Monday, December 7, 2020

REVIEW: 'Big Mouth' - Nick and Andrew's Attempts to Get Girlfriends Only Creates More Embarrassment in 'Cafeteria Girls'

Netflix's Big Mouth - Episode 4.04 "Cafeteria Girls"

After seeing their eighth grade classmates coupled up, Nick and Andrew make a play for two seventh grade girls. Jessi adjusts to life in the city.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Netflix's Big Mouth.

"Cafeteria Girls" was written by Emily Altman and directed by Andres Salaff

Big Mouth isn't the only show that uses gross humor in order to express the uncomfortable realities of going through puberty. It doesn't have to be. Nor should it be either. There is more than one way to tell a story. As such, this genre should be an open environment for many creatives to explore a variety of stories in their own unique ways. That freedom should be allowed. This episode decides to take that impulse through a meta context here. On one hand, it serves as a symbolic crossover with Hulu's PEN15, which also explores the depths of puberty though as a live-action comedy. Misha and Izzy are voiced by Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle, who are the co-creators and stars of that show. And on the other hand, this show can't outwardly reference a series from another streaming service. That means Misha and Izzy are the stars of Cafeteria Girls, a new Netflix comedy that takes place elsewhere at the school with new hormone monsters. It's a clever concept. One that forces Nick and Andrew to address the fact that they aren't the centers of the universe. They have to consider the feelings of others. In fact, their actions serve as the broad "Special Episode" trope of what to look out for when it comes to dating. That's the vibe that Cafeteria Girls strives for. Sure, it's gross and disgusting as well. But that also shows just how hypocritical Nick and Andrew are in their overall behavior. They believe it is perfectly fine for them to be gross and to be the stars of their own show. However, they feel insecure when forced to deal with this competition. Moreover, they don't see the appeal of this rival sitcom. The audience it is designed for doesn't make sense to them even though their stories aren't all that different. It shows just how conceited and selfish these characters can fundamentally be. Nick's parents want him to be considerate. They need him to make sure Misha's needs are satisfied before his own. And then, he and Andrew go into the bathroom to talk about how unhappy they are on their dates and want to switch partners. They do so thinking that it's their show and they can do whatever they want. It's not that simple. These girls have feelings too. Their lives and sexual desires are just as valid. They are more than the seventh graders who can be preyed on. Nick sees the horror of Andrew talking about going on the prowl for younger women at school. Nick understands just how inappropriate that is. Andrew doesn't recognize the error of the words coming out of his mouth. And yet, they both still make these heinous choices. They do so because they believe they have to be coupled up in eighth grade. Everyone else seemingly is. They take this as an opportunity to present as the older, cool kids who know this school and can help the newcomers. In reality, they are still just as desperate and flailing around as always. That hasn't changed. Their friendship has healed. However, they still don't know how to respect women. That remains a problem for them. Elsewhere, Jessi is off in her own world in New York City. She is starting at a new school. She is riddled with anxiety and depression upon the realization that she may not be as smart as she has always believed she was. The classes seem too difficult. It's easier to run away instead of opening up and being vulnerable. She feels alone in this environment. And then, Michael Angelo appears. She instantly forms a crush and her world changes. It brings Connie back in on a tidal wave. Tito and the Depression Kitty go away for now. It's unlikely they will be gone for good though. This may be nothing more than a distraction for her at the moment. It allows her to feel different emotions. But she is still skipping school instead of addressing the problems head on. Many characters fail in that regard. In fact, the show pushes the limit of the horrors they inflict on each other. But the comedy still surprisingly works, which makes the overall story work despite the high bar of metatextual context the show sets for itself here.