Here’s something from a horrific nightmare: You find yourself on stage in front of a room full of strangers, reading excerpts from your middle school diary out loud — and then that performance becomes part of a movie, so people around the world can hear your most embarrassing adolescent thoughts.
It’s not a dream — in fact, there are plenty of people who do that exact thing by choice. For more than a decade, a stage show called Mortified has provided a forum for that particular brand of public humiliation. Now, there’s a Mortified documentary called Mortified Nation (available now on VOD). In the course of examining the reasons Mortified exists, some not-easily-embarrassed participants — like the woman in the clip above — get their performances cemented in history.
“I wanted to make a film that captured the energy of the stage show but also asked the question, ‘Why are people doing this?'” says filmmaker Mike Mayer. “Why are people sharing themselves in such a raw and intimate way?”
That, of course, is the big question of Mortified. Why would anyone ever volunteer to do something so humiliating?
As it turns out, there are lots of answers. For some it’s about catharsis, while others hope that viewers will laugh with (not at) their childhood selves. “I think the global answer, the one that rings true among all of the participants, and even with the audience members, is this realization that when we were growing up, we thought we were the only ones dealing with the fears and the hopes,” Mayer says. “All of us are realizing through Mortified that we all had those same feelings and those same fears. We all survived childhood.”
So, although Mayer insists that his own old diaries don’t contain anything worth sharing, he recognizes his experiences in the stories from other people that do make it to the stage — and he relates to them for their honesty.
“As meaningful as all of this is,” he says, “first and foremost this experience is one of humor — humor that comes from truth.”