Have you seen Big Mouth on Netflix? It’s an animated series that is joyful, sordid, intelligent, stupid, revolting and tender all at once. Like the painful adolescence it portrays so well it almost defies description. It’s created by Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett and based on Kroll and Goldberg’s teenage years growing up in Westchester County, New York. Nick Kroll voices his fictional self. Can you imagine anything more cathartic to redress the issues of your adolescent years. It’s essentially an animated version of Mortified with a lot more jokes.
Our 6th graders surfing the hormone tide are Nick and Andrew and their friends Jessie, Missy and Jay. Sooner or later their own personal hormone monster comes calling and will not leave them alone. Maurice is the male monster come to frustrate, antagonise and educate the boys – he’s often-times unhinged and absolutely uncontrollable. Connie the ‘monstress’ is a particular favorite of mine. She’s a wildly insatiable earth-mother in-tune with her emotions and preaching body confidence to the girls. But in the next breath she’s telling Jessie “You want to scream at your mother and laugh at her tears”. Reader, a more accurate description of female adolescence does not exist.
Appealingly, and unusually for an animated series, all the characters are fully realised, not just the self-conscious teenagers, but their parents, the kindly but freakish Coach Steve, the monsters and fantastically the ghost of Duke Ellington on hand to dish out fairly sketchy advice on the birds and the bees. Even characters without features come alive via fantasy as with Jay’s pillow girlfriend which is probably one of the strangest and most disgusting characters, and easily the most difficult to describe. You just gotta watch it.
Their satire is absolutely savage and always right on the money. “We need to love ourselves for who we are!” says Missy at the start of Series 2. “I’m in an online community called ‘Girls Are Perfect and There’s Not a Thing Wrong With Any One of Them and Anyone Who Would Tell You Otherwise Is Actually Just Afraid of Your Power!’”
“Is there anything like that, but for pubescent boys?” Andrew asks meekly. “Oh ho ho yeah, it’s called, ‘society’ you privileged white, cis-hetero male!” Missy chortles. Poor Andrew; if he had the words and could actually articulate them in front of a girl, would beg to differ.
2018 presents us with a uniquely fraught context for a series like this but I don’t think it could come at a better time. Without making it the focus Big Mouth is teaching by stealth. Don’t be a victim of your base instincts, but don’t deny them either; be more understanding of human sexuality and you might end up being a better happier person. It’s a show that zigzags from heartwarming to gross-out sometimes in a matter of seconds so never gets too hand-wringy.
One slight criticism would be that the start of Series 2 seems to have sacrificed some of the funny to make more room for the stories. Hopefully they’re not flagging (as fellow Netflix sitcom The Good Place looks to be) as there’s years worth of material yet to be mined. We’re promised that the Hormone Monsters will be joined by something called the Shame Wizard so that’s got to be an extra helping of cringe to look forward to.
Relive your akward teenage shame in the best possible way and treat yourself to the full two series on Netflix now.