Growing up in india, most of us did not receive much formal sex education in school. We just grew up when puberty hit us like a train being drunk-driven, talked to our friends about the many changes we were going through in hushed huddles, learned to be embarrassed of our changing bodies, and got angsty over the sudden and severe attraction to the cute boys in the basketball team. It was an awkward time.
Netflix’s new animated series Big Mouth is hoping to save the newer generations a whole of trouble that comes with the acne-ridden adolescent years. Created by Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg, Big Mouth is an unfiltered depiction of the awful awkwardness of the early teenage years. Think of it as The Wonder Years, only a lot more uncomfortable and lascivious.
The 10-part animated series follows a group of middle schoolers as they struggle through puberty, periods, and rapidly awakening sexuality. But thankfully they don’t have to do it all alone – they have the oversexed Hormone Monster Maury and the diabolical Hormone Monstress Connie to help them navigate this tricky phase of life, usually with some really awful advice.
Andrew (voiced by John Mulaney) and Nick (who looks too much like and is voiced by Nick Kroll) are best friends who are racing towards puberty. The series follows how this affects their friendship, relationships with family, and self-image.
The Hormone Monster (also voiced by Kroll) pushes the dorky Andrew to indulge in all his uncontrollable sexual urges – everywhere and often. Nick, on the other hand, has not yet hit puberty and is insecure about the speed at which he is growing into a man. The ghost of Duke Ellington (Jordan Peele) lives in his attic and is always willing to share advice and an anecdote or two about his many sexual adventures. The animated series covers it all – not just the first kiss, first dance, first girlfriend, first adult-film starring an early Sylvester Stallone watched at an all-boys’ sleepover, but also the first period that has a frustrating tendency of arriving at the most inconvenient moment.
Andrew and Nick’s friend, Jessi (Jessi Klein), are out on a school trip, wearing a pair of white shorts when she gets her first period. Connie the Hormone Monstress (voiced to perfection by comedian Maya Rudolph) explains to Jessi what these changes mean – she is a woman now, and she is angry at everything. And also very sad. And loves Lana Del Ray, but mostly she hates everyone. Connie also introduces Jessi to her genitals (voiced by Kristen Wiig).
Six of the 10 episodes have either been written or co-written by women, ensuring that female puberty and sexuality gets as much voice and airtime as the boys and their raging sexual fantasies. In one episode, the girls are all hooked to a work of erotic fiction, which leads the boys to an epiphany “Girls are horny too!”
The physical, mental and sexual changes that girls experience at this time are often hidden and suppressed and with time, become loaded with shame and embarrassment, while boys are applauded for inching towards manhood. The show does not resort to any such double standards. It takes a natural process – a deeply troubling, inconvenient, frustrating, but natural process, and illustrates it in all its gross and often objectionable detail.
Netflix could not have created the show if it wasn’t for the adult animation format. The show is graphic and contains a fair amount of cartoon nudity. The content is often too mature for the 12-year-olds who are the subject matter here. Perhaps what Kroll and Goldberg hope to achieve here is to help new parents reminisce on the horrible hormonal days of early adolescence and start a conversation about growing up and changing – one that is more rooted in the disturbing facts and stories of the teenage years, and is not so much about the birds and the bees.