Television and Radio Criticism

Big Mouth by Sheva Latif

Going through life and its many changes can be very difficult to adjust to. One of the most difficult is puberty. Netflix’s animated series, Big Mouth, sheds a light on what coming-of-age means and how trying these transitions can be for both males and females. Throughout the adult animated sitcom, it incorporates the puberty tropes in an alternative and creative ways by turning realistic and relatable moments into brazen comedy.

This show does an exceptional job on displaying diverse dilemmas though a middle school lifestyle that feels authentic. One example of that is episode three of the first season, titled “Am I Gay?” It begins with hyper-hormonal Andrew (John Mulaney) and his best friend Nick (Nick Kroll) watching a trailer featuring Dwayne the Rock Johnson.  The trailer is about a film that contains many homosexual innuendos. Johnsons’ portrayal had feminine facial structures such as the lips and soft arched eyebrows. Andrew watches the trailer again after Nick is gone and becomes erected at the images of The Rock. Maurice/Maury the Hormone Monster (Nick Kroll), is responsible for Andrew’s out-of-control hormones and encourages masturbation. He’s curious to know about Andrew’s new sexual interests and what this means for him. The Hormone Monsters and Monstress, Connie (Maya Rudolph), represent more than just a manifestation of pubescent issues and mishaps, they are a conscious for the characters they have been attached to.

Maury proctors a “gay test” for Andrew and after failing, he begins to question whether he is gay or not. This sets him into a cause-effect chain to finding answers. Each middle school character is dealing with their own experiences of puberty along with education and home life. Andrew goes to his irritable and offhand father Marty (Richard Kind) for help and asks, “When did you start to like women?” The answers he gets are counterproductive to his curiosity. The title of the episode, “Am I Gay”, is the enigma and isn’t solved until the end as he seeks out help from various characters.

Andrew finally gets to a point of unclear emotions and stipulations of his sexuality. He decides to talk to the Ghost of Duke Ellington (Jordan Peele), who lives in Nick’s attic and symbolizes a voice of reason, for advice. He admits that being gay is scary for him and Duke responds with, “Only if you find disposable income and terrific summer houses scary.” To give Andrew confidence and reassurance, Duke introduces the ghosts of famous deceased homosexuals. They are the ghosts of Socrates (Jason Mantzoukas), Freddie Mercury (Jordan Peele), and Justice Antonin Scalia (Fred Armisen). These characters serve as comic relief and plays on the real-life identities of the ghosts. For example, Antonin Scalia was openly anti-gay, but is represented as an in the closet, homophobic type of gay male in this episode that does exist within society. The scene breaks into a musical number lead by Freddie and the first line in the song is “What’s it like to be gay?” The song is to convince Andrew why it is okay to be gay and show more representation of homosexuality through other gay figures in the show. Andrew joins the song by finally proclaiming he is gay. His appearance even changes by adding a wrap-around scarf to his outfit.

Towards the end of the show, Duke tells Nick that Andrew thinks he might be gay. Even after concluding that he’s gay, he still faces confusion. In order to help Andrew come to a final conclusion; he kisses him on the lips to see if he was sexually aroused or enjoyed it. Maury shows up to further help Andrew decide and it turns out he did not enjoy being kissed by Nick, so he is not gay after all. Andrew’s uncertainty of homosexuality has led him to not only understand himself better but gave him and the audience a variation of what gay culture is and is not.

Big Mouth is known for its’ comedic storytelling, exaggerative stereotypes, and dirty jokes. Critics have questioned if it is for suitable for children to watch due to the information their receiving through the messages of the show. The creators have acknowledged the shows’ TV-MA rating and believe that the show would not only be educational, but helpful to many kids going through the same challenges. Each gay character shown in the episode is a representation of what being gay means in terms of occupation, personality, environment, etc. Big Mouth excels at showing contrasts of homosexuality through representation and comedy.

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