We suffered through Big Mouth to make this episode for you
We watched ALL of seasons 1-7 of Big Mouth in order to analyze and give our opinions on the Asexual Representation in the famously sexual show. We had enough to say about the ups and downs that this episode is only part one of two.
Courtney: Hello everyone, welcome back to the podcast. My name is Courtney. I am here, as always, with my spouse, Royce, and together we are The Ace Couple. And today– Listeners, look, you really better appreciate this episode. You have to like this episode. Because the things we went through [breathy laugh] to bring this episode to you–
Royce: So today’s episode is on the Netflix show Big Mouth.
Courtney: We suffered. [laughs]
Royce: After it was brought to our attention a while back that Big Mouth had an asexual character, we watched the individual episode Asexual Healing, which was episode eight of season six. All of season six was released in October of 2022.
Courtney: Yes, and part of this was because, you know, we’re involved enough with the Ace Community, we often talk about asexual representation. When we first started our podcast and we started our Twitter account, one of the very first things I asked people was, like, “What do you want to hear an asexual married couple talk about?” And by far and away most of the responses said ace representation in the media. So we have done just that. But you see, we’ve had some hot takes over the last couple of years.
Courtney: We famously did not like Florence from Sex Education, even though a majority of the folks around us in our circles really, really enjoyed that episode. But our biggest critique was it’s just one episode and not even that, it was five minutes. Five minutes total of screen time. Do we get this ace plot line for this character? So my impression going into Big Mouth, based on things other people around us were saying– We were either hearing, “The show is awful and I can’t even stomach it. I can’t even watch it, so I’m not even going to try.” Or we heard, “Yeah, the representation was fine, but it was just one episode.” And so since that was the most positive thing we were hearing around the time, I assumed we were going to have another Florence situation, where this is literally one character for one episode who pops in and teaches us about what asexuality is.
Royce: Which is interesting because some time after watching that one episode, some time passed, and then we watched all of Big Mouth season one, episode one through the end of season seven–
Royce: There is a final season coming out in April, but at this point in time we have seen all of it. And the thing is, because it’s Netflix, all of season six dropped at once and Elijah, the ace character, was not only in one episode. There was one episode that was from his point of view.
Royce: But particularly those last three, he had a decent amount of screen time in.
Courtney: Yeah. So that was part of why, after we watched the episode Asexual Healing, I already got the impression, well, clearly this character has already been introduced. I don’t know to what extent, since I’m watching this in isolation, but he’s clearly already been here. He clearly already has an established relationship with another character. And popping into a random episode of Big Mouth, having never watched it, there was definitely, like, a learning curve of what exactly is going on here in this world.
Courtney: Because there are these hormone monsters that they assigned to this asexual kid and he gets– he gets two of these weird, little– I don’t know, furry monsters. They’re– I was going to say horny monsters, but I was going to mean that as they had horns. But they’re also horny monsters in the fact that they’re exceedingly sexual. And I had to know, are they treating this asexual character the same way they treat characters of other sexualities? Because that’s a big thing I always look for when I go into these shows that introduce an ace character for the purpose of education. So we went all the way back to the beginning, and I got to say the show as a whole: not a fan, not a fan.
Courtney: Elijah, the asexual character as a character: better on average than the show as a whole. We’ve got a bit of a mixed bag. I’ve got some positive and negative that I want to get to. But to really contextualize, I think for the sake of determining whether or not I think this is good ace rep, I really kind of needed to watch the whole show. Although I would not recommend other people watch the whole show. It’s definitely not everybody’s cup of tea. It’s a very specific type of humor. It is very crass, it is very sexual. So if that is not something for you, please do not go to season one episode one and watch the entire thing, because you probably won’t have a good time.
Courtney: But Elijah as a character, I wasn’t expecting him to be treated terribly. I wasn’t expecting an awful representation of asexuality or anything like that, because I was already aware of the fact that the show had brought in consultants from the Ace Community. And I know that one of these consultants is Shari B. Ellis, who is one of the co-organizers of an organization called Ace Los Angeles. Shari was also one of the consultants for Todd Chavez on Bojack Horseman, who is one of our favorites, and as far as ace rep in the media goes, it’s very difficult to get much better than Todd. So, knowing that they took that time and brought in these folks whom we trust, I assumed he was gonna be fine. But what I wanted to look for was: is the show actually fundamentally inclusive of asexuality or did they just tack in an asexual character in a later season? And I’d argue it was definitely the latter. Because seasons one and two nothing about asexuality. But further than that, everything is hypersexual and everything is sort of presuming that this state of a very sexualized puberty is just a given. That is the default. That is what all the kids are going through or are about to go through. So stating this as the default does neglect the diversity not only in the asexuality spectrum, but also just the natural spectrums of libido and sex drive. Because like all of these kids – and they are kids too, by the way, which we’ll talk about that – they’re like all cranked up to 11. And I’ll give you one very concrete example. This is actually from season three.
Courtney: There was a song. Sometimes they do these big silly musical numbers, and the song was called Spectrum of Sexuality, and to my surprise, they mentioned demisexuality. They mentioned, you know, a few different things here and there, with just a very brief, like, one or two line description of what that might look like. And so the demisexual line was: “Now, should you require romance to get you into no pants, then a demisexual is what you would be.” And it’s like, all right, if you’re giving two lines that have to rhyme about what demisexual is, I’m not gonna be too mad about that definition. But I am gonna get mad about the framing of this song.
Courtney: Because the song opens saying, you know, there’s a spectrum of sexuality, “We are all searching for a home to hang our boners hat.” That’s the framing of this song. Is that everyone, everyone gets aroused and everyone is looking for a way to sate that desire. And just like– I don’t like that because it’s not true for everyone. It can be true for some folks on the asexual spectrum, it can be true for some demisexuals, but to have an entire song saying, you know, everyone wants to have sex, we just want to have sex differently, even demisexuals want to have sex, but they just need this thing before… It’s like it is not actually, fundamentally an ace inclusive show. And it’s also just [sighs] I mean, Royce, how would you explain the humor of the show and, like, some of the more, like, ridiculous, off the wall moments? Because I think I genuinely gagged a couple of times, and that doesn’t happen to me very often when it’s animation and it’s not literally the thing I’m looking at.
Royce: Well, because it is so over the top hypersexual, a lot of times, jokes or visual gags do involve bodily fluids.
Courtney: Lots of bodily fluids.
Royce: There’s definitely a certain amount of shock comedy in here. I might have liked some of the show more when I was, I don’t know, 15. And–
Courtney: Would you have?
Royce: Some of it, I think. Not the show entirely, just because I think a lot of just more extreme over-the-top things were new and interesting, like I hadn’t seen as much of that. I mean, I’ve seen a lot of South Park from back in the day, so.
Royce: But there are also times when I caught them trying to make a joke and I thought about the words that they were saying, because a lot of these things come on really fast, and it was just gross word salad.
Courtney: Yes. [laughs]
Royce: Like the sentence you said didn’t make sense. You just took a few things that most people would find vaguely disgusting and then you threw in a couple of unexpected words in there.
Royce: And that was the joke, was to be gross and to be unexpected.
Courtney: Gross, unexpected and sexual. Like, that is the formula for a lot of these jokes. And that’s not my kind of humor. It’s also– I’m glad that you mentioned the speed, because sometimes there are so many things that I think are supposed to be jokes but they just happen back to back, like bam, bam, bam bam, and you don’t even really have the time to like think or react or even– I mean, maybe some people out there are laughing, but to me I’m like, “I’m still trying to process what in this incredibly fast sentence was actually the joke.” And they don’t give it a lot of time to breathe before just, like, going on to the next thing either. Which I have some examples of that for Elijah’s plotline that we’ll get to here in a moment.
Courtney: But this is definitely a show that needs to be animation, because you legally could not make this with live action children. We saw illustrations of like 12 and 13 year old genitals multiple times. We saw 12 and 13 year olds masturbating. We saw– You know, it was just a lot. At one point, did they have, like, a large monster, like a kaiju, like slime creature, literally made out of semen? I feel like that’s a thing that happened.
Royce: Probably. I don’t remember that specific instance. This was a show that was–
Courtney: A lot.
Royce: –on in the background for a long period of time in a row to burn through this.
Courtney: Yeah, it was a lot. There was so much that happened. But it– Tonally, it’s very strange for me, right? Because you have these just like, like you said, gross-out word salad moments where the joke is just: that was disgusting and I didn’t expect you to say it. But then they do seem to occasionally try to educate…? And this is a critique I’ve had for other teenage sex shows, where I can’t always tell who your audience is or what you’re trying to appeal to, or if you’re trying to craft a good narrative, or if you’re trying to educate people about a variety of issues. Because it seems like they’re trying to make an absurd comedy show while intersplicing moments of education.
Courtney: But sometimes the moments of education are actually, like, detracted from because of how absurd it is. And even in the moments when they are trying to teach, they don’t do everything particularly well. I think a lot of what they did with Elijah, as the character we’re going to focus on, was done pretty well. But they had a pansexual character that was not treated particularly well and a couple of things that were, you know, maybe a little like you don’t really understand what pansexuality meant when you wrote this, or you’re getting some details wrong, or you’re really boiling it down to like, “Oh, pansexuality means that I want to screw anyone and everyone!” And like, this is the kind of show that this is. And if you’re educating on, like, sexuality that’s one thing, like these minority sexualities, but they’re also kind of educating about just, like, basic puberty things, like there’s a period episode. You know, a lot of “your changing bodies,” that’s sort of the entire opening sequence, is like, “Oh, growing armpit hair and having a period.” And– and that also really has me wondering what– who the show’s for. Because it seems to me very clearly aimed at adults.
Courtney: I don’t think Netflix does a particularly good job of actually reporting, like, demographics, like who is it that this show is aimed at and who is it that is actually watching this show. And since this is kids going through puberty and learning about these things, but the show does not seem to actually be targeting that age demographic – this show is not literally for twelve and thirteen year olds – then it seems to me like the main audience for this would be people who are seeing these educational moments, and these awkward bits about going through this phase in their life, and see something about it that is actually reminiscent of their own experience or something that is relatable in some ways. And I’m sure there are folks out there who do see it relatable in some ways, but you know, me watching this show, just makes me again feel like the weird one who’s not feeling the way everyone else is feeling, that so many aces do feel growing up.
Courtney: So, yeah, definitely in the early seasons not actually an ace-inclusive show. And in fact there were several moments– One of my biggest gripes in the early seasons was just how much casual ableism was in the show too. Like a lot of it. And in ways that, when paired with everything we’re talking about, has something to do with sex, got really messy and uncomfortable and bad at times. Because we’ve got this, like, gym teacher character who’s just pretty exclusively there to be the butt of a joke, and they definitely pull this, like, 40 year old virgin trope with him. Like you learn that he has never “had sex on a lady,” I think is the way he said it.
Royce: A lot of the humor around Coach Steve is him having just a very infantile view of the world, is unable to find the proper words to describe concepts. Particularly when speaking to all of these kids who are going through puberty. Like he doesn’t have a basic understanding of a lot of things.
Courtney: Which is also strange because he’s with these like pre-teens, early teenagers, and they’re like teaching him about sex concepts, which is just wild. But the infantilization of him gets really gross when– Do you remember what the specific line was? It really upset me because someone was like, “Oh well, you know, clearly it’s sad and pathetic and pitiful to be the age you are and having never had sex.” Which is just an awful trope that needs to die. But then there was a question of, like, “Can he even legally consent?” Like, oh gross!
Royce: Yeah, it was like an offhand comment before a scene change. It may have been in the episode– I have it pulled up here now. There’s an episode called Steve The Virgin which is probably one that involved a lot of the material around this topic.
Royce: And, yeah, it was something like he is either about to or has recently had sex with one of the kids’ moms. [Courtney hums] And one of them – yeah – says, “I don’t know if that’s even legal.”
Courtney: Yeah! I don’t know if that’s– [groans] I hate it. I hate it. Because the infantilization happens with disabled people, the infantilization happens with asexual people, and these are all just horrible stereotypes that ultimately, even if you aren’t talking about an asexual person, even if you aren’t talking about a disabled person, these tropes do hurt those people. Because they are widespread in media and society. So I was not very pleased with that. But to bring it back to these, like, hormone monsters things too, I didn’t think the show was always super consistent in the way that they use them or handle them, which bothered me a little bit.
Courtney: But Steve’s hormone monster is also the hormone monster for one of the main cast members, is this like elderly monster who has a speech impediment, like walks with a limp, has like shriveled, like– They make a lot of jokes about the way he looks and the way he talks and how he’s too old for this. And there was like just a lot of casual ableism, ageism, all those things with that monster. But then they were like, “Oh well, you know, Steve is so messed up as a human because his hormone monster is so messed up,” and it’s like, ah… I don’t like that either. I don’t like that either. So there is just a lot there.
Courtney: But the main cast, or most of the main cast, sort of got their own, like, here is your assigned hormone monster, and for several of these main cast members they just always had their hormone monster around, who is always like a bug in their ear, just like talking to them, giving them intrusive sex thoughts.
Courtney: And like, the weird thing is, like, they were originally called hormone monsters, although there were several occasions that they just called them sex monsters, and it’s like we know that hormones do so much more than sex drive. That is not the only thing a hormone does. But that seems to be the only thing that most of these monsters do. And that concept was even further complicated by the occasional introduction of other mythical creatures that are just other concepts, like the Shame Wizard. All of a sudden, when the kids start feeling shame, they have this wizard that’s tormenting them. Or there was a Depression Cat or Anxiety Mosquitoes. So I think these are concepts that can work, and sometimes they did. Sometimes I liked the little Anxiety Mosquitoes as just a way to, like, illustrate and animate what some of these feelings are like without needing to resort to exposition or dialogue to sort of see someone’s internal mindset. But a lot of those concepts they just dropped.
Royce: Yeah, like the Depression Cat curling up around someone so that they’re so comfortable that they don’t want to do anything anymore.
Courtney: Yeah, like that is good, but then the cat just went away and we just never saw the cat again.
Royce: It was used on a particular character a few times and then that’s sort of overcome to some degree and just is not present anymore. And even when they were around, the show still fixated mostly on the hormone monsters which, like you said, were almost entirely based around sex drive.
Courtney: Yeah. And the Shame Wizard was a weird one because you started seeing him pop up, but then there was a scene where, like, all the kids are at like a co-ed, like gymnasium sleepover kind of a situation, and he’s tormenting absolutely everyone and they just decide to banish him. They’re just like, “We’re not going to be ashamed anymore.”
Royce: Yeah, for some reason, the Shame Wizard was set up as, like, a season-long major antagonist with a final battle scene.
Courtney: But when they abolished the Shame Wizard, they were like, “Great, we don’t feel shame anymore.” And one of the characters was feeling shame because she thought she was masturbating too often, and she did this like on a childhood plushie of hers that she, like, brought to this sleepover. And so at the end of the episode, when they’re like, “We’re not feeling shame anymore,” she just starts humping this plushie out in the open in front of everyone! Because she’s like, “We don’t feel shame anymore! We’re just going to… do us!” And it’s like– Uh, that’s a takeaway.
Courtney: That was actually Missy, who’s going to be very important when we get to our Elijah discussion.
Royce: That was an odd episode where the credits rolled and then it was like we lost continuity. Like some things that happened at the end of that episode were just forgotten.
Royce: And things went back to the reset back to normal. Which happens sometimes in the show. Particularly, I feel like, sometimes the final episodes of the season go really over the top and then something just kind of soft resets between seasons.
Courtney: Which is interesting, because they sort of do this hybrid, like, in some ways there is an ongoing plot, for at least some of the characters with individual arcs, but a lot of the plot points are just like standalone and you aren’t meant to think back to them or refer to them. Or a concept they introduce isn’t necessarily going to move forward. And that’s also something that’s very tonally weird. The one character that – before Elijah was introduced – I was sometimes on the fence about was Caleb, who is very clearly an autistic character. And sometimes I couldn’t decide how I felt about it, if I thought it was good or not. And I mean, Royce, you mentioned South Park earlier for certain elements of comedy. I think this goes even more grotesque and over the top than South Park tended to, at least more often.
Royce: It is more–
Royce: Well, South Park went in a lot of different directions when it would go over the top, and this one is pretty exclusively over the top when it comes to sexuality [Courtney pensive hum] or depictions of sexuality.
Courtney: Focused over-the-topness. But I even tried to think– In some of the earlier seasons where he was a much more side character, I was thinking there’s an argument to be made that he is kind of being treated like Timmy was in South Park. Which at the time there were actually a lot of disabled people and a lot of disabled organizations that really liked and appreciated the way Timmy was portrayed in the show. And it hasn’t all aged particularly well, but for the time a lot of the arguments that were being made was the reason why this is good is because he is being treated just like all the other characters.
Royce: And for reference, Timmy first showed up in the year 2000 in South Park’s runtime.
Courtney: Yeah, and like there are definitely criticisms, he is by no means the perfect disabled character. I mean, he basically only says his name, Timmy, like a Pokémon, but he is a wheelchair user. What people did like about him at the time, that they weren’t seeing on their TVs in the year 2000, was that he is just sometimes hanging out with the other kids and they don’t, you know, bully him just because of his disability. They treat him like another kid. They don’t treat him especially good or especially bad because of who he is. And so, like, heck, I want to say– and I don’t remember this off the top of my head, but I want to say there’s a disability organization that, like, gave them an award for this. Or at least gave, like, a shout out and like a formal thank you to the creators of South Park for doing this. So like even the moments where I was, like, hmm… I think I’m cringing a little bit. I was like I think there’s an argument to be made that he is still being treated like other cast members.
Royce: I went back and forth early on. There’s one– I think it was a season seven episode where Caleb was very prominent that, I think, was well done.
Courtney: Season seven Caleb is maybe my favorite part of the entire show.
Royce: But very early on, the joke with Caleb is that, one, he always speaks monotone. He’s also always very factual and deliberate, and so other people would be talking and there’d be – you know – innuendo going on or they’d be trying to, like, hide something from a teacher, and Caleb would just, very matter of fact, would state the truth that is happening. Like what is literally happening right now, and that was the joke. And none of the characters were surprised. Sometimes they’d be like, “What the hell man.” [Courtney laughs] “You just told the teacher what was going on.”
Royce: But I think the one scene early on that had me wincing a little bit was: one of the show’s main characters sort of unintentionally, like, grabs a backpack out of a pile and is just standing there talking with another character while holding it, and Caleb runs in angry and like jumps on top of him and starts punching him. And that had me, like, cringing a little bit. But then another main character right next to him just says, “Andrew, what are you doing? You know you’re not supposed to touch his backpack. That’s like his one rule.”
Courtney: It’s a security object! So, yeah, the– In– in the ways that you could argue that Caleb is parody, you could argue that all of the kids are parody. So the fact that it’s like, I am always monotone, I am always very deliberate, and this is going to be my thing so much so that it is like a shtick now, it’s not just a trait of this character. I think all the other kids also had shticks, so I was going back and forth a bit. The way they fleshed him out later on in season seven, I think, was great, so we’ll get into that.
Courtney: But first Elijah. Elijah did not get introduced until season six, episode one. So this show had been going for five whole seasons doubling down on societal compulsory sexuality before they even thought to include an ace character. So that is important, even if they did the character pretty well. The way they introduced him, though, was very interesting, and I want to talk about it. Because this show does a lot of fourth wall breaks, to the point of excess. I think it goes too– too hard, too far. They are constantly doing it in a variety of ways. And I’m not opposed to all meta humor, I think it can be done really well and it can contribute to humor, but this was just like it’s too often. It’s like so much a part of the show that I’m expecting you to now actually say that this is just a show that you’re all filming and these kids are, like, in a play or in a show. Which isn’t the case, but they’re breaking it way too much.
Courtney: And Missy is a character who has been around since the beginning. She is a Black character, she’s mixed. Her mom is Jewish and her dad is Black. And she was originally voiced by a white voice actress, for the first several seasons at least also. But they changed voice actresses for her at a certain point, and the change in voice acting came at a time where they were giving her character room to explore Black culture. She had some relatives who were coming in and sometimes they were like, “Why do you act so white? Why does your dad act so white?”
Courtney: They take her to get her hair done, things of that nature. And at some point during this, like, exploring this side of herself, they actually switch to a Black voice actress. But she’s the character that they frequently describe as an out of control masturbator. And Elijah basically becomes a character because she’s sexually attracted to him. She literally sees him across the street and is like, “Whoa! Stud muffin over there!” And calls him like a dirty little danish. Like, “Who’s that dirty little danish?” And uh, alright. But the other character she’s asking who that is is literally like, “Oh, him? Pretty sure he’s just an extra.” Like he’s not even a character.
Royce: Yeah, don’t they comment on the animation style or something? Like if you watch him for a minute, does he just, like, shift around and blink, or something like that.
Courtney: Yeah, they call attention to the idle animations. They’re like, “See how he’s just standing there, blinking occasionally?” Like that’s not a real character. But then Missy’s like, “No, he can’t be an extra because we’re talking about him!” And then, of course, Missy’s sex monster, Mona, is just like making these very vulgar statements, talking about– Like literally talking about his groin and fantasizing about him weirdly. I think he’s from Virginia, and she’s like, “That sounds like vagina.” Like this is the kind of high quality discussion we get from these sex monsters. And knowing that this was going to be the asexual character, I was so uncomfortable with the way the sex monster was talking about him.
Courtney: But in this episode– I mean the school’s got like a media club, they’ve got like the morning news and announcements and stuff. And several of the kids decide to put on a house party that they’re calling, like, the hookup house. And they film a commercial for it where they’re all in like red robes with their, like, chests exposed and they’re on like a chaise long, and they’re like, “Ooh, are you a local child looking for hot action?” And it’s like, oh, it’s so deeply uncomfortable. But then to go back to Caleb, like Caleb after this commercial is like, “I am a local child looking for hot action.” All right, thank you, Caleb. But Missy, being excited about this concept and excited about this new character, walks up to him and asks him and is like, “Oh, did you hear about the hookup house?” And he squints, like he winces his eyes – and he does this a lot, and I feel you, buddy. He’s like, “Yeah, is that normal around here?” To which Missy says, like, “Yeah, it is normal, and I just didn’t want you to feel excluded because, you know, you’re new around here.” And Elijah’s so nice, he’s just so sweet. He’s like, “Oh, thanks, that’s actually really nice.” But he did not agree to go. He was just like thanks for thinking about me and is this normal? And wincing uncomfortably.
Courtney: But they show up to the party and they – by they I mean Missy and her sex monster – Mona gets, like, furious because Missy’s like, “Elijah isn’t even here and the party’s bombing no one’s having a good time.” And so Mona, her hormone monster, is like, “Oh, what a fucking clit tease. Where– Where is that? No show fuck machine.” And like saying these just like horrible, vulgar things and being so mad at him. And sometimes I can’t tell, because sometimes they treat the things the sex monsters are saying as what the kids are actually feeling, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they’re like arguing with their hormone monsters and their hormone monster’s like, “Hey, do this ridiculous – you know – kinky, absurd, out of left field thing just here in front of God and everyone.” And then the kid will be like, “No, no, I’m not doing that.” Or sometimes they’ll even be like, “Ew, that’s gross.” Or you know. So I can’t ever tell how much of this is what the kids are actually thinking and feeling, just coming through their hormone monster’s voice, because it flips back and forth between how they use it sometimes.
Royce: I don’t know if some of that was meant to be like this is what an intrusive sexual thought is.
Courtney: Sometimes it seems like it’s treated that way. But yeah, some– sometimes the dynamic’s a little different. But like– Being like, “Oh, he’s such a tease.” Like he didn’t even agree to come. Like he didn’t say he was coming. But Missy goes and tries to follow him on social media and realizes from his post that he was at church tonight. And she’s scrolling through his feed seeing that he’s very religious, To which her sex monster puts on a naughty nun outfit and they both start fawning over how fucking hot that is that he’s religious because he’s, quote, “forbidden fruit”. And it’s like, oh, I hate it so much! I hate it so much. But then the next episode, they’re all in, like, science class and for some reason they’re taking DNA tests in science class. I really hope they aren’t doing that in this day and age to actual school children, like here, take this DNA test. But it was very clearly like a 23andMe parody.
Royce: I’m pretty sure that’s not legal in at least some States.
Courtney: Yeah, yeah. First of all, there’s some issue with race science. There’s– I mean, I see a headline seemingly every other week about some security breach on 23andMe and them getting sued.
Royce: There are at least some States that don’t allow biometric tracking of children. And that’s like fingerprint sort of stuff. There are some vague laws about even using facial recognition software on children–
Royce: In some places. And that’s– That’s a lot less of a privacy concern than potentially ending up in a DNA database.
Courtney: Yeah, but for whatever reason, for the sake of this show, they’re in science class doing 22andYou DNA tests. And Missy and Elijah both realized that they’re like 30 some and 40 some percent Nigerian. And they’re like, “Oh hey!” And bonding over this. And they’re given some vague assignment about, you know, researching your ancestry or exploring your identity or whatever. And so Elijah comes up to Missy after class and is like, “Hey, you know how we’re supposed to do this thing? Do you want to go to a Nigerian restaurant with me?” And Missy’s like, “Yeah, that’d be great.” And they’re like, “Actually, sike, we don’t have a Nigerian restaurant in this city, but we can go to a Jamaican restaurant.” And it’s just– It’s a very awkward encounter. They’re both pretty awkward kids. But they’re– They’re sitting down now at this Jamaican restaurant and he goes to pray before eating, to which Missy’s sex monster is like, “Maybe he’s praying for you to foot fuck his dick.” I’ve got a sneaking suspicion he’s not.
Courtney: And aside from all of these, like, horrible comments by Mona, it’s a pretty cute date. They hit it off. They– They’re both very nerdy, they’re very into history and they just start, like, geeking out over some, you know, things they’ve learned about African culture from the Brooklyn Museum or whatever the topic is at hand. And it’s– It’s very cute because they’re both clearly nerds and they’re having so much fun. And I want to be able to sit with that cute nerdiness without the constant barrage of Mona talking to Missy trying to convince her to do something sexual right then and there. But that’s the show we’ve got, where we have this delightful nerdy ace character who is going on a date with another delightful nerdy character, but she doesn’t have a delightful sex monster, she’s just constantly thinking about doing lewd sex acts in the background.
Courtney: But the waitress comes after their date and gives like the little wink, wink, nudge, nudge, like, “Oh hey, kids, whenever you’re ready,” like, “I see you, I know you’re on a little date.” And they awkwardly stumble through like whether Elijah’s gonna pay, or Missy offers to split the check, and is like, “Oh yeah, I think that’s appropriate.” And they’re just very awkward at this interaction. Clearly they have never done this before. But then Elijah invites her to a party on Friday and Missy’s like, “Well, is it a date?” And he says, “Yeah, it’s a date.” So the party, however, ends up being a youth group church party and they’ve got, like, the hip fun youth pastor and everything. And before they, like, dig into the pizza, they all get into a circle to hold hands and pray. And so Missy holds hands with Elijah for this prayer circle and she starts, like, flipping out about it, like, “Oh my gosh! We’re touching!” And then the youth pastor says, “I just want to say a couple quick words about why it’s absolutely wrong to masturbate.” So things are going real well. [breathy laugh] Real well for Missy.
Courtney: And I was– I was nervous at this point. I wasn’t about to call it bad, but I was skeptical if they could pull off the proper nuance needed to have an asexual character raised in purity culture who will still, to the audience, be very obviously asexual and not just sexually repressed. Because I know the average person is going to look at, “Well, christian kid has a youth pastor saying don’t masturbate. He’s not actually asexual.” So I needed an undeniable amount of “No, he is definitely ace,” for this to work. Because I don’t think it is a bad thing by any stretch to have a Christian asexual character. I know many Christian asexuals myself. I know many people who grew up in a Christian church. Some have left, some have stayed, some have found their own third way.
Courtney: So this is a very real thing. And purity culture, and the way it intersects with asexuality, is a lot more complicated and nuanced than the average allosexual person maybe understands. So I was cautiously optimistic, maybe a little bit nervous, because we also have here now a young teenage Black asexual character, a Black boy no less, and that is something we don’t see in media. So I really, really want this to go well. And having already seen the asexual healing episode, I knew that what they did in that episode was pretty good. But I did need to see more about how this is going to intersect with his religious background. And they did bring a little more to the table on that front. We did not see Elijah in the episode immediately following this episode three of season six, but he and Missy do come back for the continuation of this arc in episode four where all the kids are taking, like, a purity test, just like some online quiz about, like, “Have you done this thing?”
Royce: Yeah, the Rice Purity Test, which is a specific one.
Courtney: Hmm, The Rice Purity Test. So all the kids are taking it. Elijah got a 98 and Missy got an 82 and she starts panicking going, “Oh no, he’s gonna think I’m a harlot.”
Royce: There’s one running gag about the character who’s frequently shown or is depicted as the most sexually, like, deviant character in the show gets a three and is like, “I won. I won the test.”
Courtney: [laughs] I won! And yeah, I mean, and of course with, you know, Missy’s hormone monster here telling her to seduce and destroy – for whatever that means – Missy puts on this very, like, saucy persona and is like, “Oh, maybe we should hang out later, maybe we can scratch a few things off that list.” And Elijah very clearly looks confused and uncomfortable. But he says, “Uh, sure.” And if you watch this character he’s got a lot of nervous mannerisms a lot of the time. He’s very often either wincing or, like, scratching his neck nervously or, like, rubbing his arm. A lot of that going on especially in these suggestive situations. And so he’s, he’s– he’s a little upset, but he’s asking Missy, “Hey, what do you think we should scratch off the list?” And Missy’s like, “Oh, how about number four: dancing without leaving room for Jesus.” And so he’s got this poster of Jesus in his room and it’s not the white Jesus.
Royce: No, the character is specifically credited as Black Jesus.
Courtney: Oh, in the credits as Black Jesus?
Courtney: And so he, like, looks over to his poster of Black Jesus and says, “Um, are you cool with this, Jesus?” Well, it wasn’t even just the poster. Jesus actually, like, manifests, like– like the sex monsters do. So he had this– You know, Jesus even – now that I think about it – he even started talking to the sex monsters. That was pretty weird.
Royce: Yeah, the hormone monsters were excited to talk to Black Jesus.
Courtney: Yeah. But yeah, Jesus is like, “Well, do you like this girl?” And he’s like, “Yeah.” And he said, “And do you respect her?” And Elijah says, “Very much, sir.” And he’s like, “All right, then go ahead.” And he’s like, “I didn’t even make that rule. White people made it up because they can’t dance and they want everybody to suffer.” I was like, oh, oh, that was good. I– I was now starting to see where they were going with this religious bit. Because clearly he’s asexual, so he isn’t predisposed to wanting to do these things. But when he actually has his own personal relationship with Jesus and he’s like, “Is this okay?” And he’s like, “Yeah, Jesus says that this is okay. I still don’t want to do this, but everyone around me is doing this, so I should just try it, right?” And it was very funny too, because he even awkwardly said, like, “Okay, then let’s dance without leaving room for my savior.”
Courtney: And the poor thing is just wincing and looking horribly uncomfortable the whole time. And so he– He, while– while dancing uncomfortably, like, looks over at Jesus and is like, “I don’t know, this feels kind of weird. Are you sure you don’t wanna cut in?” And Jesus is like on an iPhone, like he’s on a smartphone, just like scrolling or texting. And he’s like, “Oh no, I’m good. I’m Jesus, you just do your thing.” But then Missy turns around and bends over and starts twerking in Elijah’s general direction. And that’s when he nopes out of there. He actually starts hyperventilating and he’s like, “I am sorry, I cannot do this.” And I thought it was really sweet, because then Jesus comes to comfort him and is like, you know, “Talk to me, what’s going on?”
Courtney: And and you know, poor Elijah’s like, “Oh, my face, it feels hot, my hands are shaking and I can’t do this.” And so he– he starts pacing around and he’s like, “Look, Missy, I like you, I do, but you’re an 82 and I’m a 98. So this is never going to work.” And so Missy asks like, “Oh, what– Is all this just about the test?” And he fumbles over his words because he kind of says yes, but he’s like, “Yes, but no, it’s– it’s not only that.” And so she asks, “Is it about God?” And then Jesus in the background, hovering over Elijah, is like, “Hey, you know what? Look, just– just put the blame on me. You can blame me, just do it.” And he’s like, “I want all the smoke. People do crazy shit all the time just because they like me. You know my fans are crazy, I am so used to it, just pin it on me.”
Courtney: I thought that was so good because this is showing that this kid’s personal relationship with Jesus is not imposed purity culture. Yes, his church was. Yes, his youth pastor was. But he’s talking to his savior and his savior is saying, “Yeah, it’s fine, it’s cool.” But he still doesn’t want to do it. So Jesus also just like, I don’t know, I guess being a wingman and is like, “Blame me, it’s fine, I’ll take the heat for you on this one.”
Courtney: I just thought that was such a clever way of starting to separate the purity culture and perhaps the religious shame from this is actually his own lack of desire. I thought that was a very good way to set that up. And Missy, she says, you know, “If you want to go slow, we can go slow.” And Elijah perks up to this. He’s really receptive. But of course Missy’s hormone monster is yelling at her, saying, “What are you doing? We don’t want to go slow, stop talking.”
Courtney: But then they have this other cute little moment where the– where they start, like, [dragging vowels] slowly talking, like, to each other. And it’s very nerdy, it’s very cute. And I wanted a little more time to sit with this cute. But then Jesus and the sex monster are just talking in the background. I think at one point he, like, snaps his fingers and gives someone, like, a sex toy or something. And the two of them, Jesus and the sex monster, are like, “Yeah, these two are fucking dorks.” [breathy laugh] It seems like every time there’s a good cute moment, and I actually I thought it got a little chuckle out of me, Jesus and the sex monster being like, “Yeah, these two are dorks.” That one got a little chuckle out of me. It did. But that happens every time there’s a cute moment. It’s like they can’t cut away from a scene without a sex monster saying something vulgar first. And it’s like sometimes I just want to sit with this cute moment. But it is not that kind of show.
Courtney: So we move on to episode six where Missy is arguing with her sex monster that, “Oh, you taking it slow can actually be sexy.” And she’s having all these like Bridgerton fantasies. But their relationship continues. Missy starts coming to more church functions. They’re assembling these BS hygiene kits at the church. Where like, “Oh yeah, we’ll put together a toothbrush for people who need them.” But then turns out this youth pastor is also a – I don’t know – weight loss coach or a nutritionist or something, and so I was putting in this bogus tea in these bags. It was very weird. But the youth pastor congratulates them and is like, “Great work, everyone,” you know, “This is a great example of idle hands doing God’s work instead of the Devil’s.”
Courtney: And brings out his guitar and is like, “Now let’s sing a song called Don’t Touch Your Flower.” And it’s– Yeah, those are the lyrics. It’s like never touch your flower, never spill your seed. And Missy’s confused, she’s like, “What is this about?” And Elijah, tiptoeing around the words, is like, “Oh, it’s about how you should never travel alone to the southern hemisphere.” And Missy’s like, “Because of Zika?” And he’s just like, “No, no, it’s about how you shouldn’t, you know, touch yourself.” And says that it’s a sin. And so, after hearing this, Missy then struggles to masturbate during all these Bridgerton-esque fantasies that she’s having. And so, since she stops masturbating, she gets like horny to the point where she just, like, can’t even see Elijah, like, eating food. Because she’s just seeing him, like, saucily licking, like, a spoon, and it’s like– It was very uncomfortable.
Courtney: But she starts freaking out when she gets to this point and she goes, “I’m a sinner! Okay? I tended my garden. I tended it hard, Elijah! I tilled the soil! I rotated the crops! I dug deep with my hoe!” And this is all at, like, the cafeteria lunch table too. And so Elijah’s just like, “Oh, just to be clear, we’re not talking about gardening, right?” And so she asked him, she’s like, “How do you do it? How do you not masturbate?” And he’s like, “I don’t know, it’s not hard for me.” And– But then seeing how on edge she is and how confused she is that he’s able to not masturbate, he starts asking like, “Why does that make me weird?” And he even says, “Like well, it just seems like everybody around here is obsessed with gardening. And I mean–” And yet another fourth wall break, he goes, “What am I even doing on this show?” And again, Elijah, I hear you, buddy. What are you doing on this show?
Courtney: Because you’re a cute character. I like you. But given the fact that you were literally not a character and they were making fun of the fact that you are literally not a character until one of the main cast became attracted to you, I get the feeling the only reason why you’re in the show is to teach people what asexuality is. But yeah, it also– I mean, it echoed our first several seasons of, like, why are we watching this show? This– this show is not for us. But it resolves in a cute moment. Missy comforts him, he comforts her. Missy says, “You’re perfect, just the way God made you.” And he said, “Well, by that logic, so are you. And I certainly won’t judge you for having a green thumb.”
Courtney: Episode seven Missy asks her dad to come to a daddy-daughter dance at the church. And that was really interesting because her parents are like, “You know how we feel about organized religion. Anthropologically, it’s done so much harm in the world.” So the parents are very uncomfortable with going to this church. But her dad agrees. And Elijah is, you know, just very sweet. He is precious. Because he’s like, “Oh, I heard last year’s party got crazy. They had grape soda [emphatically] and orange soda.” Missy goes to invite her friend Jesse, and Jesse is like, “Hold on, is this one of those like purity balls?” And at first Missy doesn’t think it is, she’s like, “It’s just a dance.” But then Elijah is like, “Well, actually there is kind of an abstinence component.” And he explains that the fathers take a vow to protect their daughters’ virtue. And yet, despite this, Missy still goes to the dance with her dad. And when it’s time to take this pledge, Missy’s dad is like, “What is going on?”
Courtney: And I actually wrote down this quote because I think it’s very weird and creepy, and the show did too. The show was playing it off as this is not okay. But the dad said: “Dearest daughter, on this day in front of God, I do solemnly swear to protect your virginity.” As they put purity rings on their ring finger on their left hand, and that is very weird. Missy’s dad freaks out and is like, “No, stop it! What are you all doing?” I think the coach, Steve, even pops up at the end of the scene to one of the dads and is like, “Congratulations on marrying your daughter!” Very, very unfortunate.
Courtney: But in this fit of Missy’s dad trying to get everyone to stop, not feeling comfortable with this, getting all flustered, Elijah explains like, “Oh, they’re just promising God that their daughters won’t have sex.” And he says, “But our daughters aren’t helpless objects that we need to protect from their own sexuality and they’re capable of making their own choices.” And “This is exactly why I didn’t want to take you to church.” And oh yeah, Steve was also in the background of that one, because I remember him being like, “Shout out to Hozier.” He did that a lot where he would just say, like, shout out to something because something someone said sounded vaguely like something else. But he makes the case that organized religion is just built around subjugating women. And Missy ends up starting to just cry and sob and runs out of the building because Missy’s dad at one point, like, insinuated that Elijah is a bad influence on her or something. And they have a moment on the steps of this church outside where Missy asks why she isn’t allowed to make her own choices, because you said women can make their own choices. Why doesn’t– Why don’t I count? And he responds by saying, “Well, I guess if you want to serve the community and spend your time with a polite boy who will never pressure you into having sex, I’ll just have to learn to live with that.” And they hug and she’s like, “Thanks, dad! And if anything I’m going to pressure him.” [deep sigh]
Courtney: And the following episode is the Asexual Healing episode. So this is the one where we had already seen it, but now we know the show better. And we know how they’re treating other characters. So on a second watch through, that’s really what I’m looking for. And it opens with Missy and Elijah walking holding hands. Missy’s nervous because she’s going to meet Elijah’s family for the first time and he tells her just to relax, “My family’s going to love you, it’s just a cookout.” But Missy’s also – I don’t think I mentioned this, I don’t think it’s super important to the plot but – Missy’s– Missy’s also vegan. So she’s like, “Oh, are there going to be any vegan options?” And her hormone monster, just like, slaps her and is like, “You’ve got to be cool! Everyone here is Black, we have to be cool. And vegan isn’t cool.” It’s a whole thing.
Courtney: And first we meet Elijah’s uncles. They’re standing around the grill and he warns, like, “Don’t even say the word backflip around them, because they’re going to start flipping and they’re going to get hurt.” And the uncles in this episode really serve–
Courtney: Sometimes people do literally have family members like this. I have had a family member like this. I know several other people who have. But whether or not you take it literally as this is the family member pressuring a kid into sexuality, it definitely also serves for a broader metaphor for society. Because they’re like, “Oh, is this your little girlfriend?” And Missy kind of gets whisked away to Auntie Amber, who– if you haven’t watched this show yet and you don’t know where this is going, remember her, put a pin in that. But she’s playing spades and she’s like, “Oh, Missy, come on over here, let’s win some money, let’s take money from these sad cousins.” And she’s introduced. Elijah calls her my Auntie Amber, and says she is rich and cool and she hates everybody. And already I love her, I love Auntie Amber.
Courtney: But now that Missy’s been whisked away, Elijah’s left alone with his two uncles. And so they say, “Oh, what have you and your little girlfriend been up to?” And Elijah tries to say, “Oh, we’ve been to movies, we go to restaurants.” And they say, “No, we mean physically! Hand stuff, mouth stuff, foot stuff.” And he says, “Uh, we hold hands…?” And they outright tell him that that doesn’t count, you need to at least be kissing her. And another one interjects like, “Or sucking her toes. Because if you don’t satisfy your woman – quote – someone else will.” Which is a very weird thing to say to, like, a 13 year old. But some people do, some people literally do.
Courtney: And while they’re having this conversation and Elijah’s clearly looking uncomfortable, auntie Amber walks up to, you know, get another plate of food or something. And she says, Don’t listen to these fools. They’re all single and I hear they can’t even do a backflip.” And so they’re like, “Hey, you take that back!” And one of them tries to do a backflip and, of course, ends up hurting himself.
Courtney: And amidst all this kerfuffle, Elijah grabs a plate of food and starts walking away. But the camera starts following him and so, again, very meta, he turns to the camera and says, “Oh, are you following me?” And the camera nods, as if someone’s literally carrying a camera and nodding their head. And he says, “Wow, does this mean I’m getting my own story?” And the camera nods again, and then two more of these monsters pop up and they say, “If you’re getting your own story, that means you get your own hormone monsters.” And for some reason he has two. Most people just have one. I still don’t know why he has two. And the monsters are really excited too. They’re like, “Hey, cool! we’re on Big Mouth!” It’s like okay… They pull that way too often, I think, in my opinion.
Courtney: And the show, it’s like [sighs] I don’t always like the execution of self-awareness in a show. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But these hormone monsters that show up now are like, “Hey, Elijah, what do you think? What do we do next? Do you want to jerk off into the grill?” And Elijah’s like, “What? No, why?” And they say, “Because it’s Big Mouth!” And gestures to the screen. Is like, “These people are sick!” And it’s like– All right. So you’re basically just admitting that you just do absurd as shit because. Like, why would I do that? Because it’s Big Mouth. Who needs character motivation. We just need to have shock value.
Courtney: But the one thing I found odd about Elijah getting his own show, they call attention to the fact repeatedly how weird it is that he gets his own storyline from his perspective. The fact that he literally started as an extra, the fact that he is confused when the camera starts following him. So the show’s admitting time and time again that this is not normally how we handle characters. But was this the first non-main cast member to actually get his own hormone monsters? Because I know in the last season that we watched there was a new girl who was kind of maybe sort of starting to date one of the main boys, and she ended up getting a hormone monster. But for the most part, for most of the original seasons, the first few, it was just like the main primary cast had hormone monsters.
Royce: Yeah, I think that’s the case. I mean, some of the primary hormone monsters have multiple clients, like the same hormone monster–
Royce: –visits multiple kids, but there are only a handful of them that are in the show. Save for a time when they go back to the hormone monster dimension where we see some others that are just there for that episode, kind of a thing.
Courtney: Mm-hmm. Yeah, they’re kind of like two main hormone monsters and then a few other recurring ones.
Royce: It’s kind of implied that a lot of people have them, but you don’t actually see them until we start to see some things from that character’s perspective. Whether it’s like an entire episode or if they just have some scenes where we’re following along with them.
Courtney: Mm-hmm. And so the way they had treated this, I am now thinking, well, they’re actually like promoting Elijah to a main character now. Because it’s only the main characters who seem to have this perspective with these hormone monsters. But that unfortunately didn’t seem to be the case. I also was a little confused with the way they used his hormone monsters in the episode. It wasn’t necessarily awful, but it wasn’t very cohesive, I think, with other things we’ve seen from hormone monsters. Just because we have Elijah pacing in his room later and he’s talking to his hormone monsters now saying like, “All right, look, I like Missy, but I wish I wanted to make out with her. I wish I was more excited for these things. Or maybe do some of the feet stuff, like my uncles were talking about.” And the hormone monsters are like, “I always thought once you’d met the right person you’d get, you know, horny.” And one of them’s like, “Yeah, horny with the dick and the ah, ah, ah.” And they keep doing this like ah, ah, ah with like, the motions of, like humping the air. And the only reason why I’m repeating that now is because Elijah then uses that and he just outright says, “I don’t really think I feel a lot of the ah, ah, ah, like ever.”
Courtney: And so the hormone monsters then are like, “All right, well, we just have to see what works for you. You know, everyone’s looking for a place to hang their boners hat.” I’m very salty about that particular line. Actually, I think what they say is, “Let’s get blood pumping into those big fat genitals.” I hate it.
Royce: Yeah, I remember hearing that line now that you mentioned it.
Courtney: I hate everything about it.
Royce: For clarification – I just pulled this up – the two hormone monsters that are assigned to Elijah were more major characters in the spin-off series Human Resources. So– And in these later seasons there are some cases where they brought a plot or a character or something in from Human Resources to essentially cameo in Big Mouth.
Courtney: So they say, “Okay, well, this is our job. This is our job to find out what giggles your pickle.” And one pulls out like a briefcase that’s just labeled horny stuff and they start, like, showing him, like they pull out a pornographic photo and they’re like, “How about this lady? Having sex on a motorcycle?” And Elijah immediately turns away, just absolutely turns away, and is like, “Oh, that’s a bit much!” Like, very uncomfortable. They say, “What about this photo of the Kravitz family? What do you say, do you like Zoë, Lisa, Lenny? Do you like Jason Momoa?” And Elijah’s like, “No.” And they’re like, “Really? No, J-mo?” And he’s like, “Yeah, I like girls.” And then they say, “All right, well, maybe you’re a furry. How do you like this lady in a Donald Duck suit?” And they literally just pull out a photo of like Donald Duck from Disney World, like the Disney World mascots that you’d see at the theme parks. And they’re like, “What do you think? Do you want some suffering suck attached?”
Courtney: And Elijah’s like, “Well, first of all, that is Sylvester the cat.” And they’re like, “Oh, so you want a cat?” And he just– he starts fuming, he explodes. He’s like, “No! I don’t want any animals.” And they’re like, “Hmm, I see, I see, what about Halle Berry?” And he’s like, “Ah, my uncles always talk about how fine she is.” And they’re like, “Well, are you horned up?” And he’s like, “No, I’m just really proud of her, she must work really hard.” And I think that moment of– because he almost has a little bit of a suggestive tone in his voice, where he’s like, “Oh… Halle Berry, that’s a thought, my uncles are always talking about her.” Almost as if he’s considering it. But then he actually looks at the photo and he’s like, “You know? Good for her.” And he’s like, “Well, clearly you two aren’t helping me, so we need to go to a real expert in horniness.” And so they– They end up going to the horniest character in the show, who has maybe some of the most uncomfortable scenes.
Royce: This is Jay, the person who is celebrating a score of three on the Rice Purity Test.
Courtney: Yes, Jay won. Well, this is also like he had a pillow, a series of pillows…?
Royce: That side plot was possibly one of my least favorite side plots in the entire series.
Courtney: Like anthropomorphic pillows with a face that talks, that he’d, like, cut a slit into. I think even, like, warmed up, like, beans in ziplock bags in the microwave to put in the pillows to make it warm. It was awful.
Royce: There is an entire long running side plot of him getting into and out of relationships and love triangles with furniture.
Courtney: Yeah, yeah. Well, and then I remember absolutely screaming, I yelled, when he was talking about his process for preparing the pillow and he’s like, “Oh, I cut the slit and then I sew it up like this,” and he called it the husband stitch. He called it the husband stitch! I was– I can’t. [laughs] I can’t.
Courtney: But you know, oddly enough, this also happened to be the episode where another character, Jesse, is exploring gender neutrality.
Courtney: There’s like a new baby in her family and she’s thinking like, “Maybe we don’t raise the baby with, you know, a preconceived concept of gender norms.” And it’s a weird one, because she’s got a hormone monster who now has a baby hormone monster, and they like sing a song about gender – and it’s not a bad song – but this baby sex monster brings out a book called So You’re Becoming a Fuck Monster. So it’s like sometimes you’re calling him fuck monster, sometimes it’s hormone monsters, but you’re basically exclusively dealing with the sex lives of these children. But I just thought it was interesting to have that in what is essentially the ace episode of this show. Because there is an– There is an extraordinarily high percentage of asexual people who feel detachment from gender, who are non-binary or agender or just have no connection to the concept of gender. And so it’s not even the ace character who is exploring this. It’s another character, but it happens to coincide with one another and that was probably unintentional on their part.
Royce: Yeah, I don’t think the plot lines crossed at all, because these episodes always have several different things happening.
Courtney: Yeah, they did not cross. And I mean, I guess, to answer Elijah’s question earlier of, “Why am I even on this show?” I did look up some quotes by the writers and they did essentially go talk to a teacher and a class of students, and in the midst of this discussion apparently these students outright asked why don’t you have an asexual character in the show yet. And they were like, “Oh! Good– good question, I guess we can do that.” And so the writers, never of their own volition, were like, “I want to seek out – you know – really good asexual representation.” They had other people tell them this is a glaring oversight. You have all these other sexualities represented. And they do. They have gay characters, they have bi characters, they had a pan character who, you know, is open to criticism. They did have a– They had a trans character plot line for a few episodes. The spectrum of sexuality song.
Courtney: So one thing that I really take away from that– And I will find the article that had those quotes and we’ll put that in the show notes. But the executive producer, Andrew Goldberg, even said, like, you know, “This character, Elijah, he’s learning as we, the writers, are learning, as the audience is learning.” So he really is a character who is just here for the education. And the– And the education they brought was good. We’re going to get into the good of it. I do in many ways wish that he had more of a standalone personality outside of the education aspect. Because what– the little nuggets we saw of him, being a nerd, liking history, you know, doing these silly little bits with Missy, like, he is a precious character, and I wanted to see more of him outside of being a sex object for Missy and exploring his own asexuality. So that– that was, I think, the major pitfall of Elijah. But especially also the case that, like, they did just work him in because they did not have a particularly ace inclusive show, a group of students called them out on not having any ace characters and, to their credit, they did decide to include an ace character.
Courtney: But if you compare that to something like Bojack Horseman, Todd Chavez was a character from episode one. They didn’t know episode one that he was going to have this big asexual journey, but he was a core member of the cast and a true– Like, he was part of the heart of the show. So when they decided to include asexual representation, they were like, “This is going to be a character that we already know and love, and we’re going to use this to continue developing him.” As opposed to, “We’re just going to shove a new character in here that has this identity and once they’ve done the education, then we’re going to drop them.” So there, there is a difference. There is a difference. Because I would argue – and we’ll have to get to this next week we’ll make this a two parter – but I would argue that Big Mouth did absolutely just drop Elijah after they did what they wanted to do with him.
Royce: I guess we’ll see for sure in April with season eight, but it definitely seems that way.
Courtney: I don’t have high hopes for it. But let’s finish up our discussion of this episode, this Asexual Healing episode, and then next week we’ll follow up with the progression of his relationship with Missy, the way his character resolves for this season and into season seven as well. And then just some of our final thoughts on overall how they handled the ace rep. And I want to talk about Caleb next episode too, and I want to talk about Andrew Rannells next episode. Can we do that? Oh, I–
Royce: We’ll save Andrew Rannells for the end, for the people who want to stick around.
Courtney: We’re– We’re going to get deep into the lore. We’re going to get into Pokémon, The Musical. It’s– it’s– it’s gonna be a ride. But back– back to Asexual Healing. They do this like godfather parody when Elijah goes to see Jay, because they’re calling him like the godfather of horniness. And so Elijah comes up and is like, “I have come to pay my respects and seek your advice. And I’ve heard tell of your legendary horniness. The potting soil, the pillows, the turkey.” And to which Jay said, [emphatically] “The turkeys, plural.” And he said, “I’ve fucked many turkeys and you know, one turkey even fucked me.” And it’s like– Oh no. And then he stands up at one point and he does the ah, ah, ah thing, but he’s literally like humping the table as it’s happening. So the table’s like shifting.
Royce: To clarify for the audience, I believe they’re exclusively referring to, like, Thanksgiving store bought turkeys, not live animals. As far as we are aware. It is actually pointed out in the Rice Purity Test episode, which– there were three things on that list of 100 that Jay hadn’t done. Beastiality was one of the things on the list. It wasn’t confirmed if that was a check or not.
Courtney: Oh no, oh no. But at any rate, since Elijah is just like, “I– I’ve been told if I don’t do these things I’m going to lose my girlfriend, by my uncles. My family members are telling me I need to do this.” So Elijah’s like, “Yes, the ah, ah, ah, that. Yes, that is what I am looking for, that is what I’m here for.” And he asks, “What does that even feel like?” Which is such an ace mood. There are so many times, I feel, where asexual people, either on their own or when they get into a group of aces, that they’re just like, “What does that feel like? What– What are you experiencing? Because I don’t think I’m experiencing it.”
Courtney: But Jay’s explanation for what the horniness and the ah, ah, ah feels like, he says, “Kind of feels like butterflies in your stomach, except they’re all doing full penetration.” And then, since this is a cartoon and it’s the style that this is, they keep cutting away to, you know, very stylistic bits. And so it cuts to his stomach where there are literally butterflies, fornicating very pornographically, like pulling each other’s antennas, and different positions, and like saying, you know, raunchy sex talk. And he says, “And then it tingles in all the right places, if you know what I mean.” And Elijah just says, “I don’t.” [laughs] And that– that line, the “I don’t,” and the way it was delivered, oh, that voice actor did so good, so good. I laughed very hard and it was very quick. It was just like, “I don’t.” And that’s how I felt for most of this show. Everyone’s like, “Oh, everyone knows what this feels like.” It’s like, I don’t know. No, I don’t. I did not experience that. Clearly, we had vastly different puberties. And so Elijah just says, “Well, I do have butterflies, but I guess they just haven’t started penetrating each other.”
Courtney: And it cuts away to his stomach butterflies now, and they’re very wholesome. They’re just like having a sleepover party and like talking about how exciting it is to be Missy’s boyfriend. And they’re like, “Oh, I love her, I love her braces. I think maybe we should take her on a vegan picnic.” And Jay says, “Aw, your butterflies sound lovely.” Which I think is cute. I like that Jay likes Elijah’s butterflies. But Elijah’s the one who’s like, “No, I need my butterflies to be like your butterflies. Because Missy and I are official now, but if I don’t kiss her, my uncles say I’m going to lose her.” And Jay takes this as like, “Well, that’s your problem. You are overthinking. You are thinking too much.” Apparently thinking is the enemy of horniness. Allos, please confirm in the comments. [laughs] Is thinking, indeed, the enemy of horniness? But Jay says, “Just kiss her, just do the thing, and your butterflies will start – quote – fucking the shit out of each other.” And so Elijah’s like, “All right, that’s the plan, that’s what I’m going to do.” He’s getting psyched up. He’s standing up. He’s like, “Yeah, I’m just going to kiss her.”
Courtney: And so we later see Elijah and Missy in a bedroom. She’s raising her eyebrows suggestively. That’s the thing she does a lot. Sometimes she even says, “Eyebrows, eyebrows.” And Elijah’s hormone monsters are like, “You can do it, just do this.” And the two of them start making out with each other and they’re like, “Yeah, just do it like this.” And he’s like, “Once I kiss her like that I’ll get horny?” And the two monsters are like, “It’s sure working for me.” So he leans over and he’s very polite, definitely a gentleman. He asks permission to consensually kiss her and of course Missy’s all for it. Her hormone monster is like, “About damn time.” And while they’re making out he is wincing. He’s very clearly not feeling it.
Courtney: And we then see a third cut away to Missy’s stomach butterflies who are once again having, you know, a very pornographic style of sex. And her hormone monster is like, “Yeah, suck his fucking face!” And telling her like, “Oh, now stick your finger up his ass.” Just like constantly escalating things and blowing it out of proportion. Whereas Elijah’s butterflies are like, [hesitantly] “This is nice...?” And one’s like, “Do you want to fuck me?” And it’s like, “No, uh-uh. no, but thank you for asking.” And so Elijah, flustered, is like, “It clearly didn’t work.” Goes to a sex monster and is like, “Guys, what happened? My butterflies, they aren’t doing it, they didn’t even want to do hand stuff.” To which his hormone monsters start making out with each other again and he just sighs and says, “What is wrong with me?” He’s feeling broken and it’s devastating. And this is what makes me wonder why the sex monsters are here and why they’re using them in the way that they are.
Courtney: Because in this same episode we have sex monsters who are serving as the educators about the spectrum of gender and what it could look like to raise a child free of gender expectations. So they’re the educators here. They’re teaching the kid that. We have Missy’s sex monster, who more often than not seems to just be like the horny voice in the back of her head, saying like this is what we want. Like, you know, do this sex thing, get closer, escalate this further. But then we have Elijah’s hormone monsters, and they’re just completely incompetent. They aren’t actually able to teach him anything meaningfully, but they also aren’t his intrusive sex thoughts, as you put it earlier, Royce. Because he’s not into the things his hormone monsters are into, so like, I guess they’re just a stand in for the societal concept of compulsory sexuality. But other kids’ sex monsters just haven’t, like, haven’t been used that way. So I wonder if giving him sex monsters was actually the best way to go about this. I’m still just confused about what the role of these hormone monsters are, because they’re all used differently, and sometimes the same one is used differently at different times too.
Courtney: But after that, after he’s asking what’s wrong with him, he’s walking home, he’s saying, “What am I going to do?” And these two hormone monsters are like, “Yeah, I mean that– that kiss confirmed it. Like if that didn’t make you horny, you just– you don’t have this feeling. It’s not going to happen.” And the poor guy is super confused. And walking up on his way home, Auntie Amber is coming out of the house with, you know, a suitcase and she says, “Oh, Elijah! Good, I was hoping to see you before I left.” And like, “Here, come on walk with me.” And she asked him if he’s all right, but she also presses him and is like, “And be honest now, because I already know the answer.” And so he tells her outright, “I think there might be something wrong with me, because everyone else at school is so horny and I don’t even want to kiss my girlfriend.” And Auntie Amber says, “Well, maybe you’re just not ready or maybe you’re like me.” And that’s when I started clapping. I was like, “Oh, yes!”
Courtney: But Elijah at first is confused, is like, “I’m a fabulous, rich lady who’s too good for her family?” [laughs] And Auntie Amber is like, “Well, yes, I am that. But you see, also when I was younger, everyone told me that when I found the right person that it would click.” Which is such a thing. That is such a real experience, very relatable experience. And for Auntie Amber, she said that for her she ended up being a– I think she says a true hoe, “I was a true hoe.” And he’s like, “What? Really?” And she’s like, “Yeah, I tried everything. I tried being straight, I tried being gay, I tried being bi, I tried demisexual, pansexual. But after all that I found out that asexual is what works for me.”
Courtney: And then Elijah’s like, “Asexual?” And he turns to his hormone monsters and he’s like, “Do you know what that is?” And one of them does clearly already know, because he cites the most modern AVEN definition for what asexuality is. One of these monsters just goes, “Oh, it’s when someone feels little to no sexual attraction for other people, kind of like you.” [gasps] Oh… And then they’re like, “Oh, we should have known that.” And it’s like, yeah. [laughs] Like I get that part of the joke is that they’re incompetent and bad at their jobs. But if they’re incompetent and bad at their jobs, why not make them not even know what asexuality is? So he did not find out from his hormone monsters what asexuality is.
Courtney: He found out from an older ace relative, who’s also single and rich. So is she also aromantic? I don’t know. They didn’t say that word for her. But something else she says does feel like it could very much have some aro vibes too.
Courtney: But for the time being he’s just kind of relieved. He says, “So there’s nothing wrong with me? Maybe I’m just asexual.” And her response is very, very good, because I have seen and heard of so many instances where a younger person trying to explore asexuality or coming out as ace is very often discredited on the basis of their age. Because people will say, well, you can’t be asexual because you’re too young to know. Like, maybe that’ll change when you get older. But a show like this really highlights that, you know, kids do start getting sexual urges earlier than a lot of adults like to think about. And if someone can know that they have these feelings, then someone could just as easily know that they don’t. But Auntie Amber says, “If that’s what you feel right now, then that’s what you are right now.” And I love that.
Courtney: Because there’s a big anxiety, I think too, amongst younger people that, like, what if it does change? What if people are right? What if I do all of a sudden develop a sexuality, a libido? What if all these things do fall in line for me later and I identified as ace previously? What’s what’s going to happen there? And that shouldn’t hold anybody back from exploring this facet of themselves. So I love the accuracy and the simplicity of if that’s how you feel right now, then that is what you are right now. Because it also gives a little bit of grace for if someone does explore this and realizes that it doesn’t fit them. And what better person to hear that from, as someone who landed on asexual but also tried to be all these other things before?
Courtney: But then a new concern comes up for Elijah. He says, “Yeah, but Auntie Amber, I have a girlfriend right now and I don’t want to break up with her.” And she says, “You don’t have to. Being asexual doesn’t mean you have to be alone.” And this is what she says that could very easily be read as aromantic: she says, “I love so many people and so many people love me. I just don’t want to pork them.” So like, that’s very obviously asexual. It could also be playing with what is the definition of love. Are you– Like, if you’re saying you love so many people, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s romantically, but it could be. We don’t actually know in her case.
Courtney: And then Elijah reminds everyone about how rich and successful she is. He’s like, “And you have so much disposable income.” And she’s like, “Ha ha! Sure do.” And she even ends with, “My life is absolutely better than all of your uncles.” And then she– Absolute boss-move, she kicks off her shoes, and she’s like, “And by the way, this is how you do a backflip.” And she does it, lands it perfectly, puts her shoes back on and gets into her car. It’s so good. I love that moment.
Courtney: Because, also, this is a way to say it without saying it, by showing an older, successful, happy family member. Because, even though he didn’t articulate an anxiety about the far away future in his life, that is something that a lot of aces do feel like. Well, what is the rest of my life going to look like? What if I don’t want a sexual relationship that everyone says is a fundamental aspect of adulthood? What if I don’t want a romantic relationship? Which, again, people say, you know, you should get married and have 2.5 children.
Courtney: Even if people know they don’t want it, sometimes they’re still almost like a– I don’t want to say a grief, but at least a confusion of: now what is your life going to look like if it isn’t this default state that everyone told you it was going to look like. So it’s this big area of questioning. And questioning whether or not you can be happy and successful. And he didn’t even have to ask it because they’re just showing it. They already have Auntie Amber. She is the coolest one here, she is the richest one, she’s successful, she’s saying that she’s not missing anything. She’s like, “I have so much love in my life, I have money, I can do a backflip.” Like you know, screw your uncles. They’re– they’re the clowns. It’s very good. I love that.
Courtney: And I love that it was his own family member too. We don’t see a lot of multiple aces in the same family in media, although that does sometimes happen. And I wish so heavily that they just let them have that moment and end it on that moment. Because she does this backflip, she gets in her car, and Elijah’s like, “Damn!” And so like he’s feeling good, he’s feeling encouraged, he’s feeling a little in awe of his cool Auntie Amber. But then they– they just can’t help themselves. They have to end on something absurd and shouty and ridiculous with these hormone monsters. One of them’s like, “Oh, I’m going to try a backflip now.” And he lands, like, right on his face. He breaks his glasses, because for some reason this one wears glasses. He’s yelling about, “Oh, my nose! My ACL! My clavicle.” All these things that he hurt.
Courtney: And then, with his like butt up in the air because he’s, like, in this, just like broken, hunched over posture, he starts bleeding. And the other one’s like, “And now you’re bleeding out of your ass!” And he’s like, “No, no, that’s something– I cut myself shaving. That’s something else.” But there’s so much blood just like running down his butt and his back and it’s, like, super unnecessary and detracts from this great moment.
Courtney: Like, they even had– They even had the emotional music during this interaction with Elijah and Auntie Amber. They had like the cry music in the background going a little bit. So they wanted to make this an endearing, heartfelt moment and they’re articulating that with the music they’re selecting. And yet, with no room to breathe, they’re like gotta have another sex monster shenanigan. And his ass is bleeding. And he’s broken. Like [exasperated] why? Why did you have to do that?
Courtney: So overall, the self discovery, I think, was very good. But the good self discovery came more from talking to his peer and clearly understanding that I don’t feel this thing that you’re feeling, and then talking to his Auntie Amber, who absolutely understood what he was feeling. And the hormone monsters were kind of just noise a little bit, because they had to break out that definition at the end. And it’s like, if they know these things, if they’re an encyclopedia of sexualities and they know all these definitions, why can’t they identify it in the kid they’re assigned to help out? I don’t know, that was just a very, very odd thing for me. But I think many, many things of this episode are going to resonate with a lot of aces out there, and that is good and that is important.
Courtney: Honestly, Elijah kind of reminds me of a couple of my friends. Like if we saw more of him, if we were able to get even more of his own personality, there are elements about him where I was like, oh yeah, he’s very much like a friend of mine. So I won’t even agree with arguments that say, like, “Oh well, they made these characters boring,” or they made him button down or they made him a Christian. I don’t think the way they handled those were bad. I don’t think they did it in a negative trope kind of a way.
Courtney: So on that note, next week we’ll pick right up at the next episode, episode nine of season six. We’ll talk more about Elijah and Missy’s storyline, big overall takeaways from the asexual journey, and the asexual education and representation we’re seeing. We’ll talk a little bit more about Caleb. Caleb and Matthew, I think, are the best duo in the entire show. At least in season seven they are. And Matthew is voiced by Andrew Rannells, and I have thoughts. [laughs] I have opinions on Andrew Rannells playing this character on this show. So we’re going to talk about that, and we can’t talk about that without talking about Pokémon, The Musical. So buckle up! And tune in next week. And we’ll have a grand old time. Goodbye.