depression-cat
Tag: opinion

How Big Mouth Season 2 nails depression, shame, and the all the worst parts of growing up

Contributed by
Nov 26, 2018

I think on some level, every woman remembers the first time she was called a slut. And, usually, it was long before we knew what the word meant, and even longer before we were ready to be sexual with anyone. But we'd already been sexualized by our own peers — male and female alike.

That's just one aspect of the pubescent female experience completely and uncomfortably nailed by Season 2 of Netflix's Big Mouth, along with shame, depression, and loss of whatever limited sense of self we have at that young age, not to mention the limited sense of self we amass even years later as adults.

What makes Big Mouth so impressive is that it presents these moments not as freestanding, disconnected experiences, like a worst-of montage highlighting our most terrible years, but as flowing and interconnected. They all feed into each other, a series of causes and effects that shape an entire existence — in our preteen and teen years and far beyond.

Season 2 introduced Gina Rodriguez as Gina, a love interest for Nick Kroll's Nick and the all-too-familiar Girl Who Suddenly Grew Boobs, a real-life archetype we all recall (or recall being) in junior high. Big Mouth explores this human phenomenon from all angles — the boys who objectify her, the girls whose jealousy turns to slut-shaming rage, and Gina herself, deeply uncomfortable with the attention and ashamed when her choice to let Nick touch her breasts — an action entirely of her own agency and desire — becomes class gossip and a source of judgment from her peers. We learn so young that sexuality is a male game, something girls acquiesce to rather than seek out, that our bodies are for them to take and be lauded for while we bear the brunt of scorn and ridicule.

But beyond Gina's experience, we also follow Jessi (Jessi Klein), the one who first spreads Boobtouchgate to the rest of their classmates. Jessi is jealous of the attention Gina's getting, jealous of her fancy new body, and weaponizes that body against Gina, leaving Jessi too to wallow in the shame and guilt of hurting another girl and the helplessness of being unable to fix it, because once the gossip genie is out of the bottle, there's no putting it away.

The show very literally depicts shame via the Shame Wizard, a relentless source of self-flagellation and self-loathing. Because this is the age during which we learn to hate ourselves, to feel crippling guilt over our choices and things we say and do, or the things we just are. In Big Mouth as in life, we take that shame out on ourselves and others alike, from parents to classmates. We call each other sluts, we lash out, we make others feel small to make ourselves feel big, and for most of us, we only succeed in making ourselves feel even worse. And for about 20% of us, those feelings go beyond the already pretty unbearable norm.

Enter the Depression Kitty.

Between her parents' divorce and all her shame from slut-shaming Gina and acting out thanks to the advice of her hormone monster Connie (Maya Rudolph), Jessi isn't herself all season. Try as she might, something is wrong. She attempts to fill the void with shoplifting and stealing her dad's edible marijuana, but ultimately she can't find clarity or happiness. The Depression Kitty, voiced flawlessly by Jean Smart, puts Jessi to bed in the middle of the day, feeds her soupy ice cream, and lays her weight on top of Jessi until Jessi can't move, then finds herself no longer caring that she can't.

This kind of depiction of depression is almost impossible for any other show to pull off, and Big Mouth nailed it completely, all in just a few minutes of one episode. But it took an entire season to get there, a culmination of the young female experience of shame, confusion, fear, embarrassment, and every other aspect of puberty — and, let's face it, adulthood — that crushes our bones and lies there like a giant purple cat.

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