[SPOILERS for Season 1]
Puberty isn’t funny when you’re going through it. No one really talks about it, and we’d rather bury it deep into our psyche for a future therapist to tackle. We also don’t see much of it on TV, to no real surprise. Other than the changing voices, the occasional first pube joke, or simply seeing teenagers as chaotic, destructive maniacs, there’s not much time on television for the difficulties of growing up.
Enter Big Mouth.
Big Mouth is Netflix’s new animated comedy about a group of young friends living in New York as they being to enter the weirdest stage of their life so far. Kroll plays Nick, a prepubescent boy with an overly loving, liberal family who seeks advice from the ghost of famous jazz musician, Duke Ellington (Jordan Peele), who lives in his attic. His best friend, Andrew (John Mulaney), is in the midst of puberty at its most uncontrollable stages. Constantly corrupted by the Hormone Monster (played by Kroll), Andrew is dealing with jizzing his pants, trying to get a girlfriend, and stopping those two things happening at the same time. There’s also Jessi (Jessi Klein), who is also about to hit puberty head-on and discover herself (quite literally). Finally, there’s Jay (Jason Mantzoukas), their sexually deviant friend who has sex with his pillow and practices magic. Big Mouth’s characters are a real who’s who of unfortunate adolescent nightmares.
Uncensored honesty is at the heart of this comedy. Being animated, it can do so much with its stories that almost makes you question why it isn’t being used in schools (besides the obscene language and depiction of underage drinking). We see the characters struggle with identifying their sexuality, coming to terms with the concept of childbirth, internet porn addiction, body image and positivity, and their changing dynamic as a friendship group. Not only that, their family life plays an important role in their development.
Not only are the children becoming young adults, but the adults are also dealing with their own midlife crises that hammers home the realisation that puberty is but the start of the great ordeal that is life. Sounds really pessimistic, but ‘sad-coms’ like Big Mouth, BoJack Horseman and Rick and Morty are taking a pretty intimate look at the idea of the family unit, the meaning of existence, and everything in between in more effective ways than other shows out there. For example, Jessi’s mother is having an affair with a woman, and Andrew’s parents are dealing with a sexless marriage. It’s really interesting to see two narratives presented side-by-side in such a way. Throughout the show, neither sets of stories seem to intertwine that much, aside from Jessi’s home life being a central plot-point. The kids and the adults are really going at their problems alone at times; unfortunate, but so relevant in a society where you’re less likely to talk intimately about an issue, and more likely to turn to the internet for clarification. For example, when Andrew is trying to decide whether or not he is gay, he turns to his dad. “When did you find out you liked women?” He asks his Dad. After a disappointing response, Andrew turns to watching gay porn to investigate his sexuality.
With that being said, there’s an essence of positivity throughout the show. Big Mouth presents puberty as something to laugh about in hindsight, which is probably the only way to healthily process the physical, sexual and emotional changes a person will go through. Many of us are going to watch this show and look back to when we were spotty, snotty, and grossly uneducated about the human anatomy. I also think a lot of parents will look at Big Mouth and begin to have difficult, weird conversations with their kids.
Who would have thought dick jokes could be so poignant?