A show that has surprised us all with its themes and characters, Big Mouth has blessed their fans with another season. Although some viewers may think the release of the fourth season may have been a regrettable choice for the producers. The many who have watched the show know that the topics presented throughout the season tend to be based on adolescence and puberty. Big Mouth premiered back in 2017, the first ever episode caught new viewers off guard with its title — “Ejaculation”, presenting the show’s obscene nature. The adult animated sitcom, likes to focus on key moments all people go through as they reach their teen years. The first season was mainly focused on the changes young, cisgendered men and women go through. The second season continues to focus on other issues such as: virginity & sexual encounters. The series, after two successful seasons, decided to branch out in regards to social representation. Season 3 touches on sexual orientations and identity, bringing in and identifying more LGBTQ+ characters, such as Jay Bilzerian (Jason Mantzoukas) who questions his sexuality on whether he is gay, straight or bisexual.
Season 4 was premiered on the 4th December, opening the season with an episode called The New Me. The series tries to continues to represent all sides of puberty experiences. The season is initially set in Nick Birch’s (Nick Kroll) summer camp, joined by Jessi (Jessi Klein), Andrew (John Mulaney) and new character Seth Goldberg voiced by Seth Rogen. A former cabin-mate, Gabe , comes back after transitioning over the year, she is then re-introduced as Natalie (Josie Totah) to the campers. The show doesn’t purely focus on the issues transgender people go through, but try to showcase the anxiety that all people face during their adolescence. Anxiety in the show is represented by a being, much like how other emotions and disorders are represented in the show. The season covers emotional issues teens face and also play out how certain teens choose to deal with their mood & anxiety disorders. The show also presents the issue of racial & ethnic identification, which is experienced by Missy (Jenny Slate/Ayo Edebiri) and Devon (Jak Knight).
When initially watching season 4, I was able to appreciate the fact the show had brought in a character to represent trans viewers. However, once I finished the season, two questions kept popping into my head — Does Natalie properly represent trans men and women? And has the show highlighted the key issues trans people deal with when transitioning? This made me want to look into how the trans community reacted to the character Natalie and the issues she faces as a trans woman.
A popular black trans female social media personality, Ve’ondre Mitchell, with 1.8 million followers on Tiktok, uses her platform to educate her followers about the trans community. She made a mini series on Tiktok where she analysed the character Natalie. Mitchell praises the show on how they introduced Natalie, she also explains how her experience transitioning felt and said “When I came out, I had to to tell my whole class that I was trans”, like how Natalie was re-introduced to her former cabin-mates. She also highlights how the camp counsellor Harry, opens the floor to questions without the given consent of Natalie, Mitchell explains how “many trans people don’t get a say on whether they would like to be questioned or not.” She discusses how trans people are put on display to educate cis-gendered people on the topic of trans women & men.
Natalie later in the episode is befriended by Jessi, who initially didn’t want to talk to Natalie based on previous events rather than being transphobic. Natalie then expresses how she felt about being back at camp to Jessi, who then consoles her. Natalie also explains her transition, saying “at first I thought I was gay”, but then highlights the feeling of absence and misplacement. Leading to her realising she was born in the wrong body and having to transition. Many trans people experience the same stages before transitioning, something which was also mentioned by Ve’ondre Mitchell. Overall, the answers to my two questions about the show are — Big Mouth has done a good job of representing trans people. But in regards to issues the trans community face, the show wasn’t as vivid which is understandable because it is supposed to be light-hearted and comedic.
The Dynamic Duo
A new character is introduced in the first episode of season 4, Tito the mosquito (Maria Bamford), which represents anxiety in the show. Tito throughout the season pesters each character, feeding them poisonous thoughts. In season two another disorder was presented by a Cheshire Cat, known as the depression kitty (Jean Smart). In season 4, both Tito the anxiety mosquito and the depression kitty form a bond, becoming this dynamic duo that attempt to tear down Jessi’s confidence. A lot of teens deal with both anxiety and depression, the stress young people go through can cause the two mood disorders to sync up, which is what this dynamic duo from Big Mouth represent. Jessi gains her stress from having to move away with her newly divorced mother and being the new girl at a private school. Although Jessi’s hormone monster tries to help her out in regards to her emotional state, both Tito and the depression kitty get the best of her. This causes Jessi to start playing truant, leading to other issues later discovered in the season.
Jessi then meets an older boy, and suddenly her depression goes away but her anxiety stays in place. The presence of her new boyfriends allows her to find an emotional anchor, but this slowly fades away as the relationship becomes more intimate. The older boy convinces Jessi to take part in foreplay and oral sex, but when she backs out she is then rejected and called a prude by the boy, leading to her depression coming back. The return of the two disorders causes the girl to lose her interest and motivation towards anything — school, romance & her relationship with her mother. The pair of disorders have an almost symbiotic bond and take control of every action Jessi makes. The show can truly be praised for the brilliant metaphors presented in the show. The fact that mental health is also a key theme in the series allows viewers further identity within the show. Even though Big Mouth is really a comedy, it does a great job of educating its audience on issues such as mood disorders.
Many girls fall into the same trap as Jessi, where depression and anxiety control your every move. Causing young women to disallow mental growth during their adolescence, the same can happen to young men and non-binary people. Nick, also faces hardship with his anxiety, he is taunted by thoughts and lines fed into his ears and head by Tito. Thankfully, the show doesn’t end on a bad note, and the characters beat their anxiety. Jessi helps Nick out by handing over the Gratitoad (Zach Galifianakis). A toad that helps the teens realise how grateful they are to be themselves even through hardships and find their “attitude of gratitude”.
Who Am I?
Missy is a young mix-raced girl, who is well educated but can be socially ignorant in regards to her identity. In season 4 she struggles with her ethnic and racial identity, this is mainly because she was raised by parents who normalise the relinquishing of racial identification. However this is disguised by what her parents have labelled as a “Post-racial household”. Missy who’s already filled with teenaged angst, thanks to her hormone monster starts to realise how ignorants she really is and begins to question her parents actions. In episode 2 The Hugest Period Ever, Missy and her family travel to Atlanta to see her fathers side of the family. At the airport a blatantly obvious scene showcases racial profiling and entrenched racism. Her father, who is a black man, is immediately taken to customs for a check up after doing nothing wrong and appearing totally normal. However, her mother who is a white woman, isn’t questioned when a pocket knife is found in her bag. Missy in this scene asks her mother why her father is always checked, her mother then proceeds to lie to her.
Later in the episode, Missy starts to hang out with her cousins who have grown up in a black household and call out on Missy’s actions and family for disallowing her to express herself as a young black woman. Missy then drops her signature outfit for well fitted jeans and newly braided hair. When her mother sees her daughter, she immediately discusses how it’s “different”. This is when Missy finally breaks her normal cheerful and naive character to presenting a confrontational and rebellious demeanour. Missy then confronts both her parents about the lack of education they have given her about her heritage and race. One of Missy’s cousins makes a reference to the Black Lives Matter Movement — “there goes uncle Cyrus again with his all pies matter bullshit”.
Further into the season Missy continues to question herself and who she is, as a mixed-race kid myself I was able to identify with the frustration Missy was going through. Sometimes you can’t seem to find a balance. It is difficult to come from two backgrounds, because being mixed means you can’t fully fit into either side. In Missy’s case she can’t seem to understand whether she is more white or more black. The fact that her family have placed barriers between her and one side of her identity, makes it even more difficult. But towards the end of the series she realises that she doesn’t have to fit into one category, and that being mix means she can just form her own identity and do what she feels is more comfortable. A conclusion most mixed kids come to, but isn’t always discovered unfortunately.
In conclusion, Big Mouth has really done a good job in regards to touching on all of the different themes that it did in season 4. It has broaden its audience and allowed more viewers to not only enjoy the show but to also identify with it. Everyone goes through their ups and downs growing up, but this show helps people realise how universal those issues really are. Big Mouth is a show that can really highlight what you are and can be, so if you haven’t watched the show and are looking for something to binge watch, try it out. You have 4 seasons to catch up on and soon you’ll be blessed with a 5th season, happy bingeing.
By Karla Louise Hallett