Are you a fan of Big Mouth? It’s one of my favorite shows. I first discovered it my freshman year in the dorms when it premiered on Netflix. Basically, the premise of the show is a group of 7th graders: Nick, Andrew, Jessi, Jay, Matthew and Missy, navigate the brutal experience that is middle school, while dealing with puberty, sexuality and relationships. To make things worse they have Hormone Monsters and the ghosts of dead celebrities, exacerbating their emotions. I think it showcases puberty, being a teenager, and relationships with your friends and family in a fun and creative way. Albeit very hyperbolic and clearly meant to be taken with a grain of salt.
I am creating a series all about Big Mouth, not really about the show in its entirety but I’m going to be talking about some of the subjects the show incorporates. First I’m gonna summarize the episode, then I’m gonna delve deep into the teeth of its core themes. It should be noted that this is my own personal opinion. While these messages are important to hear, this is for mature eyes only. Without further ado, here’s my perspective.
To kick this series off I want to first talk about the second episode of Season 3, Girls Are Angry Too. At its core, the episode is a critique of schools and how they place sexist guidelines for girls to follow while simultaneously letting boys do whatever they want. This episode is one giant critique of slut-shaming, toxic masculinity and male privilege. And it’s fitting because a lot of these issues are prevalent and start out when we’re younger. This episode also takes a stab at Amber Rose’s slut walk and has all of the girls protest the school’s dress code, and taking ownership of the word ‘slut.’
The episode opens on shop class and Jay is distracted by a girl in class wearing a not so revealing shirt. However, this quickly causes an uproar in the school and as a result, the fake woke feminist and pedophilic teacher, Mr. Lizer implements a sexist dress code.
Lizer continues, being the creep that he is, and he singles out Missy and remarks unfairly on her appearance, going as far as stating that she dresses like a “unisex toddler,” and the “hotter girls,” need to dress more like her. Reinforcing unfair gender restrictions on girls and judging them for dressing provocatively and simultaneously throwing shade at Missy for not dressing that way. Girls simply cannot win in this predicament. Jessi rightly points out that Lizer’s dress code perpetuates rape culture and implies girls are “asking for it,” by wearing revealing clothes. Not holding men accountable for their actions, because as Lizer puts it, “that seems hard.”
Focusing on the boys in this episode, my God, is there a lot to unpack here. Nick is pretty much the only boy to speak up for the girls and is actively trying to show his allyship, although, he is still unclear on how to do that. When Nick is asked why he didn’t speak up at first, his older brother Judd aggressively states because the boys will call him a pussy. Which sidenote, I have always found it ironic how men use “pussy” in a derogatory sense, but love the physical aspect of it. It reminds me of a time I heard a radio host say, “Men love pussy but hate women,” and no truer words have ever been spoken. Getting back to the summary, Nick’s dad interrupts by asking the very real question, “Since when did becoming a beautiful genital become an insult?” All of this is to say that Nick might be the perfect person to amplify the girls’ voices, because as Nick’s sister Leah points out his male friends might actually listen to him solely because he’s a guy. Still problematic, but the conversation has to start somewhere.
The next day Jessi and all of the other girls (except Missy), dress in very provocative clothing to protest the dress code but it ends up backfiring. The boys are confused as to why the girls would dress like this if they didn’t want all the stares and comments. Andrew argues with the girls that their clothes are what cause the boys to act like animals and they really have no control over their actions, to which Jessi counters by calling him a creep. This sends Andrew over the edge and asks all the girls: “What do you bitches want from us?” Nick tries to come to girl’s defense but is called a pussy by Andrew and the boys, just like Judd said he would. Ouch! Now Andrew is clearly still bitter from being dumped by Missy for his attitude. In the previous episode he not only disrespects Missy by trying to force her to like him, he pulls a kid out of his wheelchair. What a prince!
Missy shows up late to the protest wearing her iconic look: yellow shirt with overalls and the girls gang up on her for not protesting how they all wanted to. Missy is also in a feud with her inner self and retreats into her sci-fi fantasy world in order to cope with her identity crisis. Having enough with feminism for one day, Andrew exits stage left and goes home to rant on the internet where he joins a group of incels who invite him to come to one of their “meetings.” It is there that he feels like he’s found his tribe, that is until he finds out that these men are a group of white supremacists who hate women, Jews, Black people, anyone who is not a straight white man. At that moment Andrew has a moment of clarity and realizes women are people and men shouldn’t be creeps.
The episode ends with Nick and Jessi having a constructive (sort of) conversation about this topic of men v. women. These two end up covering a lot of ground faster than most U.S. government officials, but I digress. Missy also comes to terms with herself and realizes she doesn’t need to be a “good girl” all the time, and even that phrase is inherently problematic. At school Missy shows up in her iconic look and calls out Mr. Lizer for his sexist policy. Going even further, Missy also calls out the girls who show their support for her now, but called a traitor not even 24 hours earlier. And if that wasn’t enough Missy lets the boys have it as well, telling them they are not animals and need to be held accountable for their actions. To bring it on home, Lizer dared to open his mouth again to which Missy retorted by telling him to “eat his own ass.” No choice but to stan Missy!
“Men are threatened by women who don’t shy away from conflict,” said by Caleb, earlier in the episode and honestly no truer words have ever been spoken. Society would rather police women’s bodies than hold men accountable and it starts as early as middle school. While dress codes might sound like a simple way of implementing modesty on school grounds, what it actually ends up doing is perpetuating a misogynistic mindset. It contributes to rape culture where women are scrutinized for what they were wearing and takes the blame away from the male perpetrator.
Middle school is also a very weird time for a lot of kids. Hormones go crazy and bodies change and sometimes girls mature faster than boys, something this show talked about last season when a girl named Gina starts developing breasts, to which all the boys remark at every chance they get, embarrassing Gina. While the boys oggle and drool, the girls resort to being petty and jealous, even though nobody is considering the fact that her body is developing beyond her control. That also segues into another level of slut shaming where girls are the perpetrators. I feel that one of the reasons why men have such an easy time objectifying women is because a lot of the times is because of other women.
I strongly believe that the #MeToo era wasn’t as strong as it could have been because women didn’t believe other women. Women are sometimes the first ones to shoot the “slut” dart at other women, reinforcing negative gender stereotypes. This is pointed out in the previous season of the show when Gina is the victim of slut shaming because of Jessi. Jessi’s main trait is being a feminist and supporter of women, but she was the first person to bad mouth Gina as soon as she felt threatened. I say all this to say women are not completely blameless in perpetuating toxic masculinity and sexism, although boys contribute to a huge portion of it.
The only counterargument for the dress code that the boys seem to have is that the boys can’t control themselves. We have heard countless iterations of this since most of us were in middle school. Me, myself having gone through a conservative private school, girls were instructed not to wear certain clothing because it “distracted the boys.” How problematic and sexist that statement was didn’t hit until I got older and after watching this episode, I cringe at the type of treatment the girls went through in school.
Going back to Andrew in this episode, we can empathize with him because he’s processing hurt from being dumped, although that doesn’t excuse his behavior. After the slut-walk backfires and Andrew goes on a social media rant and connects with other incels, he realizes the grass isn’t actually greener on the other side. Just to clarify what an “incel” is, its a portmanteau of “involuntarily celibate,” and is an online community of men who are unable to attract women sexually or romantically. In other words, incels believe women are to blame for why they are single when it is actually due to them being misogynist woman haters and the fact that most of them do not practice basic hygiene.
It took these men revealing themselves as Nazi white supremacists for Andrew to realize that this could be his future. This is what happens when boys are not taught how to deal with their feelings and that women are people not possessions. If boys were taught how to control themselves and to acknowledge their entitlement we wouldn’t be living in such a sexist patriarchal society. The simple fact that girls do not exist for the pleasure of males is baffling for far too many young boys. If Andrew were to get older with this mindset, odds are he would end up being just like Mr. Lizer or the white supremacist group. Andrew’s outburst of: “What do you bitches want?” the answer is actually quite simple. Men need to stop looking at women as objects for their pleasure and know that everything they do, say or wear is not for them and in the same vein, women should be able to wear what they want without fearing for their lives or being judged or harassed.
The responsibility to fight toxic masculinity has been placed on girls’ shoulders for too long and it is time that men take the mantle because really it is on us to hold other men accountable. Which is why Nick’s role in this episode is so important because it started the dialogue of men being allies to women. If men truly want to be allies to women, they need to talk less, listen more and do more. Doing more means holding other men accountable when they are being predatory or misogynist. Doing more means using your privilege as a man to make space for women. Doing more is calling out systems in place that perpetuate rape culture. The fight for equality is not new, some of you are just new to it.
I hope you guys enjoyed my first post on My Perspective on Big Mouth. Stay tuned for my next post talking about sex education and planned parenthood. You’re not gonna want to miss it! If you’re a fan of the show and there’s a subject you think I should talk about, let me know in the comments. Thanks for listening!