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Big Mouth

Entry updated 4 January 2021. Tagged: TV.

US animated tv series (2017-current). Created by Jennifer Flackett, Andrew Goldberg, Nick Kroll and Mark Levin. Danger Goldberg Productions, Fathouse Industries, Good At Business, Titmouse. Directors include Bryan Francis, Joel Moser and Bob Suarez. Writers include Emily Altman, Kelly Galuska, Gil Ozeri and Joe Wengert. Voice cast includes Ayo Edebiri, Jessi Klein, Nick Kroll, Jason Mantzoukas, John Mulaney, Jordan Peele, Maya Rudolph, Jenny Slate and David Thewlis. 41 27-minute episodes. Colour.

An adult comedy about the effects of puberty on a group of early-teens in suburban New York. Most prominent are Nick Birch (Kroll) and Andrew Glouberman (Mulaney); but Jessi Glaser (Klein), Missy Foreman-Greenwald (Slate/Edebiri) and Jay Bilzerian (Mantzoukas) are also main characters. It focuses on puberty's embarrassments, insecurities, dumb choices and the trauma they cause. The main genre element is the Hormone Monsters, visible only to the teenagers and whose advice represents the bad decisions teenagers make under the influence of their hormones; the main ones are Maury (Kroll) and Connie (Rudolph). The ghost of Duke Ellington (Peele) frequently provides worldly, if unsound, advice. Other Supernatural Creatures appear, including the Shame Wizard (Thewlis), plus talking things that do not traditionally speak, including vaginas and several pillows. The fourth wall is frequently broken.

Most stories are mundane save for the presence of the Hormone Monsters, but others use genre tropes. For example, Andrew is drawn into his laptop Computers, to enter the Pornscape (Maury: "It's a cool name, please use it."), a place where pornography (see Sex) is made flesh; Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (February-April 1899 Blackwood's Magazine; 1925) is invoked. Nick, Andrew and Jessi go through a portal into a Dimension inhabited by Monsters, where buildings are occupied by bureaucrats dealing with different stages of human development, including a Department of Puberty. Some genre episodes or segments are presented as fictions – such as a Star Trek Parody and everybody acquiring Superpowers – but there are grey areas: in the season 4 finale Nick is possessed (see Identity Transfer) by his adult self from a Near Future Dystopia, seen previously in a dream episode (which featured the End of the World). Maury explains to Andrew that he was created at the beginning of life – when a giant Alien had sex with the Earth (the opportunity to pun on Panspermia is not taken): "That sounds like Scientology." "Of everyone, they got the closest." However, on another occasion, Maury says he is only 75 million years old.

Critically acclaimed and winning two Primetime Emmys, Big Mouth's success is reflected by Netflix commissioning seasons 4-6 before the release of the third, and shortly afterwards announcing a spin-off series, Human Resources, focusing on the Hormone Monsters. The show's intentions are worthy, crudely but sympathetically covering many aspects of sexuality: it is to be hoped that any young teens ignoring the age rating will find its lessons helpful. The jokes are very hit-or-miss: the focus is on cringe Humour, but too often the viewer is cringing at the show rather than with it (a reference to Avatar: The Last Airbender being a particularly egregious example); however, it is also often funny, whilst the Satire can cover other themes, such as race (see Race in SF). As the show focuses more on the male characters than the female, it unfortunately gives the impression that puberty for boys is worse, or at least its trials more varied, than for girls. [SP]

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