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Big Mouth

The Netflix animated sitcom has broken many taboos around sex, puberty and so much else.

The world has always benefited from the wonderfully crass world of animated sitcoms. Whether they’re pushing the envelope on politics, pop culture or a variety of potential topics, it seems as though animated sitcoms have always succeeded at inciting fury out of one half of the world while receiving laughter and applause from the other. Shows like “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy” and “South Park” have long fit this bill, and though they have each successfully vanquished their respective stigmas and replaced them with dedicated fanbases, they all nonetheless went through the same trials and tribulations when first starting out. It appears that the next raunchy cartoon to deal with these struggles is Netflix’s own “Big Mouth.” 

“Big Mouth” is the brainchild of comedian Nick Kroll and his childhood friend Andrew Goldberg. The two created the show as a way of addressing their own childhood experiences with sex and puberty, a subject that is far too often glazed over by apprehensive parents. It first aired in 2017 and has since been renewed for two more seasons and even featured a 45-minute Valentine’s Day special, which aired earlier this year.  Season 3 is also slated to release in October, and the creators have recently released a pleasant teaser trailer of what’s to come.

Clearly, “Big Mouth” has received plenty of positive attention, and a lot of that might be due to the terrific cast. Kroll, a master voice actor, lends his voice to a slew of hilarious characters, even playing a younger version of himself. Jesse Klein also lends her voice to the cast, playing the show’s primary female character and delivering her own personal experience with puberty.

Stand-up comedian John Mulaney also brings his trademark brand of observational wit to the lineup, and it certainly meshes well with Kroll’s humor. The cast of “Big Mouth” is littered with even more brilliant names like Jenny Slate, Jason Mantzoukas, Jordan Peele, Maya Rudolph, Fred Armisen and plenty more that make it one of the most talented casts on Netflix.

The show follows the struggles of three young teens as they wrestle with the tumultuous period of adolescence and puberty. What’s more, the show takes it a step further by personifying puberty into obnoxious, sex-obsessed monsters that constantly pester the kids they’re connected to. Only the kids can see their own hormone monster, which just further captures the frustratingly isolated feeling that is often associated with puberty. 

Despite the show’s evident success and clear uniqueness, it has nonetheless received plenty of negative attention too. Many Netflix subscribers have already signed a lengthy yet feeble petition to get the show canceled from the network, deeming it irresponsible, inaccurate and immature “potty mouth” humor.  Sure, “Big Mouth” deals its fair share of inappropriate jokes every so often, but it is nevertheless incredibly accurate and far from irresponsible.

The fact that Goldberg and Kroll have actually inserted themselves into the show is all the evidence you need of that; each problem that their characters have is an actual intimate issue that they personally experienced while growing up. There’s no guessing, no masked information and certainly no censorship that keeps the show from being one the first animated shows to genuinely address sex openly and honestly. 

And if they happen to cut the tension with a few well-placed, inappropriate jokes, well, that’s perfectly fine by me. 

It isn’t just the honesty of “Big Mouth” that qualifies it to squash the ridiculous sex stigma, but also the untapped content of the episodes themselves. Take, for example, the very first episode of the show, which focuses upon the friendship between Andrew and Nick. Plenty of shows, live-action sitcoms and cartoons alike, have fixated upon the turmoil between two teenage friends but have always conveniently avoided the all-important puberty component.

When Nick accidentally sees Andrew’s penis, he not only feels awkward about the interaction, but also finds himself jealous of his best friend. Andrew, apparently, has already begun to enter, well, adulthood. Nick, on the other hand, is coming to realize that he is what you might call a “late bloomer.” This causes plenty of unnecessary, machismo-fueled tension between the two until they finally put aside their anger at one another and open up about their own insecurities.

Apparently, they both feel self-conscious about their puberty woes. The two friends begin to laugh about their problems together, pointing out just how embarrassing everything is during adolescence.  Not only is this a unique story arc for a cartoon, but it’s also surprisingly genuine in how it requires its characters to find solace by talking out their problems in a healthy, non-toxic way.

“Big Mouth’s” daring approach to taboo topics is fortunately not just limited to their male protagonists. In fact, some of the show’s most “controversial” adolescent topics center around the dynamic female leads. Jesse, voiced by actress Jesse Klein, struggles with difficult issues like menstruation, divorcing parents, hormones, unfair beauty standards and even depression.

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All the feels. Even the gross ones. #bigmouth

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Though not all of these topics are exclusive to women, many of them are, and the fact that “Big Mouth” is one of the first shows to openly discuss these subjects in a way that isn’t degrading ought to prove just how important it is to any TV lineup. After all, what other show would be willing to depict an entire sauna full of un-glamorized naked women just to prove a point about feeling comfortable in your own skin? People can call it perverse, but a more accurate word might be courageous. 

Just two seasons in, “Big Mouth” has already covered a slew of important topics with their creative plot lines, including contraception, STDs, consent, slut-shaming and more. But more than anything, “Big Mouth” transcends these topics beyond mere stigma by showing that puberty as a whole is arduous, unfair, embarrassing, inevitable, temporary and, above all, worthy of being laughed at. And based on the most recent Netflix trailer Season 3, the showrunners are only just beginning to pulverize the age-old sex stigma. 

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