Big Mouth

Netflix’s ‘Big Mouth’ Is Simultaneously Problematic and Informative

On one hand, the show seems to have a whitewashed cast, but on the other, it covers important adolescent issues.
April 5, 2018
8 mins read

Looking for a good coming-of-age show to binge? Do you want to be able to explain puberty to your younger siblings? Are you seeking to simultaneously laugh and cry about life and its craziness? Well, look no further than “Big Mouth,” Nick Kroll’s pride and joy on Netflix.

“Big Mouth” is no average, run-of-the-mill show. It’s filled with saucy innuendos, painfully awkward situations and, best of all, real-life problems for teenagers and adults alike. Alongside the show’s unique qualities is the killer all-star cast, which includes Nick Kroll himself, John Mulaney, Maya Rudolph and Jordan Peele, just to name a few. Despite all the positive reinforcement the show has so far, the public has criticized it for being a problematic program.

Many viewers have pointed out their particular distaste for the fact that comedian and actress Jenny Slate, who is a white woman, plays a black character named Missy. The accusations come from the idea that Netflix is once again whitewashing one of their casts.

Another issue surrounds some of the jokes and scenarios the show chooses to portray. Co-creator Andrew Goldberg, best known for writing “Family Guy,” is not afraid to lay on jokes and situations that push the boundaries of television controversy.

Considering the abundance of crude language and imagery in the show, it is hard to believe that Netflix would find an issue with anything Goldberg and Kroll could conjure into existence. However, it has happened with “Big Mouth.”

Unfortunately for Goldberg, one particular joke did not fly with Netflix. He recounts, “There’s only one thing that Netflix felt was too gross, and it was a very well-rendered, graphic shot of a thermometer coming out of a pee hole. And even that, we were 50 – 50 on whether or not we liked it. They were like, ‘We don’t think so,’ and we were like, ‘Yeah, we don’t think so either.’”

While that grotesque scene did not make the cut, a different one did. In Episode 7, titled “Requiem for a Wet Dream,” Hormone Monster engages in oral sex with a decapitated head in a particularly disturbing scene.

In comparison to the rest of the show, which is quite mild, the unsettling scene is a standout moment that had many questioning the morale of the show. However, they callback the scene at the end of the episode, in a way of breaking the fourth wall through a conversation between the Hormone Monster and the character Andrew.

Hormone Monster asked if the scene was taking it too far, in which Andrew responds that yes, it made him uncomfortable, even though he likes “f—ed up s— like that.” They both recount that at the time, it seemed funny — in direct reference to the writers themselves — but overall, it probably wasn’t the best course of action for the level of comedy for the show.

Despite the criticisms of the show, “Big Mouth” has also notoriously covered a longstanding issue that audiences across the board can relate to: puberty. That said, the show covers many issues, such as gay panic, sexual awakenings, relationship struggles — between both teenagers and grown adults — and just coming to terms with your body through such a disorientating time period.

Fans recognize ‘Big Mouth’ as a show that tackles the difficult discussions surrounding puberty (Image via Netflix)

A personal fan favorite is an episode titled “Am I Gay?” in which protagonist Andrew questions his sexuality after getting a boner for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in a movie trailer. At this point in the show, the viewers have only seen Andrew’s sexual reaction toward females, so his reaction to Johnson throws everyone for a loop.

Subsequently, Andrew projects his inquiry onto the resident ghost of Nick’s house, Duke Ellington, who then calls on the spirits of famous deceased homosexuals, including the infamous Freddy Mercury. After a very catchy and explorative song titled “Totally Gay,” Andrew decides that he is gay, and, furthermore, could potentially be in love with his best friend Nick.

The episode covers the basics of what society has dubbed “gay panic,” including the initial denial and confusion, the experimentation and the conflict. “Big Mouth” deals with it relatively well, reflecting two sides: the support of homosexuality and the typical “disgust” toward it.

Additionally, Nick’s reaction to Andrew’s potential feelings toward him goes against the typical masculine trope; instead of reacting with disgust and rage, he, in fact, kisses Andrew in an effort to help him decide whether or not he’s attracted to boys. His security and assurance in his own sexuality did not hinder him from helping his friend figure out his own, which was a particularly heartwarming scene in the show.

Another common theme amongst the characters in “Big Mouth” is masturbation, with some characters being seasoned veterans and some just starting to discover their bodies. That said, the show is very sex-positive and effectively educates viewers about masturbation and sex in general.

In fact, Jessi has an episode in which she literally discovers her own sex organs — voiced by the wonderful Kristen Wigg. The show went in depth on the topic, encouraging exploration and even correcting common misconceptions about its anatomy.

Also, “Big Mouth” features your typical middle school relationships — which are usually born out of pressure when interacting with a person of the opposite sex — and the expected maturity afterward. Nick and Jessi’s brief relationship is a perfect example of that, especially because the show portrays it to discuss the awkwardness of first relationships.

Furthermore, the adults in the show have their fair share of the spotlight. Jessi’s mom is actually a culprit of the gay panic as well, hiding in an affair with another woman, despite her crumbling marriage and commitment to her daughter. In addition, Nick’s parents are very open about their sexual love life and never hesitate to offer love and advice to their children no matter the circumstance.

Overall, “Big Mouth” is the show viewers did not know they needed to watch. The cartoon gets real about the good and the bad of life, and it’s accompanied by characters and personalities that will conjure laughs and tears.

Netflix has scheduled Season 2 to release later in 2018.

Grace John, Rutgers University

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Grace John

Rutgers University

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