Bo Burnham speech on winning Best Directorial Debut for Eighth Grade

This film was an attempt to represent the kids who live their lives online… Generation Z. Some people think they’re millennials, they’re not millennials — I’m a millennial, they’re the generation below that. They are a generation that has been mischaracterized as self-obsessed, narcissistic, shallow… but they are not. They are self-conscious. They have been forced by a culture that they did not create to be conscious of themselves at every moment, to curate every aspect of themselves and present it to the world for judgement. They live their lives as a movie — a movie of which they are their own star, writer, director, cinematographer, editor, colorist… Their parents are craft service… And part of their stress, I believe, is their thinking compared to the representative media that the movie of their life sucks. We tried very hard to show that the failure to meet a cultural standard is worthy of a story, that their struggle is worth paying attention to. We are so quick to ask why these kids are looking at their phones all the time rather than ask what kind of world have we made for them to look up at. They are served by a culture that seemingly gives them everything they want but nothing that they actually need… They are after all children and we need to do better for them, and I believe the answer to their problems, if there is one, is theirs to articulate, not ours. The best path forward is not to judge or finger-wag … but to listen.

The Viewer and The Viewed

We are the image. We are the viewer and the viewed. There is no other distracting presence. And that image has all the Godly powers. It kills at will. Kills effortlessly. Kills beautifully. It dispenses morality. Judges endlessly. The electronic image is man as God and the ritual involved leads us not to a mysterious Holy Trinity but back to ourselves. In the absence of a clear understanding that we are now the only source, these images cannot help but return to the expression of magic and fear proper to idolatrous societies. This in turn facilitates the use of the electronic image as propaganda by whoever can control some part of it.

John Ralston Saul, Voltaire’s Bastards