By Zoë Alter (Reporter ‘23)
Big Mouth, the 2017 cartoon sitcom, created by Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett, just aired a new season on November 5th. The show, a teen-adult sitcom about puberty and all that comes with it, did not disappoint this year, with a storyline chock full of hormones, emotions, and the usual vulgar Big Mouth humor. However, as the show progresses and the characters grow older, so too do the conflicts and their resolutions: this particular season tackled issues of challenging family dynamics, unrequited love, and the fluid scope of teenage sexuality.
The show centers around the lives of characters like Nick Birch (Nick Kroll), who has what seems to be a picture-perfect home, with parents who love him and siblings who tolerate him. However, throughout the show, it is revealed that the parents may be almost too open with their son, which leads him to mature too fast for his own good. Andrew Glohberman (John Mulaney) is another of the show’s main characters, and his family dynamic is far from perfect—his father is abusive and his mother is complicit. Jessie Glaser (Jessi Klein), has a grunge-loving father and a lesbian mother, who only recently seperated. Other notable characters include Lola Ugfuglio-Skumpy (Nick Kroll), the often rude, loudmouthed girl whose parents are virtually out of the picture, with neither even coming home for Christmas. Jay Bilzarian (Jason Mantzoukas) has a corrupt father, neglectful mother, and siblings that show no love toward him. These are just a few of the family dynamics that Big Mouth touches on, coating them with humor but also making it clear that they are not okay. By addressing the dynamics portrayed above, Big Mouth creates a safe environment for teenagers watching that may have similar home lives. This allows such teenagers to feel like they are not alone and learn different coping mechanisms.
Unrequited love plays a prevalent role in the new season, as the teenage characters are beginning to develop real feelings for each other, more so than just little crushes. Through two butterflies (referred to as the “love bugs”), the show expresses the tender feelings of gratitude and fondness and shows how, if cast aside, these feelings can curdle and turn into hate (personified by the “hate worms”). This part of the show, while less explicit than the family dynamics, is extremely relatable, and it talks about several better ways of handling these unrequited feelings besides outright hatred. It also discusses how, at the age that these kids are, friendship is much more important than romantic or sexual love, which is an necessary message for youth nowadays who are growing up too fast due to the internet’s influence.
On teenage sexuality, the show fluidly introduces several queer characters with no awkwardness or seemingly “staged” political correctness. Firstly, Matthew (Andrew Rannels) is an openly gay kid at school who fears rejection from his church-going parents, who, thankfully, end up accepting him. Then there’s Jay, who is bisexual and figures this out throughout earlier seasons. Finally, Jessie Glaser (Jessi Klein), daughter of divorced parents—her mom is a lesbian—struggles with not only accepting her mother’s identity but also her own, as she realizes she’s developed feelings for a new female friend. These characters have rich storylines that do not solely revolve around them being LGBTQ; instead, it is simply just a part of who they are, but not an all-encompassing or defining quality. While some moments of the show are explicitly about LGBTQ issues, it is exceptionally normalized, sending an excellent message for teens, as it shows that being LGBTQ is normal—and it doesn’t have to determine your entire existence, either.
Big Mouth is due to air one more season in 2022 before it concludes its five-year run. It is a show for both children and adults, and I believe it can be equally enjoyed by all ages. The severe issues it tackles are matched by witty humor and plot twists, making it a show that never gets tiring. It promotes healthy sexuality and educates teenagers on their bodies and growth, so I would recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about the process of growing up in modern-day society, be they a teenager or a parent.