Big Mouth Season 3 Navigates Gender Issues
Sat, April 17, 2021

Big Mouth Season 3 Navigates Gender Issues

Netflix’s raunchy teen animated series ‘Big Mouth’ returned with a premise that is very familiar to its loyal viewers: puberty is a difficult phase for everyone / Photo by: Max Pixel

 

Netflix’s raunchy teen animated series ‘Big Mouth’ returned with a premise that is very familiar to its loyal viewers: puberty is a difficult phase for everyone. The earnest approach of the show has been lauded by critics as the creators try to discuss difficult topics that are usually hard to talk about in person. 

From the gross and accurate depiction of how hormones can affect a child’s decision-making and physical features, the animated series also tried to tackle the issues of gender and stereotypes that remain prevalent in current society. A particular episode in the latest season even questions how pansexuality works and explores the struggles of being a bisexual. 

‘Rankings’

Film industry and review website IndieWire mentioned in their article that an episode from season 3, called Rankings, features the introduction of a new character named Ali, who was voiced by actress-comedian, Ali Wong. The character identifies herself as a Ravenclaw and a pansexual. 

This announcement by her character intrigues the kids in her class. They start to ask her questions about how pansexuality works. However, as the show tried to depict what it means to be pansexual, critics were concerned as to how Big Mouth’s patented frankness created an inaccurate analogy.

Ali’s definition of pansexuality implied that trans boys and trans girls are not simply boys and girls. It is also followed by an extended metaphor that made things more complicated instead of simplifying the concept of pansexuality, which was defined by GLAAD as “being attracted to all gender identities or attracted to people regardless of gender."

Meanwhile, Vox culture critic Emily VanDerWerff expressed her opinion on a Twitter thread where she explained the complicated and multiple issues of the scene. She tweeted, “There are different definitions of pansexuality, but the one pan people have shared with me [the] most is that they are attracted to people regardless of gender expression. Men, women, non-binary, and beyond.” 

Due to this controversy, ‘Big Mouth’ co-creator Andrew Goldberg released an apology where he acknowledged that the series “missed the mark” with regards to its definition of pansexuality and bisexuality. On behalf of himself and other co-creators, Nick Kroll, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett, the statement also admitted the challenge of providing a definition to a complex issue like human sexuality. 

The Angry Teenager Girl Stereotype

There is also an episode in the series where a strict dress code was enforced for the girls. Jessy, the main character who is known as someone who always has something to say about feminism, led the protest: a slutwalk. The girls soon showed up to school while wearing their most revealing clothes-- except for Missy Foreman-Greenwald, who believes that being an advocate also means that one should wear the clothes they’re comfortable in. 

Salon.com, a digital media outlet, said that this innocent and logical move by Missy was perceived by her peers as a betrayal against their advocacy. After the school administrators stated that the students should wear scratchy uniforms, Missy showed up and staged a one-woman protest against her sexist teacher and her cheering female classmates for being hypocrites. 

This episode titled “Girls Are Angry Too” showed how television and film writers are when they depict female anger, especially the wrath of adolescent girls. Most of these show cliched cliques where mean girls lead or perform a single, dramatic eye roll which means that teenage girls are dramatic. 

The scene with Missy broke the common portrayal of how teenage girls show their feelings. In ‘Big Mouth,’ the creators try to give room for Missy and other girl characters to explain why they act in different ways. This is sometimes perceived as problematic by the adults around them, but it is a real thing. 

Salon.com, a digital media outlet, said that this innocent and logical move by Missy was perceived by her peers as a betrayal against their advocacy / Photo by: Ion Chiosea via 123RF

 

Big Mouth and Women’s Sexuality

Despite the animation’s masturbation jokes and the presence of furry ‘hormone monsters’, the show also tries to explain the issues of women's struggles. There are a lot of scenes and episodes where Nick and the other boys express how clueless they are about women’s sexuality. 

Time Magazine, an American weekly news magazine and news website, mentioned in a review they published that in the episode “Girls Are Angry Too,” boys are even more confused about the said protest. They wonder why girls wear skimpy clothes if they don’t want male attention and wonder what they would have to do if the primal urges they’ve been taught to suppress are impossible to control.

Despite the animation’s masturbation jokes and the presence of furry ‘hormone monsters’, the show also tries to explain the issues of women's struggles / Photo by: Sergii Pavlov via 123RF

 

The audience has different opinions regarding the said episode. Some of them believe that it was a great depiction of how women handle the pressures of society when it comes to their sexuality, while others believe that this issue is not meant for kids, who are the target audience of this show. 

Netflix’s 'Big Mouth' is a wild ride. The show makes its audience feel and remember what it was like growing up with zits and unnatural sexual urges. Aside from its comedic take on puberty, this show perfectly depicts the internal struggles of the youth.