With all due respect to Andrew (John Mulaney), Nick (Nick Kroll), and Jessi (Jessi Klein) the Hormone Monsters are the main characters of “Big Mouth.” Think about it: This is their story. The new Netflix comedy explores how Maurice (Kroll) and Connie (Maya Rudolph) manipulate the minds and torture the bodies of pubescent junior high children. It’s a horror show — a funny horror show, but a horror show nonetheless — and they’re the big scary monsters freaking everybody out. Sure, they’re figments of Andrew and Jessi’s imaginations, but what’s a story of puberty without monstrous hormones? (You know, other than this.)
Maurice gets things going from the very first scene. As Andrew tries to learn about the female reproductive system in health class, suddenly out pops a horned, yellow thing with brown hair, a sagging chest, and a dick for a nose. “Did someone say ‘vagina’?” the Hormone Monster whispers before bursting out of Andrew’s desk. The poor kid tries to dismiss him, telling him he’s not real and to go away, but Maurice proves his vitality by giving Andrew an erection in the middle of class and sending him fleeing to the bathroom “to climax into that thin toilet paper.”
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Maurice and Connie drive the story. They run the show. But they’re incredible creations because they’re more than scary monsters; they’re also trying to help these kids, in a very weird, very funny, and very recognizable way.
[Editor’s Note: The following article contains spoilers for “Big Mouth” Season 1.]
Whether the horned and horny duo are protagonists or antagonists is up for debate, for are they all-powerful antiheroes or villains to be defeated? At first, they stem closer to the former, but by the end of Season 1 they’re clearly not all bad. While Andrew tries to escape the “pornscape,” Maury throws himself into the fray, accepting death as his fate, and only survives by doing what he does best: “I fucking fucked all those fucks!” More importantly, it’s a relief to see him alive. So no matter which way you want to pin them down (and they want you to pin them down), they’re multi-faceted imaginary frienemies.
“Big Mouth” approaches each monster as a necessary evil. Puberty is unavoidable, and so are the Hormone Monsters. As implied in the opening credits, Maury casts a troublingly dark shadow over Andrew and Nick’s sunny fall day, his figure looming so large he’s clearly unavoidable. The kids are scared upon the very sight of him, and fear plays a big factor throughout the first season.
The second time the Hormone Monster pops up, Andrew is at a sleepover and just wants to go to bed. “No, no, no, you’ve got to be kidding me,” he says. “I’m a good person. I wouldn’t do that laying next to a friend.”
“Then why am I here?” Maury asks.
Accepting his fate but not the reasoning, Andrew says, “What the hell is wrong with me?” “Nothing,” Maury says. “You’re a perfectly normal gross little dirtbag. Now stare at that cat clock and massage your dinger.”
That Andrew doesn’t know this to be true — that all kids go through what he’s going through — plays up the horror of his relationship with Maury. He often feels guilty about what he’s doing, and the Hormone Monster is there to accept blame as much as he passes it to Andrew. “Wait, what do we do about the mess?” Andrew asks, when he’s done, implying with the “we” that Maury could help somehow. “Sleep in it, you pig,” Maury tells him.
Later, when Andrew tries to stop masturbating, it sends the Hormone Monster into a homicidal rage. He ends up decapitating and skull-fucking Garrison Keillor, an act we’ve already expressed the utmost admiration for. But the horrifying extremes to which the monsters will go is only limited by the budding imaginations and sexual promiscuities of the children themselves. These may be monsters, but we made them — and the show finds clever ways to convey as much.
For all the pain inflicted by Maury and Connie, creators Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Jennifer Flackett, and Mark Levin imbue them with just enough empathy as to not invite a battleground between the children and their worst desires. They’ll make the kids do bad things, but it’s hard to blame them — they’re monsters. It’s who they are.
When Jessi first confronts Connie, she says, “Do you ever have anything positive to say? You’re such a bummer. All you do is make me sore and hairy and bloated and, like, I want to cry all the time.” After an exchange of “fuck you’s,” Connie moves close to Jessi and says, “We can have fun. I can make you feel good,” before explaining how she’s the one who stirred up new feelings during “Dirty Dancing” and when Jessi encountered “the jacuzzi jets.”
“That’s just the beginning. There’s a whole world of feelings down there,” Connie says.
Led by Connie, Jessi goes on the hunt for her first adult bra. After twisting her mom’s feminist ideals around on her, the two end up skipping out of the store with a bright red bra, Jessi and her Hormone Monster holding hands and cheering with joy. But it doesn’t end there.