What’s up: Netflix’s “Big Mouth” is an animated comedy featuring middle schoolers going through puberty and figuring out how to be happy, yet responsible sexual beings. Their pubescent emotions get anthropomorphized into characters, which means the human characters hang out with fun-loving “hormone monsters” and embodiments of shame.
The third season begins with the sound of birds chirping and cello music over a shot of bees buzzing around flowers. Through the flowers, Maurice the Hormone Monster ― a Maurice Sendak-like character with a horn and a penis-shaped nose and who also sort of looks like a lion with a clean-shaven face and belly ― reads a poem he wrote called “A Chode to Spring.” He dons thick glasses to aid the joke of mixing highbrow poetry with lowbrow sex jokes. Here’s the beginning of the poem:
Behold the Sun, the fiery anus of the sky,
Melting away the woolen clothes of winter,
Exposing skin, sweet flesh,
A budding side-boob,
A peek of midriff and legs, legs, legs,
Squatting low beside a bike rack,
Revealing a butt crack.
You get the idea. The poem ends with Maurice teasing a character about an event that happened at the end of last season involving an ended relationship. Then the show launches into each ex’s own fantasy ― with the girl dreaming of flying through the cosmos with actor Nathan Fillion and his “fat package.” The boy ex gets his fingertip cut off while yet another character has a sex fantasy (which involves having sex with a turkey) and when the fingertip hits another character in the face, a fingering joke gets made. Again, you get the idea.
The main voice cast includes Fred Armisen, Jessi Klein, Nick Kroll, Jason Mantzoukas, John Mulaney, Jordan Peele, Maya Rudolph and Jenny Slate.
Seasons of “Big Mouth” run 10 episodes of roughly 25 minutes each.
Sum up: The show aims to promote sexual acceptance while also delivering a strong new joke every couple seconds, making this a worthy and easily watchable project. It accomplishes these two “North Star” goals by repeatedly playing absurdity for laughs and using it to point out hypocrisies. An example early in this season involves a new dress code at the middle school that forces the female students to cover up their skin. If the girls don’t comply, the school forces the students to wear the leftover costumes from a past play, “The Ronald McDonologues.” While expressing frustration about the dress code, these characters don Grimace and Hamburglar costumes, while the boys get to continue wearing schlubby shirts and jeans. That’s a creative and richly detailed, yet still hilarious way to tackle the problem of blaming young women for the male gaze.
Although the majority of the show focuses on various facets of sex, “Big Mouth” does find interesting ways to tackle other problems of contemporary teenagers such as phone addiction and conservative red-pilling. These stray topics tend to come back to sex though, as the phone addiction plot is told through the phone being anthropomorphized as a woman and the addicted character essentially dating her (even going on a date to an expensive new doughnut shop in town, in which the character gets to gaze at “her” lovingly, but otherwise by himself).
Heads up: Narratively, “Big Mouth” has found many avenues of the sexual experience to explore. But comedically, the show has pretty clear limitations in basing almost all of its humor on tired sex jokes. The show finds plenty of creative ways to present these jokes (such as the aforementioned fingertip bit), but they still fall in the category of well-worn sophomoric gags.
Close-up: The show often contrasts the kids’ sexual journeys and confusions with their parents also figuring themselves out. In one episode, a father repeatedly tells his daughter about how he uses his wife’s bra to gather radishes. After realizing that this might be seen as atypical, he keeps going to greater lengths to stress that he doesn’t actually wear the bra and that the bra just does a good job holding the radishes. In the culmination of this joke, the father enters his daughter’s room holding a bra full of radishes. The daughter has been patient to this point, but finally snaps and yells that she gets that her father doesn’t wear the bra. Satisfied, the father exits. “Big Mouth” is essentially a show about celebrating that everyone has their own sexual thing going on, and the pushback here only comes from the father’s potential denial of something about himself.