Big Mouth Tackles Missy’s Blackness in One of the Best Arcs of Season 4
For the past four seasons, Big Mouth‘s Missy Foreman-Greenwald (voiced by Jenny Slate) has been a nerdy, awkward teenage girl who was the moral compass of the show. However, despite being one of the handful of visibly non-white kids on the show, she has never been a character for whom race has been a big issue. Until now.
It is impossible to separate Missy’s exploration of Blackness from the outside conversation about Black voice actors that happened during the peak of the BLM movement that took place a few months ago. Along with Central Park and a number of other shows, Big Mouth decided to replace white voice actress Jenny Slate with Ayo Edebiri.
As Jourdain Searles wrote for Vulture, “Originally, they had planned to save the voice change for season five because of the production challenges, but, in the end, they decided to rerecord the penultimate episode of season four.”
But let’s roll back a little bit.
In episode two of season four, “The Hugest Period Ever,” Missy goes to Atlanta and gets a makeover from her cousins Lena (Lena Waithe) and Quinta (Quinta Brunson), complete with braids and some understanding of AAV. But we also see the interracial relationship between Missy’s parents Monica (Chelsea Peretti) and Cyrus (Jordan Peele), an actual interracial couple, as being fairly colorblind. When Cyrus has to go through extra harassment on their flight with TSA, Missy asks why and Monica zig-zags around the issue.
During the trip to Atlanta, both Lena and Quinta call out Monica for not raising Missy to be aware of her Blackness, and this launches Missy’s multi-long arch throughout the season.
“A Very Special 9/11 Episode” has Missy learn about code-switching from DeVon (Jak Knight), which ends up as one of my favorite episodes of this season. Not only was it a really accurate episode about code-switching but as someone who has operated often in mostly white spaces, yeah … it was very relevant to my interests.
Missy’s final transformation happens halfway through the season 4 episode “Horrority House.” As we covered, Jenny Slate voices Missy for the majority of the season and they planned on having Edebiri join in during season 5, but decided to re-record the penultimate episode. Missy has a dream about discovering her true self, wakes up and the voice actor transitions to Ayo Edebiri, who continued to voice her from that point onto the rest of the series.
“The switch happens when Missy has come to terms with who she is,” Big Mouth co-creator Nick Kroll said. Yes, it happens later on in the series, but I think that considering when it was supposed to take place, the story works, and I like that they managed to have it make narrative sense.
Edebiri’s transition is actually seamless, as she plays Missy with much of the same breathy cadence, but with a slight bit more of “maturity” that I supposed would follow an emotional epiphany.
“Jenny and I have pretty similar speaking voices and inflections,” Edebiri says in an interview. “I don’t know if that’s because we’re both anxious women from Massachusetts.”
Big Mouth can be a show that is sometimes so vulgar it is truly unsettling. But it can also be emotionally profound as it taps into the cringe of puberty and adolescent angst. That is what keeps me coming back to Big Mouth, even when the cringe is … very, very real.
Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!
—The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]