coarse language or sexually suggestive scenes, or any combination of them. Suitable for viewers 14 years of age or older. Viewers under 14 years of age must be accompanied by an adult.

Sexual content The following was determinative to the classification decision:
Scene depicting sexual content.Classifiers also noted the following:
Approximately 25 instances of coarse and/or sexual language;
Sexually suggestive scene.
MPAA (U.S.A.)
R

Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Rated R for language and some sexual material.