When it comes to movies and TV shows about aging, sex and sexuality are often the domain of high schoolers. From Juno with an easy with sex education with I never with yes god yes with euphoria, 30-year-old adult actors portray characters no younger than 15 years old. In contemporary entertainment at least, high school is often the limit of when it’s acceptable to portray characters interested in sex. The sexuality of middle schoolers living in that precarious age where curiosity begins but puberty is not yet fully grown is a rarer and more difficult phenomenon to portray on screen.
Are you there, God? It’s me MargaretThe movie, based on Judy Blume’s famous 1970 book, was released on Friday. The film, like its source material, clearly deals with how it feels for middle school girls to encounter puberty and sexuality for the first time.
Sixth grader Margaret Simon (Abby Ryder Forston) goes shopping for a bra, tracks down her crushes, gets her first kiss, and tries to make her boobs bigger. The climaxing scene comes when her friend Nancy Wheeler (Elle Graham) falls on her period at a restaurant after months of anxiously waiting. At every opportunity, the story spins into the bodily milestones of middle school and the emotional ups and downs they entail.
It’s not a perfect movie, but with what precision and care Are you there, God? It depicts preteen girls’ uncertainty about their sexuality, making it feel one of a kind. Most stories about middle school students leave sex out of the picture. by Bo Burnham eighth grade while focusing more on the dangers of online interaction, Wimpy Kid’s Diary series focusing on bullying in the schoolyard and stranger things prioritized the surreal over the corporeal. On the other hand, recent shows that dare to portray sex-minded middle schoolers have relied on adult actors to capture the confusion of child characters and leaned on shock value to officially capture the chaos of adolescence in creative ways.
Inside pencil15, the delightfully absurd Hulu show about the trials and tribulations of seventh grade, Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle star as middle school versions of themselves among a cast of real tweens and teens. Maya and Anna are mean and sex-obsessed, especially Maya, who masturbates in anger, sometimes face-down on the bathroom floor. However pencil15 scrupulously avoid exposing its underage players to sexual content. In a hotly debated scene from the show’s first season where Anna had her first kiss, the show is cut from long shots of Anna and her young stage partner looking at each other, to close-ups of Konkle’s real-life boyfriend’s face. two characters bend down for a kiss. Even when the show requires labor-intensive editing, it ensures that only adults are actually involved in the portrayal of sexuality.
big mouthNetflix’s racy animated comedy takes a different approach. It uses the freedom of its illustrated form to depict elastic and effervescent cartoon breaks—played by adult voice actors, of course—performing sex acts that might be too graphic even for live-action adult scenes. Seventh grader Andrew (John Mulaney) takes nude selfies for his cousin in the bedroom, while classmate Jay (Jason Mantzoukas) bangs his pillow and bath mat; Meanwhile, their friend Jessi (Jessi Klein) masturbates against a hand mirror. Thanks to the creative, liberating powers of animation, big mouth can describe middle school students’ penises and vaginas, drooling attempts at kissing, and jerky, uncanny orgasms; child actors can enjoy rudeness without exploiting it.
This was not always a concern. As Brooke Shields describes in her latest documentary, Hulu’s Brooke Shields: Beautiful Baby, filmmakers and audiences sexualized him from a shockingly early age. He starred in 1978’s at the age of 12. Beautiful baby as a child sex worker whose virginity is up for auction; same year, High Times described her as “a fiery mix of all-American virgin and newborn prostitute”. Shields was cast in the 1980s at the age of 15. Blue Lagoon As a young girl stranded on Paradise island with her cousin, she shot several nude scenes for it. Director Randal Kleiser advertised the film as a “reality show”, an insight into his “real sexual awakening”, to use the underage Shields’ status as a national sex symbol.
However Are you there, God? It is concerned with what a child might think of sex rather than imposing adult concepts of sexuality on a child’s body. In an early scene, Nancy practices lovemaking on the bedpost in front of a terrified Margaret, insisting that “it’s important to try” so that she doesn’t grow up to be a bad kisser. A funny and effective presentation of a middle school student’s approach to physical intimacy; Nancy is both overconfident and grumpy, recklessly abandoning the wooden ball, and then wants to find out what Margaret thinks is so weird about it. But even her advocacy of practicing kissing is quickly flying away. Soon, he moves on to the next topic of conversation: bringing Margaret into the garden to play in the fountains.
Nancy isn’t old enough to handle the instinctive embarrassment about sex that afflicts seventh graders. pencil15 And big mouth. He still has the absolute lack of self-confidence of a kid and sees kissing more as a hobby you can do with friends rather than an erotic field. It is characteristic of childhood fantasy that he readily accepts and then abandons the act of kissing. For Nancy, kissing has no financial or physical consequences; It is not accompanied by any arousal. It’s just a creative game that involves pre-enacting adulthood, to better understand and control such an experience once it comes. It’s a safe, stand-alone game, a year or two away from the kind of game where you squish your dolls’ faces to kiss.
It’s the opposite of how Shields is treated. Beautiful baby or Blue Lagoon, made to portray old men both on stage and in the audience; instead, Nancy’s curiosity is based on a childlike desire to try something new in the privacy of her bedroom.
His childishness runs through other places as well. After Margaret and Nancy walk past the fountains and pretend to walk the catwalk on the grass, Nancy’s older brother Evan (Landon Baxter) and his friend Moose (Aidan Wojtak-Hissong) make fun of the girls, making Nancy scream for her mother. When she menstruates, she returns to the same instinct to look for her mother on stage; When the camera shows Nancy trembling on the toilet, her face wet and in tears, it’s clear that the famous milestone of attaining femininity—menstruation—doesn’t change the basic fact that she’s still a child. Entering puberty and trying to understand her body and sexuality didn’t push Nancy forward into a new phase of her life, it underlined her immaturity.
By allowing her young characters to oscillate too often between adolescent overconfidence and infantile vulnerability, Are you there, God? creates an unprecedentedly scorching candid portrayal of middle school students’ nascent sexuality. Previous art on the subject has taken a distinctly adult perspective, whether through obscene parody. pencil15 And big mouth or by the lust of virgin purity embodied by Beautiful baby And Blue Lagoon. However Are you there, God? A loving portrait of the maiden in all her insolent ignorance.
There are many notable subtleties in the movie—like the emotional distance of Nancy kissing on the bedpost, or the uneducated quality of her and Margaret’s fake runway in the courtyard, walking with their stomachs forward twitching while trying to look suffocating but getting closer to the gang. . These are exciting moments that reflect exactly what it feels like to be a middle schooler in a middle schooler’s body. It’s a feeling that most viewers rarely see depicted on screen.