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The Tea on 'Big Mouth's' Pansexuality Episode

Two weeks ago, Netflix released the third season of its hit show Big Mouth. This satirical show follows its middle school main characters on their journey through puberty while also tackling some of society’s major issues (i.e. toxic masculinity and rape culture). However, in the midst of this beloved show’s return, it has stumbled its way into some controversy with the LGBTQ+ community. Here’s the rundown: 

 

In season three, episode eight of Big Mouth, the creators decided to introduce a new character to Bridgetown Middle School. Ali—voiced by Ali Wong—is a transfer student from a nearby middle school who comes out as pansexual seconds after being introduced. Ali’s introduction is at the root of the Twitter controversy surrounding the show as it produces a twisted definition of bisexuality and pansexuality. 

The main issue on social media that stems from this episode is a clip of Ali defining her sexuality. When Ali reveals to her classmates that she is pansexual, she is met with intrigue and curiosity about the term. In defining her sexuality for the rest of the class, she gives a definition that the community considers to be biphobic—and inherently transphobic. The definition she gives says that “bisexuality is so binary” and implies that bisexuals are transphobic. This denotation may imply that people who identify as pansexual could feel superior to those who identify as bisexual, which is never really the case in the LGBTQ+ community. 

 

Besides the issue of Big Mouth’s definition of pansexuality that made Twitter headlines, the rest of the episode perpetuates the idea of bi-erasure and showcases the double standard between men and women who identify as bisexual or pansexual. One of the show’s recurring characters, Jay, has been attempting to understand his own sexuality for multiple episodes within the new season. In the same episode, Jay feels content enough with his identity to come out as bisexual, which isn’t met with the same excitement and acceptance as Ali’s pansexuality. The other male characters express discomfort at Jay being bisexual and even admit to their reactions being a “gross double standard,” yet don’t make any attempt to change their views on the matter. There's even a scene in the episode where the first gay main character in the show, Matthew, erases Jay’s identity as a bisexual man and alludes to the idea that being bisexual is just a stepping stone to coming out as a gay.  

While this episode of Big Mouth is quite problematic in every sense, it does expose an unfortunately real issue that people who identify as bisexual face inside and outside of the community. In my opinion, while the definition and content included in the episode are overall disappointing, it’s more disappointing that the showrunners failed to make any attempt to correct the negative viewpoints seen in the episode. The biggest point we should take away from the controversy of this episode is the importance of properly educating ourselves and others about the labels within the community and why people identify more with one or another or not at all.