There’s something special about the number of gross moments that populate “Big Mouth,” an animated show on Netflix. It can sometimes feel like an endurance test, pushing you to the limits of what you’re willing to listen to someone say. There is no doubt, a lot of what is spoken on “Big Mouth” will be the vilest things you’ve ever heard on television. At the same time, the delicate way in which it handles its characters and humor make it something truly special. Shockingly, this might be Netflix’s second best animated series behind “BoJack Horseman,” not just in quality but in the importance of the messages it sends to its audience.
For those unaware, “Big Mouth” follows a group of children going through puberty in 5th and 6th grade. The show came from the minds of Jennifer Flackett, Nick Kroll, and Andrew Goldberg. Along the way, it handles big questions about puberty, and how children go through the experience. In particular, it follows longtime friends. Andrew (John Mulaney) and Nick (Kroll) are best friends. Jay (Jason Mantzoukas) is their weird friend with older brothers who made him very sexual at a young age. Jessi (Jessi Klein) struggles with her sexuality, while Missy (Jenny Slate) grows up in a sex-positive, interracial household. Together, the children find a way to work through divorce, depression, drug use, and shame. Sounds sweet right?
Enter the Hormone Monster Maury (also Kroll) and Hormone Monstress (Maya Rudolph). Together the two, along with other Hormone monsters, will drive these children to do sick and despicable things. Joined with this group’s absurdist humor, we get a “Shame Wizard” (voiced brilliantly by David Thewlis), boys ogling the first girl with boobs (Gina Rodriguez), and pillows who encourage Jay to have sex with them. There’s even a recurring gag about Nazi sex toys and one kid trains raccoons to hunt his brother. Kroll also voices the Middle School Coach Steve who has never had sex, yet is the sex-ed teacher. This only scratches the surface of the weird places this show will go. Yet despite all of this, it remains a heartwrenching story of the struggles we go through as kids.
There’s a lot to unpack in the emotional story of the season, but what makes this even better than the last is how it ties in the shame we feel. When we’re young and trying to understand sexuality, we all feel self-conscious. Even small moments feel like the most important moments of our lives. “Big Mouth” gives proper weight to these emotional beats and builds out from that. It then layers on really shameful acts and lets our characters feel their emotions.
Rather than stifling the children and conservatively displaying sexual attitudes of teenagers, the hormones run wild (literally), setting them up for heartbreak and despair. Yet they let the audience know that it is all okay. To feel these sexual proclivities is natural, but sometimes you have to deal with the consequences. This makes “Big Mouth” more than just a series of absurdist gags, but instead grounds these moments in emotionally heavy payoffs.
The standout episode from this season will be “The Planned Parenthood Show,” an episode that both explains what the service does and why it is important. For most of its audience, it will enlighten kids and young adults about the organization. For those of us in the know, it further cements its importance in America. In the episode, they have honest conversations about safe sex. They talk about various versions of birth control. They have a montage about abortion, and how it can actually lead to a happy life down the road. The entire episode is sex-positive, and in a week where someone like Brett Kavanaugh was elected to the Supreme Court, it reminds you that there are still things to fight for. It was an amazing episode of television that will stand among the best of 2018.
Overall, there are few series more essential for teenage viewers than “Big Mouth” from Netflix. This can spark real conversations with children, and educate them about sex. All the while, it will let the kids think they are getting away with something in the process. It’s lewd and disgusting in all the ways that “Family Guy” or “Rick and Morty” get. Yet this one has a purpose. Please stick with this, because it can be an excellent tool in educating about sex in an entertaining way.