Type keyword(s) to search

Quick Hits

Big Mouth Dares to Call Mel Gibson What He Is: A Racist and an Antisemite

The animated comedy finally gives Gibson the smackdown he deserves.
  • Missy and Mona discuss Mel Gibson on Big Mouth. (Photo: Netflix)
    Missy and Mona discuss Mel Gibson on Big Mouth. (Photo: Netflix)

    The first great joke of Big Mouth Season 6 comes just six minutes into the first episode. After returning to school from a snowy winter break, Missy (voiced by Ayo Edebiri) spies a cute boy across the parking lot, but because he’s an extra — as Jessi (Jessi Klein) explains, one of the many students who “just kind of stand there and, like, blink occasionally” — she knows nothing about him.

    “I bet he sleeps nude in an RV on the beach, with an ashtray in his bed and an angry dog by his side,” says Mona (Thandiwe Newton), Missy’s hormone monstress. When Missy presses her, Mona explains she’s actually talking about “Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon,” a film franchise unfamiliar to the 13-year-old.

    “Oh, okay,” replies Missy. “I only know him from his work as a racist and an antisemite.”

    “Well, he used to be an actor, too,” says Mona.

    It’s a brief exchange, but it’s reflective of Big Mouth’s important place in the cultural conversation. With a single joke, Big Mouth does what the rest of Hollywood has been unwilling to do for decades: call out Mel Gibson as the antisemite and racist he is.

    Gibson’s partiality to antisemitism, racism, and homophobia is well documented. In 2006, while being arrested for driving under the influence in Malibu, The Passion of the Christ writer/director went on an antisemitic tirade; four years later, leaked tapes emerged of him screaming the N-word and other racist remarks at his then-girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva.

    Jewish actress Winona Ryder has also long maintained that Gibson made homophobic and antisemitic comments to her in the 1990s, including calling her an “oven-dodger,” a reference to the Holocaust (when Ryder repeated her claim in 2020, Gibson accused her of “lying” about the encounter). But save for a brief period after the N-word audio leaked, Gibson has continued to work steadily in Hollywood, and he has a variety of major projects in the pipeline, notably Starz’s John Wick prequel series The Continental, action thriller Informant, and a rumored Lethal Weapon sequel, the fifth film in the franchise.

    Structurally, Big Mouth didn’t have to go so hard on Gibson, or even drag him, at all. There are plenty of unhygienic, morally complicated men in cinema history for Mona to use as a reference point, but choosing a Steven Seagal or Mark Wahlberg character doesn’t give the show an opportunity to highlight Gibson’s persistent pattern of vile behavior. The fact that it’s Missy who gets in the dig only makes it sweeter: Missy is biracial and half-Jewish, identities she has proudly embraced in recent seasons.

    As Gibson’s continued presence in Hollywood makes clear, it would have been easier for Big Mouth to ignore his bigotry altogether, but that flies in the face of everything Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, and their stable of A-list voice talent have created. Big Mouth has always been an explicitly Jewish show, with key themes of forgiveness and compassion (particularly when it comes to being kind to ourselves) woven throughout even its most raunchy puberty storylines.

    In recent seasons, the comedy has also made a concerted effort to authentically depict the experience of its Black characters, though this hasn’t always been the case. In 2020, amid the protests following George Floyd’s murder, the role of Missy was recast, with Edebiri taking over for Jenny Slate, who apologized for “engaging in an act of erasure of Black people” by voicing the biracial character. In Season 4 episode “Horrority House,” Edebiri assumed the role in a scene that saw Missy reckon with her identity as a young Black girl, and in the episodes since, she has continued to explore the many sides of herself by starting a school affinity group and embracing her natural hair. By addressing Gibson’s hateful persona head-on, Big Mouth takes an important step forward after the Missy controversy and ensures it’s doing more than just paying lip service to diversity and inclusion — as Warner Bros. is doing by pursuing Gibson to direct Lethal Weapon 5.

    Big Mouth’s takedown of Gibson couldn’t be more timely. Kroll may be powerful, but even he couldn’t have predicted that Season 6 would debut amid a firestorm of antisemitism. In recent weeks, Kanye West (now going by “Ye”) was banned from Instagram and Twitter for posting dangerous antisemetic conspiracy theories and threatening to go “death con 3 [sic] on Jewish people,” statements he doubled down on in an interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. Two weeks ago, former President Trump told American Jews to “get their act together” and “appreciate” Israel “before it is too late,” a statement that plays on antisemitic tropes about Jewish greed and loyalty. While Ye has faced professional consequences for his antisemitic posts, including Adidas terminating his Yeezy partnership, Trump’s remarks have gone largely unchecked by the political establishment, just as Gibson’s have by film and television executives.

    That Big Mouth — a comedy that is, first and foremost, about puberty and adolescent awkwardness — is one of the only media properties holding Gibson accountable speaks volumes about the state of our current entertainment landscape. The world may not take this vulgar animated series seriously, but when it comes to calling out bigotry, Hollywood would be wise to follow Missy’s lead and remember Gibson’s work as a racist and an antisemite, above all else.

    Big Mouth Season 6 is now streaming on Netflix.

    People are talking about Big Mouth in our forums. Join the conversation.

    Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.

    TOPICS: Big Mouth, Netflix, Ayo Edebiri , Jessi Klein, Mel Gibson, Thandiwe Newton