You’re probably wondering: why in the name of preadolescent awkwardness have we chosen Netflix’s latest coming-of-age cartoon Big Mouth as our next #CreativeCrush?
Spawned by Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin, Big Mouth is the unapologetically crude coming-of-age animation for which we unknowingly yearned. If an animation can so accurately portray the blackout period we so affectionately term ‘puberty’ then of course we’re throwing our weight behind it.
Besides the fact the voice cast boasts some of Hollywood’s craziest capers – Nick Kroll, John Mulaney, Fred Armisen, Jessi Klein, Jason Mantzoukas, Jordan Peele, Jenny Slate and Maya Rudolph, just to name a few! – Big Mouth is a crazily uncouth and candid depiction of the trials and tribulations faced in our teenage years.
If we rewind about twenty years or so, preadolescent bebes Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg (Family Guy) were actually growing up together – how bloody adorable!
Long story short, Nick was a bit of a late bloomer (see image) whilst puberty hit Andrew harder than a mack truck – much like the protagonists of Big Mouth. Well, what do you know! (The show was based on them, duh). Inspired by coming of age cult hits like Freaks & Geeks and “a perverted” version of The Wonder Years, the creatively-inclined pair decided to gift us with the sex ed animation they never received.
Albeit, an R-rated animation – to which my boyfriend so eloquently remarked ‘nothing is rated R nowadays’. You may be wondering, ‘why would a show about puberty be rated ‘R’, that’s inflammatory!’ Look, I said it was a helpful show but I didn’t say it wasn’t filled with gigantic moustachioed cartoon penises, and a hormone monster with a penchant for skull-fucking the severed head of a former radio host.
It’s certainly distasteful at times, but it is that discomforting and confronting element that plays directly into the shows underlying message: PUBERTY IS SCARY, PEOPLE! Look, before the prospect of a basketball-dunking moustachioed penis sends you running, know that the guys have worked really hard to include female changes during puberty too. Speaking to IndieWire, Kroll explained that generally when the conversation turns to female puberty it’s based entirely on menstruation,
“When you talk about puberty with girls it’s about getting their period which we spend an episode – episode two is about ‘Jessi’ getting her period ’cause it as a crazy, scary, formative thing for a girl and it’s based on a true story that happened to our friend, Liz, who ‘Jessi’ is partly based on.”
However, he goes on to say that despite this being a major milestone, it doesn’t depict the entire female experience,
It was very important to us throughout the show that we talk about the girls’ experience with puberty as much as we talked about the boys’ because they’re going through it, and I think our show is trying to explore every kid’s experience with it.
In another episode, ‘Jessi’ feels compelled to buy a voluptuous and confidence – ahem, bosom – boosting red bra, then feels uncomfortable with the attention it brings. A notion in which many females can relate, all too well! I won’t divulge any other spoilers but I will say now that the creators of Big Mouth have certainly covered female puberty to a freakin’ tee.
More importantly, however, terms like menstruation, pubic hair, the mons pubis and masturbation used to send me cowering in a corner; scarlet red and abashed by the mere mention of puberty. I’m an adult now and while I’ve grown well-accustomed to these terms, it certainly doesn’t mean the sex-ed lesson is over. I’m growing awfully weary of starting sentences like this, but: ‘In light of the Harvey Weinstein allegations’ and the torrential influx of admissions of sexual harassment and assault – it’s more obvious now than ever that we need better access to sex education and sex-positive material. Admittedly, a sexually deviant ‘hormone monster’ isn’t the most appropriate example here, but Big Mouth as a whole touches on the very core issue – communication.
You’d be forgiven for assuming the show’s title was a jab at Kroll’s voluptuous lips but I like to think it was a nod to reopening lines of communication between kids and their parents or peers. In a perfect world, kids should be comfortable asking ‘what do I do when a girl says ‘no’?’ or, ‘I think I’m gay, who can I talk to?’
Kroll, rather optimistically, hopes that parents will watch Big Mouth with their kids,
It is very dirty. [But] my hope is it gives kids and parents some version of tools and a language to communicate what the kids are going through and the parents are going through.
Relating back to the recent revelations of widespread sexual assault and harassment; it’s this fear, shame and inevitable avoidance of awkward and confronting conversation that has led to a generation of silent suffering. Whether it’s admitting to sexual harassment by a superior, or even asking your sexual partner to practice safe-sex – it’s scary and awkward! But it’s to our own detriment, and the less we speak up the bigger the yarn becomes. However, Kroll and Goldberg have remarkably transformed ‘the awkward conversation’ to something you can relate to, and remind us that if we could get through that horrible haze of hormones whilst navigating the trauma of high school, then mates – we bloody got this.
So why am I crushing on this show so hard, I hear you ask? Big Mouth goes beyond the typical formula of crude and disturbing animations to deliver a well-timed and spit-takingly funny cartoon that both educates and prepares. Whether you’re an adult elbow-deep in a binge, a teenager sneaking some tv before homework, or a parent mooching off your kid’s Netflix account (hey mum and dad) – you’re bound to learn a couple of things, or at the very least be thrust into a tailspin of nostalgia to the darkest time in your preadolescent life… and hopefully soak up some much-needed empathy for when you raise some squids of your own.
As Kroll so wisely articulates, “everyone is at different stages of it, boys and girls are going through different versions of it” – so let’s end the cycle of awkward conversation (and misinformation) and lay the foundation for a generation of sex-positive and sex-educated adolescents. Or, at least continue to produce creative works that perpetuate the conversation – either way, it’s a win-win wouldn’t you say?
Have you watched Big Mouth yet? Do you think it did puberty justice, or was it just a crude comic? We want to hear your thoughts!