"Big Mouth" & The Quantum Leap in Animated Storytelling
Hey Gen X, remember when we weren’t allowed to watch ‘The Simpsons’ because Bart dared to call his dad “Homer”? Oooo! Subversive, R-rated stuff for the late ‘80s.
So if you haven’t seen Netflix’s BIG MOUTH (now in its 4th season), or anything else more intense than Matt Groening’s OG trailblazer, then buckle up ‘cuz it’s gonna be a bumpy ride! But I promise it’s worth it. And now that we’re parents, make sure your kids are right beside you. (Trust me, they’re watching it anyway.)
The evolution of animation since the early days of Uncle Walt, both visually and content-wise, may demonstrate the greatest quantum leaps in all of pop culture. From ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ and ‘Akira’ (both brand new when The Simpsons launched) to ‘South Park’, ‘Beavis & Butthead’, ‘Family Guy’, ‘Bojack Horseman’, ‘F Is For Family’, and of course, the entire oeuvre of Japanese animé legend Hayao Miyazaki, animators have arguably been pushing the social envelope harder than anyone when it comes to what kids should see and think about. (Come to think of it, that seems to be the operating principle behind every one of Pixar’s films, too, from ‘Toy Story’ to ‘Inside/Out’ to ‘Soul’.)
Some show creators have done it purely for shock value; but the ones we will remember for years to come have also sat down with younger audiences to talk about awkward stuff that really matters - from life to death, from peer pressure to suicidal ideation, from overwhelming feelings and crippling fears to love and sex.
On that last point, no show does it better than BIG MOUTH. Raw, unfiltered, profanely educational, and truer than we might want to admit, I consider it one of the most important TV shows of all time. Took me an episode or two to realize what showrunner Nick Kroll was trying to say, but then I was hooked. Of course, existing fans don’t need any of this explanation, and I also know why grown-ups will want to turn it off after 5 minutes. That’s why I thought a little context might be in order.
And yes, we watch it as a family. (P.S. Probably not actually appropriate for kids under 12, but that's your call.)
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