'Big Mouth'’s Valentine’s Day special thrives in messiness

The double episode perfects adolescent exploration

Big Mouth released its Valentine's Day special ahead of its season 3 launch.
Credit: 
Screenshot from Netflix

The first two seasons of Big Mouth operated on the understanding that puberty is the most shameful period of our lives, which means we can and should laugh about it. The Netflix show's Valentine's Day special looks into what happens when its child-aged characters try to bundle up their confusion and exploding sexualities into a massive chocolate heart and call it “love.”

The double-length episode, released this past Friday, follows its main characters as they fumble through the year’s most romantic holiday. Predictably, the cast of unstoppably horny adolescents don't handle it very well.

Nick can't seem to graduate from the unfortunate stage of calling his mother "Valentine." Jessi sulks in the rage-filled shadows of her mother's newfound love with their temple's cantor, Dina. Andrew adopts an ill-fitting, jazz-oriented persona—and an even more ill-fitting Kangol hat—to woo his former flame, Missy. Jay struggles to satisfy his two Valentine's Day dates, who are both couch cushions of opposite genders, in case you forgot this was an animated comedy.

The four protagonists all fail miserably, as we've come to expect from a show about children trying to pass the adulthood exam without so much as a textbook to guide them. What separates Big Mouth from its raunchy animated predecessors is how accessible the show makes its characters' problems, allowing viewers to see the world through their adolescent eyes and our own wiser perspectives.

The four protagonists all fail miserably, as we've come to expect from a show about children trying to pass the adulthood exam without so much as a textbook to guide them.

The show’s humour is over-the-top and often gross enough to warrant a spit take, but the subject matter accurately reflects the complexities of trying to develop a sexual identity within the confines of a family home.

We can feel awkward about how intensely open Nick's family is about sex while also appreciating the value of parents who don't cloak sexuality with shame and secrecy. Jessi's scorn at the dissolution of her parents' marriage welcomes sympathy and an appreciation for her 35-year-old mother, who took an intimidating leap to explore her sexuality later in life. Andrew's doomed quest for rekindled love begs us to root for his success and fear, as he clearly can’t handle the type of romantic commitment he wants to emulate—namely, that of his parents. And Jay is just way too horny for his own good.

Big Mouth's world is ultimately as ridiculous as you'd expect from an animated sitcom that has its characters compete on a fake show called Ultimate F—k Machine. Its jokes are quick, funny, and ridiculous enough to make you wonder who in their right mind conceived of a female ladybug narrator with the cadence of Tracy Morgan. 

Even with its top-notch comedic relief, Big Mouth's true strength is how its humour creates an access point for viewers to feel its characters' complex emotions. It's what allows us to empathize with a montage of children wallowing in their loneliness on an isolating holiday that adults are barely able to navigate—even when we remember the montage is set to the vocal stylings of a Hormone Monstress accompanied by the ghost of Duke Ellington on the piano.

Even with its top-notch comedic relief, Big Mouth's true strength is how its humour creates an access point for viewers to feel its characters' complex emotions.

Big Mouth's Valentine’s Day special taps into the mindsets many of us feel too ashamed to look into when growing up. It’s an ode to love, evolution, and doing our best to go through life without truly understanding either.

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