*This story contains mild spoiler from Big Mouth season four.
Big Mouth might have one of the ugliest visual styles I’ve ever seen, but in the first three episodes of it’s latest season, it’s also got pretty great trans representation in the form of Natalie, a trans girl at summer camp for the first time after coming out, played by the wonderful Josie Totah (Saved by the Bell.)
It’s Big Mouth, so there are definitely jokes about Natalie being trans, and her body, and puberty, but Natalie is rarely the butt of these jokes, and when she is, she ends up getting the last word in. And more importantly, Natalie’s whole story is centered around her feelings, not other camper’s feelings about her or her transition.
This is definitely not your mom’s trans representation. It’s funny, and cutting, and, because it’s Big Mouth, gross. When Natalie gets introduced to the boy’s cabin, where she was bunking last summer, they all ask questions about how she pees (like a normal person), what her crotch looks like (none of their business), and if this is all just a plan to sneak into the girl’s bunk (it’s not.)
When being introduced to her new girl’s cabin, the counselor simply says: “This is Natalie, she’ll be in our bunk this, year she’s trans so everyone be fuckin cool.” This is what I want to say every time a trans teen is introduced onto a television show.
The show really nails a lot about the trans experience, and that’s thanks to Totah’s great performance, as well as the hilarious Patti Harrison joining the writer’s room to make sure her story was true-to-life.
Natalie gets to be just as gross and foul-mouthed as every other Big Mouth character, and she gets the same puberty monster treatment too. This leads to an actually really great illustration of how puberty blockers work when Natalie starts taking them and her puberty monster bangs on the force field between them lamenting that he was going to make her into “such a man.”
There are these anxiety mosquitos flying around buzzing in campers’ ears, and one tells Natalie not to get mad when the girls tell her she looks too butch and ask if she wants to pass better.
“Just agree with them now and then think about this for the rest of your life,” the mosquito says, in a line that really nails the authenticity of this show’s representation.
At the end of her arc, Natalie gets invited to go look at a dead bird with another camper named Seth, which is seventh grade code for "make out in the woods." While she gets her first kiss, Seth (played by Seth Rogan) ends up being an asshole who doesn’t want to be seen with her. It’s actually extremely similar to a storyline Seth Rogan’s character had in Freaks and Geeks, when he fell for an intersex girl at his school.
Natalie ends up coming out on top, though. She gets a new best friend (Jessi, one of the show’s regulars), the dead bird explodes it’s guts all over Seth, and she leaves camp with a newfound confidence.
Big Mouth isn’t afraid to show how gross being in middle school is, and that extends to its trans character. Natalie isn’t held at arms lengths or treated like a Very Special Camper that can’t overcome how hard it is being trans. She’s one of the girls.
The show has had previous troubles with it’s queer representation, when a character played by Ali Wong described being pansexual as meaning “I’m into boys, girls, and everyone in between.” When another character replies, “I thought that was bisexual,” Wong’s character replies, “no, bisexuality is so binary.”
A lot of bi, pan, and queer viewers were disappointed in these definitions, and in the implication that a bisexual person wouldn’t be into trans people. After the negative reaction, co-creator Andrew Goldberg apologized publicly on Twitter.
In that apology, Goldberg thanked queer communities for educating the show, and promised, “we are listening and we look forward to delving into all of this in future seasons." With Natalie, that promise has been held true.