Along with the animated Netflix series Big Mouth doing an outstanding job on incorporating multiple races and the LGBTQ+ community into its new season, they also confronted a race problem about their cast. Throughout its new season four, the show takes a closer look at Black suburban middle schooler Missy Foreman-Greenwald, previously played by Jenny Slate, and how she’s struggling with her racial identity.
During an episode where the students take a school trip to visit the 9/11 memorial, Missy has a frustrated yet confused reaction to a peer’s comment. She then breaks the fourth wall to tell the audience, “It's just that I'm really struggling with my racial identity right now. My mom's White. My dad's Black. I'm voiced by a White actress who's 37 years old. Ugh! It's all very overwhelming.” The way Missy reacts to her problem is both comical yet very relatable to many kids and teens today. NBC stated, “Viewers saw themselves in the animated series, which follows teens going through puberty with help from their 'hormone monsters.'" This comment reveals how the show has limited capturing how Missy goes into exploring herself as a Black girl.
Typically, Big Mouth is famous for casting and creating animated characters to look and identify with their voiced counterparts. For example, in season four, viewers meet trans teen Natalie, voiced by Josie Totah. Totah identifies as a transgender female herself and is an activist for trans teens all over the world. According to Buzzfeed, “In June, in the aftermath of global protests against police brutality in the US, Jenny Slate informed fans via Instagram that she would no longer be voicing Missy.” After Slate stepped down as voicing Missy, she was replaced with actress Ayo Edebiri. Slate said in a later interview that the decision to play Missy was a “flawed and racist” one.
[bf_image id="jj467qctwfrxhqq8frp5xb7p"] Although Slate has retired from the role, she continued to voice Missy throughout the majority of season four. Edebiri said, "[Season four is] the beginning of what Missy’s journey is going to be like discovering not just her Blackness but herself.” Slate later posted a public statement apologizing for portraying a Black character. When Slate initially accepted the role of Missy, she said she did because Missy’s mom is Jewish and White, which was something Slate related to. In her statement, Slate recognizes that she has made mistakes throughout her career, and while she cannot change the past she will hold herself accountable for her choices.
The transition between the two actresses happened towards the end of season four. In episode nine, Missy enters a haunted house where she is surrounded by multiple mirrors. You can see how Missy sees all the different variations of herself and how she has struggled to find who she truly is. At the end of the scene, all the mirrors break and Missy begins to glow. After the struggle of identifying who she is as a Black girl, she eventually forms into a new self-discovered Missy, who is now voiced by Ayo Edebiri.