K-12 Melanie Martinez: Album and Movie Review


Bhoomi Sharma, Photography Editor

The Cry Baby returns after four years, this time with a musical and a soundtrack to go with it. Both the “K-12” movie and album by Melanie Martinez were released on September 6th 2019. The title is supposed to represent the drama of life condensed into the years spent in school. The “K-12” album is the second one released by the artist. and Martinez also wrote, directed, starred in and edited the movie.


The movie is similar to horror but full of Victorian pastel pinks and blues. The protagonist, Cry Baby, is going to Sleepaway School in a world filled with gender stereotypes, racism and sexism. The songs are a soundtrack to the movie, and each seems to protest a different theme using school as a metaphor. Cry Baby is stuck in a world that she does not agree with, and she spends the movie trying to dismantle it piece-by-piece. 


Songs like “The Principal’ and ‘Teacher’s Pet” talk about authority figures misusing their power and taking advantage of the people under their authority. “Show and Tell” touches on this as well with lines like “Art don’t sell until you’ve f***** every authority.” “Show and Tell” also talks about being made to pretend to go with certain gender stereotypes and to act the way the public wants you to, as do songs like “Strawberry Shortcake” and “Drama Club.” “Orange Juice,” one of the most popular songs on the album, is about eating disorders, and “Nurse’s Office” talks about harassment. 


Martinez certainly doesn’t shy away from difficult topics, and she is not afraid to talk about anything. In her previous album, she’s touched on abusive parents, plastic surgery and other similar themes, and this album deals with similar topics from different angles. 

The movie casts people of different ethnicities and races and even has a scene showing a transgender teacher arguing with a strict and unfair principal to keep their job. 


While there has been some controversy over whether or not Martinez was doing this for brownie points, I personally think that as an audience, we aren’t used to seeing different types of people on screen without them serving as some kind of plot point or a political stance. The way Martinez so casually cast them in her movie normalizes the lives of people whose rights are constantly being debated. In a way, Martinez not making a big deal about it is a political view on its own. Why should having people of color who aren’t straight or cis be a big deal? 


However, it did seem as though Martinez was trying to cover too many heavy topics in one movie. There were times where it seemed like a bunch of music videos edited together, and the plot didn’t flow very naturally. There wasn’t time to know all the characters individually, and many of them seemed to appear out of nowhere. 


While it was clear that this was the artist’s first attempt at a movie, it was still incredibly well made.

The costumes were beautiful, and they served their purpose as another way of controlling the children going to Sleepaway School. The dialogue seemed a little amateur, but it communicated its messages well. The set design was another part of the movie that seemed incredibly planned out. It was almost all pastel backgrounds, and each setting had its own quirks adding to the story. 


“K-12” is very well put together and gets across its numerous messages well enough to the audience. Martinez has definitely made her audience feel understood, assuring them that surviving school is surviving life.