By Ryan Grant-Khailani, History, Second Year
Big Mouth, the animated series which dissects all things puberty related, has just dropped its fifth season to Netflix. The series has always benefited from an incredibly high production value and a star-studded cast; this season, Keke Palmer joins the cast as the “Hate Worm” Rochelle.
When it comes to Big Mouth, I have been a devoted fan for a long time; my Netflix icon is Maury the Hormone Monster. That being said, many of my recommendations have been received by friends who aren’t able to stomach the brazen, tongue-in-cheek absurdity that the animated series employs as humour, whilst being vehicles for conversations about sexual education and early teenage experiences.
The content of the show has always traversed the line of taboo – its main content warnings include cartoon nudity, sex, drug use and sexual language, all whilst the main characters of the show are 13 years old. The pubescent characters are varied wide and far, with conversations over the course of the show having been related to a plethora of situations which affect every kind of teen, with representations for almost any label of identity imaginable. The show is deliberately conscious of the multi-ethnic character dynamics and queer identities; choices in the story and at the production level have been meticulous.
The previous season was released amongst the Black Lives Matter movement in America, with the show having a central theme of race and making the decision to replace the voice actress of Missy Foreman-Greenwald from a white voice actor, Jenny Slate, with a black voice actor, Ayo Edebiri. Upon first viewing, one might be forgiven for thinking that it was a vapid, barrel-o’-gags animated sitcom. However, it is as cleverly written as shows such as Sex Education (2019-), which is similar in style and theme.
Big Mouth uses modern stereotypes and subverts them, interjecting the show with often anthropomorphised characters who offer commentary on visceral depictions of the children’s emotions and inner dialogues. The Hormone Monster or Shame Wizard aren’t real, but stand-ins for the suffocating elements behind feelings; the dramatised angst of puberty, personified. The interactions between these characters speak to the bigger players when it comes to the complicated nature of developing emotions.
For example, the antagonist of this season is introduced as the ‘Hate Worm’, the aforementioned Rochelle, who influences the behaviour of Missy during this season’s events. Whilst other characters, Nick and Jessi, are grappling with the Love Bugs, Walter and Sonya, respectively. The show uses the conversations of the animated emotions parallel to the interactions between the children, demonstrating the emotional labours of being children.
In a later episode, the audience sees how the pits of rage coupled with selfish hate can be strengthened in the face of another who bears the same feelings. The ‘Hate Worms’, in this instance, egg each other on whilst the children encourage each other to act out and subsequently grow in size, eventually becoming more serpent-like than worm-like.
Further, the show uses the narratives of the diverse cast, who all grapple with the same emotions albeit in different forms, to comment on the nature of powerful emotions. Ones which sometimes appear as demons, can be simultaneously used as tools for healthy emotional growth - or in some cases, stunted growth. But, for all this talk of higher orders of poignant emotions, this show is outrageous with graphic violence, innuendo and should be approached with caution for sensitive viewers.
This is a strong season for the show and cannot wait for the creator’s spinoff show, Human Resources, rumoured for release in the next few months, and the sixth season of Big Mouth, which was confirmed by Netflix in 2019.
Featured Image: Netflix
Will you be opening your eyes to Big Mouth this season?