Imagine reading the diary of your 12-year-old self in front of a packed audience.
That’s what goes down in “Mortified Nation,” a documentary that follows regular people baring the deepest and darkest of their tween selves to complete strangers across the country.
“I do ‘Mortified’ because I think my childhood is relatable. I’m laughing at myself, I’m laughing with myself, so it’s fine,” said participant Amanda. (Last names aren’t issued, understandably.)
In “Mortified,” she reads of her 13-year-old defiance. “I’ll start snorting and popping until I’m addicted, but before I do all of that, I first need to lose some f—ing weight.” The schizo emotional rollercoaster in one thought is uber relatable to anyone who’s survived middle school.
Participants share the embarrassment of getting busted masturbating to their questions about puberty and their first loves. “Mortified” also shows painful entries of a man fighting his sexuality to a woman who ran away from an abusive home.
Everything’s read by the original authors, and some broadcast their comic strips, poetry and musings via a huge screen on stage. Mortified participant Stacy talks her 12-year-old obsession with kissing in front of a full house. She reads diary entries of the first time she held hands during a seance to the life-goal of stripping for an audience and doing “the spaghetti thing from ‘Lady and the Tramp.’”
Her expressions are deadpan, the crowd feeds off of it and I was hooked. Watching “Mortified Nation” was like seeing a rawer version of stand-up comedy.
With more pimples and self-doubt.
Another participant Tynan shares entries that “reveal a lovesick 15-year-old who had the heart of a poet and the vocabulary of Flavor Flav.” His diary jumps from lusting after Kate Winslet to his crush on a classmate. And at the end of each entry, he says what he wore, what he ate and closes with “Peace. One Love.” It’s pretty rough and endearing.
And this whole movement was spawned by one unsent love letter.
“I found it in my 20s, I wrote it in my teens and it’s haunted me ever since,” said Mortified national producer David Nadelberg, who along with Neil Katcher launched this series of live shows.This film dips into the screening process for participants, which looks like a therapy sesh, and how Mortified chapters have popped up across the U.S. including one in Sweden.
Watching this doc made me happy I didn’t throw away my middle school journals. This made me proud I have a past to look back to, and this guy explains it perfectly at the end of the film: “To take what was once your shame — to own it — to laugh at it — that’s essentially what the very nature of mortified is about.”
It makes sense why so many wanna jump on board. This film makes shame look cool.
It’s so worth a watch.
Indiewatch is a weekly review of independent films and documentaries available on Amazon Prime and Netflix. Reach Lavine at mlavine@duluth news.com or (218) 723-5346, read her blog at reeltalk.areavoices.com.