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Big Mouth Brings Big Laughs – and Big Controversy

The "hormone monster" from Big Mouth.

Puberty: arguably one of the most horrifying and emotionally traumatizing experiences of an adolescent’s life. One day, you are young and innocent, frolicking across the playground braless and carefree, and the next day you have boobs! What a wild time!

While essentially everyone experiences puberty, it seems that everyone has a pretty hard time talking about it. In fact, I have friends whose knowledge of sex and the human body came solely from the internet because their parents could not bring themselves to have “the talk.” Puberty is such a natural and normal process, so why can't we have a conversation about it?

Naturally, Netflix had to jump in and take on the momentous task of ending the taboo around puberty. And thus, Big Mouth was born. A cartoon created by Georgetown alumni John Mulaney and Nick Kroll, the show follows a group of preteens as they begin their physical and emotional journey into adulthood. While that may sound more on the heartwarming side, Mulaney and Kroll put a hilarious spin on it.

The show consists of a plethora of characters with their own unique identities and plotlines. As the preteens approach puberty, they are assigned “hormone monsters” that bravely attempt to aid the adolescents in coping with sex, emotions, and physical changes. Nick struggles to come to terms with the fact that he is physically not quite ready for puberty; Andrew endures a never-ending battle with his sex-crazed hormone monster; Jessie must learn to cope with her emotions despite the fact that her hormone monstress pushes her to the brink; and Jay, well, has sex with a pillow. The adults face turmoil, as well: gym teacher Coach Steve, for instance, lives in a storage bin and has never had sex. It’s an all-star cast: Fred Armisen, Maya Rudolph, Jenny Slate, and Jordan Peele each create their own unique character.

So clearly, this show must be a crowd-pleaser. I mean, what’s not to love about a show whose only goal is to transform the complete and utter awkwardness around puberty into something we can all laugh about?

Well, there seems to be some cross-generational differences in opinion on Big Mouth, one of the greatest cartoons of the decade (as you can see, I am a bit biased). While young people from Millennials to Gen Z’ers have found solace in the open and uncensored way in which Mulaney and Kroll depict puberty, Big Mouth has received serious criticism from the older, more conservative crowd.

Yes, Big Mouth at times can be a bit - ahem - dirty. There are some scenes that seem much too vulgar for conventional television. The very first episode of the series includes a scene where Nick plays basketball against a team of human-sized penises. It was also co-created by Andrew Goldberg, a former writer for “Family Guy.” You can expect quite a few moments that may make you squirm in your seat.

However, the show appears to be just too much for some. A group on CitizenGo, a conservative advocacy group founded in 2013, actually created a petition attempting to have the show removed from Netflix. The petition harshly labeled the series as “a sad example of how far the entertainment industry has fallen from respecting basic decency.” Many people were uncomfortable with the show’s casual and positive depiction of homosexuality, as well as its educational advocacy of masturbation.(1)

This controversy only worsened after season two, when viewers witnessed the masterpiece known as “The Planned Parenthood Show.” While many (myself included) have raved about the show’s frank stance on the vital and expansive role Planned Parenthood plays in society, others found it just too political. Critics took to Twitter to call out the show’s creators on their “seemingly partisan stance.”(2)

Yet at the same time, what better way to approach an inherently uncomfortable topic than by discussing it in a funny and lighthearted way? There are very few seriously accurate depictions of adolescence in the media today. Puberty isn’t simple or glamorous or cute; puberty is gross and uncomfortable and natural. It is a part of life and growing up and becoming an adult, and we all have to deal with it.

It seems to me that Mulaney and Kroll have gone about discussing puberty in the best way they could: Big Mouth makes us laugh, which in turn normalizes a topic that we are often too scared to laugh about. Even if the idea of puberty still makes you writhe in your seat, I promise you will die of laughter literally any time Coach Steve opens his mouth.

Hellfrich is an Undeclared Freshman.

PC: jignesh shaha/Flickr.



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