The Happy Trail

‘Big Mouth’ season two has no shame about having uncomfortable conversations about puberty

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Most college students are past the days of navigating our flying hormones, sexual urges and growing bodies. But we’re not so distanced from those days to forget the painful and hilarious memories “Big Mouth,” the Netflix animated show depicting puberty, brings us back to puberty in its second season. “Big Mouth” illustrates the cringiest of the cringy from our youth and creates something that is hilarious, filthy and surprisingly touching.

To the main characters (voiced by John Mulaney, Nick Kroll, Jessi Klein and Maya Rudolph), anything can be sexualized — a pillow, a friend’s sister, a sock, a tomato — and it’s as raunchy and humiliating as it sounds. “Big Mouth” captures the truth of puberty better than any other depiction I’ve seen in recent memory. It is a dump truck of quick and bizarre jokes that don’t always completely make sense, but always accurately represent the anxious and confused mind of a horny 13-year-old.

Puget Sound senior Parker Barry said that this is the precise reason that she had lukewarm feelings towards the show in its second season. While at first she was entertained by its humor and relatability, she said that “Big Mouth” season two was sometimes too painful to watch.

“To be honest, I don’t really want to remember those painfully awkward times in my life,” Barry said. “They are pretty funny but also they are a little too real. I would never want to go back to that time in my life, so why would I want to watch a show about it?”

Barry does have a point about the show getting too real. Outlandish jokes aside, “Big Mouth” certainly prompts the viewer to think about deeper issues surrounding family, sexuality and self-esteem. This is especially evident in later episodes of the season that focus mainly on the “Shame Monster” who travels around the students’ overnight field trip, cursing them with self-hatred about things such as not having big breasts, masturbation, not being the perfect feminist, not having pubic hair yet, making out with a classmate, being gay and a multitude of other personal issues.

The show made me and my friends reflect on the shame that we still carry that was manifested during puberty. While there is certainly nothing funny about that, it felt incredibly important to challenge the shame that we still carry as young adults.

Additionally, there are plenty of “adult” problems that get nearly as much airtime as the kids. “Big Mouth” covers the teens’ parents lives, including their happy marriages, cheating, divorce, alcoholism and weed reliance. It’s freaky to watch as a 21-year-old who feels as though they are in between the two major life phases of child and parent.

I am really pleased that the creators decided to explore non-hetersexual identities this season. Not only did a previously known gay character, Matthew, get his own plot arc about the shame of being gay and not feeling like he fit into heterosexual girl or boy social groups, but another character, Jay, had a coming out moment in which he realized he might be bisexual. This was an enormous triumph, not only because of the truly awful lack of male bisexual representation, but because it was another chance to explore a moment that is familiar, painful and heartwarming for LGBTQ viewers.

I can’t wait for a potential third season in which “Big Mouth” can continue to tell funny stories about humiliatingly painful moments that we’ve all experienced.