South Park has been pushing censorship buttons for over 20 years and still continues to do so, albeit, in my opinion, with diminishing levels of quality. Through the innocence of 2-dimensional animation, showrunners can include ideas that could not ordinarily appear in a live-action show. South Park was such a huge talking point in the late 1990s, and it became a social phenomenon with many parents of the children allegedly having their minds corrupted, petitioning for it to be banned. South Park being South Park, creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker poked fun at this in the 1999 movie South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut, the plot of which imitates true events and centres around an offensive TV show aimed at children and parents lobbying for it to be banned. Counterparts Family Guy and the more recent but short-lived Comedy Central show, Brickleberry also delighted in their capacity to trigger and offend individuals and groups with their barbed jabs at religion, sex, race etcetera. With this formula of content, after viewing multiple episodes the jokes often grow stale and the aim to offend begins to feel repetitive and forced.
Big Mouth, a 2D animation exclusive to Netflix, recently airing its third season in full, tells the collective tales of a group of middle schoolers as they hit puberty. This show has an appeal that sets it apart from the previously mentioned efforts, namely relatability and emotional depth. Many of us experienced an awkward moment throughout our teenage years or at least knew someone who did. Big Mouth taps into this familiarity and runs with it, and therefore helps it appeal to a larger audience demographic. Teens will relate directly to the contemporary language and subject matter that connects directly to younglings. Those over the age of 18, however, are not excluded in feeling part of the insanely rude hijinks of the cleverly written scripts. Nostalgia plays a large part when watching as a non-teen. You find yourself recalling memories with a sense of ‘second adolescence’ by proxy as you watch (and cringe) as the experiences are had on screen. The compassionate and intelligently considered uniqueness of content makes it incredibly likeable. There is so much heart on display despite the gross-out humour that it is almost impossible not to love the show.
At the centre of Big Mouth is a trio, Nick (one of many characters voiced by Nick Kroll); is neurotic and desperate not to be left behind in the race to start puberty, Andrew (Andrew Goldberg); awkward in his own skin and complete with ability of ending up in every embarrassing situation imaginable, and Jessi (Jessi Klein), an older than her years tomboy struggling to cope with her teen journey all the while dealing with her parents’ divorce. Each child upon beginning puberty is awarded a Hormone monster to assist them in the awkward venture to adulthood. These big hairy (and horny) creatures bring with them a brilliant USP to the show and provided hilarious results. The hormone monstress, voiced with extreme levels of sass by the always hilarious Maya Rudolph is the show’s standout. The third season sees less of the Hormone monsters than previously and I often found myself wanting more. Most of the hilarious and subsequently embarrassing moments come as Maury and Connie advise the kids to act on their random, hormone generated impulses.
The show was created by Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Jane Flackett and Mark Levin and in a recent interview on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Kroll admitted that many of the events within the narrative of the show are things that were real-life experiences when the creators were young. However, he unfortunately didn’t divulge which ones. This show feels so personal and close to home and maybe this is why it is so easy to love Big Mouth along with its high tier cringe factor. There are moments in this show that really make your toes curl and laugh in disbelief. One example, a particular character has an ongoing sexual relationship with various random items of soft furnishings (he sires a child with a pillow!) that has to be seen to be believed and it just works on a comedic level. Of course, Big Mouth can be offensive, yet the thread of childhood innocence alongside the adult humour makes it endearing.
As this is the third season the characters are firmly established and of the three the current one does not flow quite so well. Season 3 would have perhaps benefitted from extra Hormone monsters and some of the extremely random storylines of the earlier seasons, like the journey into the pornscape and visit to the Hormone monster workplace. It is however still brilliant; the bar was just set so high in the initial two seasons.
Big Mouth fits into a category of animation alongside Rick and Morty, and BoJack horseman as a ‘thinking persons’ style of animation. The intelligence and emotion that these shows demonstrate is a testament to what can be done with animation as long as the writers are beyond fart jokes and the desperate need to offend. Big Mouth, like BoJack, tackles serious issues such as mental health. The depression kitty, for example, is considerately delivered on-screen and demonstrates an understanding of the condition with sensitivity and understanding. The show often offers a touch of deep emotional content that is surprising for the genre, it is far more than silly soapy melodrama, instead offering reassuring proof that we are never truly alone due to shared experiences.
There has been recent news that Big Mouth has been commissioned for two more seasons and principal voice recording for the fourth season has already been completed, with only the animation left to complete. So, it looks as though we will be able to follow the antics of our awkward young heroes for a few years yet. I for one, think this is great news.
Created by: Nick Kroll, Mark Levin, Andrew Goldberg, Jennifer Flackett
Cast: Nick Kroll, John Mulaney, Jessi Klein, Jenny Slate, Jordan Peele, Jason Matzoukas, Fred Armisen, Maya Rudolph