For six seasons now, the adult cartoon, Big Mouth, has portrayed every intimate, disgusting, and scary detail about puberty from nocturnal emissions to yeast infections. The show is vulgar, crass, and downright nasty at times—but somehow, the raunchiest show on Netflix portrays the topics of gender and sexuality in one of the most nuanced and open minded ways possible.
This is not what I expected from a show starring a 6-foot tall hormone monster with the voice of Nick Kroll, but here we are! Here are five ways Big Mouth gets LGBTQ+ representation right.
Jessi And Ali’s Relationship Is Relatable To Anyone Who’s Questioned Their Identity
Let’s start with the first episodes that caught my attention when it comes to the show’s open minded handling of sexual discovery: Season 5, Episodes 3 through 6.
Ali, the new girl at school, is proudly out as pansexual. After she and Jessi start to become friends, a lovebug visits Jessi (meaning she’s in love). I’m about to scream, thinking my favorite character is about to realize she’s gay—until the love bug says at the start of Episode 4 that she’s there to celebrate the love of two best friends.
Just as I’m about to start drafting a letter to Netflix about queerbaiting, Jessi starts to realize that her feelings for Ali might be more than platonic and that her sexuality may not be as straightforward as she had initially assumed.
Even a season later, Jessi is still sorting out how she feels about Ali, which is a familiar experience for anyone who’s ever questioned their sexual orientation.
Big Mouth Has Worthwhile Discussions On Gender
I was impressed by the comedy’s tactful handling of a trans character in Season 4, but it wasn’t until the most recent season that the show really tackled the complex topic of gender.
In Season 6 we learn that hormone monsters are raised genderless until they’re ready to decide for themselves. The concept is illustrated through a signature Big Mouth musical number that details the spectrum of gender identity. This open-ended and non-judgmental take on gender expression may sound radical to some, but this series explains its point in a way that just sounds like common sense.
Jessi also begins to question whether gender is putting her in a box in Season 6, which opens the door for more conversations about gender roles in future seasons of the show.
Big Mouth Characters Aren’t Just Queer-Coded
The characters in this very adult show about kids aren’t just queer-coded—they actually get to have queer experiences, unlike many “queer” fictional characters who came before them. You know the type—characters who may act or feel gay, but explicitly date the opposite gender (or don’t date at all).
Jay Bilzerian (voiced by the always funny Jason Mantzoukas) comes out as bisexual in Season 4, Episode 8, and by the end of Season 6 he’s experienced relationships with both boys and girls.
Jay is personally one of my favorite bisexual characters, period. He comes from a family where toxic masculinity rules, and his brothers definitely seem like the type to use the “f-word” slur. But Jay, as well as all the other queer characters in Big Mouth, aren’t forced to stay in the closet for the comfort of straight viewers. It’s like anti-queerbaiting.
When Asexuality Was Portrayed In Elijah’s Episode
The Season 6 episode “Asexual Healing” was a breath of fresh air for asexual representation on television. When we meet Elijah, a well-mannered Christian boy in the trenches of purity culture, he has no concerns about the state of his sexuality. After all, he and his family believe that sex is a temptation from the devil.
Through Elijah’s budding relationship with Missy, he begins to understand that sex and masturbation aren’t as evil as his youth group would have him believe—and yet he still doesn’t feel those butterflies in his stomach that lead him to want more from Missy.
That’s not to say Elijah doesn’t care about her—he does, both as a friend and as a girlfriend. But his feelings for his horny girlfriend don’t manifest as sexual desires, contrary to the experiences of his middle school peers.
Despite feeling like a weirdo for not wanting the same things his friends want, Elijah learns that he’s not alone (or a weirdo) with the help of his hormone monsters.
The Coming Out Stories Are Different For Each Queer Character
Members of the LGBTQ+ community know what it’s like to come out—but the coming out stories of the queer characters on Big Mouth serve as a good reminder for straight viewers.
Matthew is openly gay at school, but must lie about his identity at home to fit in with his conservative (and homophobic) family. Even though he’s secure in his identity as an individual, it’s something he carries shame about because of the tension it creates in his family.
In contrast, Jay is overjoyed to come out to his family in Season 6—but his family members can’t be bothered to care about what Jay has to say.
These two coming out stories remind viewers that discovering one’s identity is not as simple as making peace with your desires.
It Has Representation For ALL Middle School Experiences
You won’t relate 100% to every character on Big Mouth, and that’s okay. But there is a character for everyone to relate to on this show.
In six short seasons, Big Mouth has addressed the experiences of preteens who are gay, bisexual, pansexual, questioning, trans, and asexual—not to mention experiences related to race, class, body image, religion, and family. The list goes on and on. Whatever your middle school experience, Big Mouth has a story dedicated to normalizing that experience.
What do we think? Overall, I’m just happy that young people can grow up with a show that validates their experiences rather than alienates them.
Episodes for all six seasons of Big Mouth are now available to stream with a Netflix subscription. For a look into the shows that are set to premiere in the near future, check out our schedule for 2023 TV premieres.