By Kate Klausner:
The beloved and infamous Netflix series Big Mouth premiered its fourth season at the beginning of December. For the past three seasons, the show has changed the face of adult cartoons by centering around the main characters' adventures through puberty. The show's unbeatable wit by legendary comedian Nick Kroll and fellow creator Andrew Goldberg supplements the shock factor of cartoon preteens and egregious dirty humor. Big Mouth's absurdity works, plain and simple. It takes the tv mantra "sex sells" to a whole new level by reverting us all back to our awkward 13-year old selves, as if we are learning about sex again for the first time.
Following the abysmal year of 2020 and controversy about white actress Jenny Slate voicing Missy, a young girl learning to identify with her "blackness," Big Mouth had to make some changes. Also, the characters are older now. We watch these kids grow up and, inevitably, deal with more difficult and uncomfortable topics.
Missy learning to accept all parts of herself in the "Missy Mosaic"
Enter season four, where Jenny Slate has been replaced by Black voice actress Ayo Edebiri. The show's first trans character, Natalie, is introduced, Missy reckons with her racial identity for the first time, and Matthew is resented by his conservative Christian mother when he comes out to her as gay. We learn how gratitude works to combat depression and how it takes a support system to fight anxiety. We're used to the silly and ridiculous antics of these prepubescents dealing with hormones for the first time. But now the subjects at hand aren't just to make us laugh, they're exposing the audience to real and relevant issues in our world today.
Moving from sex ed to real life ed is definitely a jump into unchartered territory for some viewers. And there are some moments where the jump feels almost too noticeable, like the abstract fantasy of Nick defeating his evil future self that represents mental illnesses like anxiety and depression, in the final episode. Sometimes the show feels unrecognizable.
It would have been easy to stick to blue humor alone to give viewers a laugh at a penis joke every now and again, and leave it at that. But all series have to grow and develop with the times, and the show wouldn't carry the same cultural relevance if it stuck with songs about masturbation from the hormone monster for four seasons. It may still be funny on a surface level, but Big Mouth normalizes real issues while finding ways to make them entertaining. The show disguises messages of acceptance and facing hard conversations with comedic absurdity, and it works. It keeps viewers coming back season after season, ready to grow up with these characters and see the new issues the future has in store for them.
Find season four of Big Mouth on Netflix this December.