At a glance, Big Mouth, the animated adult comedy, is not for children. The Netflix original doesn’t go a few minutes without a penis joke and frequently shows nudity and drug use. Yet, there’s a case for letting your tweens watch the grotesquely hilarious show about puberty.
Inspired and created by real life childhood Jewish best friends Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg, Big Mouth follows a group of 13-year-olds going through the biggest changes in their life. Each protagonist has a “hormone monster” that helps them navigate their raging hormones and awkward growing pains, oftentimes getting them into trouble for encouraging them to masturbate in conspicuous places.
The second season, which dropped last Friday, is even ruder, cruder and lewder than the first. But despite the obscenities, Kroll wants as many people to see it as possible — including middle schoolers.
“Your 13-year-old is very likely watching or has access to much more crazy, dirty, and disgusting things on the internet that are much less aware of the messages they’re putting out into the world,” the Solomon Schechter alum said in an interview with The A.V. Club.
It’s true: If you look beyond the savagery and countless penis jokes, the “adult” cartoon actually does an excellent job of explaining puberty. And considering the dismal state of our country’s sex-education — only 13 states require instruction to be medically accurate, if taught at all — Big Mouth has the capacity to serve as an alternative source for teens seeking answers to taboo topics.
In the fifth episode of season 2, titled “The Planned Parenthood Episode,” Coach Steve, the students’ dim witted sex-ed teacher (comparable to Coach Carr from Mean Girls), asks his class to explain what Planned Parenthood is. “I don’t understand,” he says. “Do you have some sort of skit that we can watch that would be entertaining and informative but also not too preachy?” The episode then proceeds to do just that. Big Mouth brilliantly debunks the myth that Planned Parenthood exists exclusively for abortions by showcasing all its functionalities in a series of four vignettes.
In the second skit, Kroll’s character’s older sister Leah is faced with an important decision: choosing between The Pill, Condoms, The Implant, The IUD, The Pull-Out Method, and The Diaphragm, each personified as contestants on a Bachelor-type show. After giving their shpiel and presenting the advantages and drawbacks of each method, Leah gives a red rose — like 60 percent of teens — to The Pull-Out Method. Thankfully, the 16-year-old’s mom quickly intervenes and makes it clear that if Leah wants to be sexually active, she’ll have to double up on the pill and condoms.
Research has proven again and again that educating teens on birth control and safe sex practices is the best way to lower rates of unwanted pregnancies and STIs. Yet, in most public schools, this valuable information is sparse.
“The whole reason we made the show is because we believe that the more that this stuff around puberty and sexuality is talked about, the healthier people will be,” Kroll said.
The edgy comedy doesn’t just provide accurate sex-education, it also illustrates the painful awkwardness of experiencing physical changes, and the shame that comes with it. In the second season, we’re introduced to the “Shame Wizard,” an English ghoul that torments the characters as they grow into their budding bodies and experiment with drug use and shoplifting.
The current culture in our society is uncomfortable talking to teens about sexuality, which is why we attempt to hide it, co-creator Goldberg told Vulture. And an unintended consequence of that is shame.
“They assume that if it’s secretive and we’re quiet about it, there’s something wrong with it,” Goldberg said. “And what makes shame so powerful is that it’s so internal, and you keep it secret and you don’t talk about it and it just festers, and you judge yourself.”
Thus is the beauty and importance of this dirty animated comedy. By showcasing the uncomfortable realities of puberty, Big Mouth is draining human sexuality of the shame society drenched it in.
At his nephew’s bar mitzvah, Kroll said he was approached by parents of 13-year-olds who watched Big Mouth.” Our kids are watching the show and it’s giving them a vocabulary and a platform to talk about these things,” they told him.
Sexualized animated furniture and obscene language aside, there’s a strong argument for letting your teens watch Big Mouth. Yes, the show is incredibly filthy, but unlike the Internet which is overflowing with disinformation about sex, this animated comedy about puberty can serve as the comprehensive sex-education our kids deserve.
Header image via imdb