animation

Those awkward teenage years get the irreverent treatment in animated series ‘Big Mouth’

The Netflix show by Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg goes far beyond the birds and the bees.

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.

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Big Mouth.

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).

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Big Mouth: The Hormone Monstress.

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.

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Big Mouth: Space Uterus.
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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.