"For most of its run Big Mouth treats Missy like every other middle schooler, highlighting her extreme awkwardness as opposed to the fact that she's a biracial eighth grader in predominantly white school," says Melanie McFarland. "But in the second episode of the recently premiered fourth season (written by Kelly Galuska) the series finally confronts its hesitancy to have conversations about race by way of a summertime trip to Atlanta, where Missy spends time with her cousins Lena (voiced by Lena Waithe) and Quinta (Quinta Brunson). And while Lena and Quinta are kind to Missy, they let her know in no uncertain terms that her Black father and Jewish mother are depriving her of fully connecting to her cultural identity by avoiding talking about race and racism." McFarland adds: "Big Mouth hasn't always hit the nail on the head with regard to portraying the singular difficulties faced by of its kids that don't fit a heteronormative mold, and it has weathered criticism about those missteps. In the wake of that, the show could have gone on doing what many other animated series featuring a Black character do and have done for many years, which is to content itself with featuring an animated character that's brown in a sea of peach, tan or if you're talking about The Simpsons, yellow. Diving into the layers of who Missy is growing to be only enriches the experience of the series while taking nothing away from how broadly appealing and relatable she is no matter who is traveling along with her adventures. For her, change is uncomfortable and inevitable; for the series, so far this change is only a good thing."
Season 4 is the most nuanced and resonant yet when it comes to dealing with its minority and queer characters: "While many people have gone through — and survived — the awkward process of puberty, the ordeal is not the same for everyone," says Michael Blackmon. "Big Mouth embraces the gags and jokes that originally made it a sensation when it premiered in the fall of 2017 (there’s no shortage of poop and masturbation jokes), but the series is now fortified by its willingness to delve deeper into how being part of a marginalized community influences a person’s experience of growing up. Though Missy’s transformation and reckoning with her race is one of the season’s most thoughtful arcs, the show continues this theme in other areas too. There are two queer storylines — one involving a young trans girl and another with a gay student — both of whom experience distress when they encounter rejection from people (a reluctant crush and a parent in denial, respectively) who do not completely embrace them because of their queerness. The writers’ decision to broaden the experience of puberty beyond that of the endlessly covered straight white male adolescent, along with their readiness to course-correct in real time, has made the show more enriching and insightful."
Big Mouth made a great point with its PEN15 crossover: "If the existence of two very good shows can constitute a golden age in a particular subgenre of television, then we are living in a golden age of the puberty comedy," says Alexis Nedd. "Netflix’s Big Mouth and Hulu’s PEN15 are both incredible series that allow millennials of a certain age to relive and reexamine the horrors of middle school in refreshing, funny, and more than occasionally gross ways. While Big Mouth leans on outlandish animation and the conceit of visible 'hormone monsters' to process the repulsive facts of achieving adulthood, PEN15 uses the increasingly effective concept of adult actors Anna Konkle and Maya Erskine playing pre-teen versions of themselves to delve into the inherent drama of growing up. Big Mouth and PEN15 have been compared to each other because of their similar subject matter, but the fourth episode of Big Mouth’s fourth season brought the two shows together for a hilarious semi-crossover that outlines both shows’ overarching messages about their characters. When Big Mouth leads Andrew and Nick realize everyone in their grade is dating except for them, they decide to ask out two younger (7th grade, to be exact) girls because they think they’ll be easier to make out with. Those girls are Izzy and Misha, two thinly veiled analogues for PEN15’s Anna and Maya voiced by Konkle and Erskine."