Do you remember your first crush, your first awkward school dance, the first time a kid in your class said the F-word, trying to find a good bus seat, or essentially all the embarrassing moments of puberty? Big Mouth does. The new animated show by Nick Kroll (on Netflix) showcases a bizarre—although realistic—look at what adolescence and puberty are like. While it is at times lewd, crass, and full of innuendo, it never stops being brutally honest about the embarrassing years of middle school.
In the pilot episode, one line serves as a sort of thesis of the show: “Everything about middle school is embarrassing." Which it is. Everything about middle school is embarrassing, and likewise, everyone goes through those same experiences. The only difference between the Netflix series and real life is that we don’t talk about our experiences as much as the characters of the show do.
The most ingenious device of the show are the hormone monsters. They are living, breathing, semi-imaginary beings who personify all the hormone-driven moments of puberty. From the male hormone monster making unplanned erections happen during class, to the female hormone monster convincing Jessi to buy a pushup bra, they are responsible for causing both the best and worst parts of puberty. Sure, they seem awful at times and have mouthfuls of profanity, but they also provide those first feelings of attraction and love.
The show’s other devices that help make it into the hit it is are the ghost of Duke Ellington, other celebrity ghosts like Freddie Mercury and Prince, the various parents of the new teens such as Jay’s dad’s law commercials.
Duke Ellington, voiced by Jordan Peele, haunts the main character Nick’s family’s attic, which was previously his house. He “helps” Nick and his friend Andrew navigate the confusing world of adolescence. The only problem is that Duke is not there to give them advice, Duke is there to haunt his house, throw celebrity ghost parties, and have a good time. Often times he complicates their lives by telling them stories about his own sex life, giving them advice that is the exact opposite of what they need to hear, or by accompanying them to New York and getting “drunk” off possessing people. The ghost of Duke Ellington actually works alongside the Hormone Monster in illustrating the chaos that is adolescence. He serves as a great device to add comedy to the story, commentary about what is going on, and serves as a reminder that sometimes the people we go to for advice just complicate things further.
The show also has many song numbers that are hilariously memorable. Some titles include “Big Dicks”, “When You’re Gay”, “Everybody Bleeds”, and “Life is a Fucked up Mess.” Each song is very campy while delivering a very serious message; my personal favorite, “Life is a Fucked up Mess”, includes the very colorful lyrics:
Love doesn’t last forever, it will die and break your heart
And you can’t have a sexual awakening without tearing lives apart
The only way to dull life’s pain is to get stoned out of your mind
The comedy showcased throughout the show is very similar to the above scene and song. Campy and very dark, but the humor is also very commentative of our country and its own awkward relationship with sexuality, love, race, divorce, and puberty. One major commentative part of the series is in the episode “Everybody Bleeds.” The episode is about Jessi getting her first period—in white shorts—in the Statue of Liberty. This then prompts a script I’m sure a lot of women have heard in their life time.
Andrew: I was helping her because…well…Jessi got her period.
Nick: I’m sorry.
Jessie: Sorry for what?
Nick: Sorry you got your period?
Jessie: Don’t be sorry. It’s not a disease, it’s totally normal, and I know nobody talks about it but everyone gets their period, and now I got mine. In white fucking shorts!
Lola: Oh, my god.
Matthew: I’m above this so I’m not gonna comment.
Kid who can’t pick up social cues: Jessie’s ice cream was menstrual blood.
Matthew: But I will say this—I need some fresh air because this is Terry Gross.
Missy: Whoa. This is a nightmare. This is what we’re all afraid of.
Matthew: Again, I’m gonna stay out of this, but it was less of a period and more of an exclamation point.
While us females, might not have gotten our first period in the Statue of Liberty (or in white shorts) Missy is all too correct that the situation what we’re all afraid of. Most women still can probably point at a time we leaked, someone helped us, we felt like just crawling up in a ball and dying, and it ended in someone saying they were "sorry" we got our period. Which only makes us mad, because menstruation is a universal thing, but still we aren't comfortable talking about it.
In fact, a reason why this show is so amazing is it touches on the many topics they don’t cover in health education. Like how much hormones really affect you and your relationships. Later in that episode when the Hormone Monstress arrives, she says “You want to shoplift lipstick, listen to Lana Del Rey on repeat while cutting up your shorts! You want to scream at your mother, and then laugh at her tears!” Jessi then responds, “But I don’t want to scream at my mom.” The Hormone Monstress replies, “she’s not your mom anymore. She’s Shannon.”
This show is one of the most innovative, hilarious, self-reflective, and honest shows to come out of Netflix. The best way to watch it is via binge watching, but remember this is not a show intended for children, or for your conservative grandma. Viewer discretion is advised, but for those of us who love a good laugh and lots of innuendo, it's terrific.
Rachel Kurasz is a fiction writer from Villa Park, IL where she lives with her husband, Peter, and their loyal puppy dog Boo-Boo. Rachel earned her MFA in Creative Writing at Roosevelt University and her BA in Mass Communications from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Rachel’s poetry has been published under her maiden name, Rachel Head, in The Bicycle Review. Rachel is currently working on two larger projects including a novel and a creative nonfiction project.
Follow Rachel on Twitter: @KuraszRachel