How ‘Big Mouth’ Helped Planned Parenthood Fight Its Abortion ‘Stigma’

Creators try to show that Planned Parenthood does more than provide abortions

Last Updated: October 11, 2018 @ 4:56 PM

Last year, two creators of Netflix’s animated teen comedy “Big Mouth” went to a talk about Planned Parenthood — and heard about its frustrations with being known largely for abortions.

So they decided to help.

The two creators, Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin, built an entire episode around Planned Parenthood’s other services — like providing birth control and STD testing and counseling. Along with fellow creator Nick Kroll, who also stars on the show, they created an episode that The Atlantic called “as bold as it is hilarious.”

It was a huge win for Planned Parenthood, which in recent years has courted positive portrayals by Hollywood. The talk that Flackett and Levin attended was hosted by Planned Parenthood to try to win positive portrayals in entertainment.

“Big Mouth” was a perfect fit because the show — known for awkward adolescents haunted by outlandish Hormone Monsters and Shame Wizards — targets both teens and their parents, as they struggle with questions about sexuality.

In recent years, Planned Parenthood has also welcomed filmmakers like Joss Whedon and Jason Reitman, director of the 2007 teen pregnancy film “Juno.”

To write the “Big Mouth” episode, Kroll, Flackett, Levin and the entire “Big Mouth” writers room — including Emily Altman, who was once a Planned Parenthood intern — toured a Planned Parenthood with the organizations’s Los Angeles CEO, Sue Dunlap.

Their tour resulted in the Season 2 episode called “The Planned Parenthood Show” in which eighth-graders Nick (Kroll), Andrew (John Mulaney), Missy (Jenny Slate) and Jessi (Jessi Klein) school their sexually inexperienced sex ed teacher, Coach Steve. (The show’s second season debuted last week.)

In the episode, the students perform a series of skits, including one in which a girl must choose between different contraceptives that compete “Bachelor”-style to become her birth control of choice.

But the episode also underscores Planned Parenthood’s message that it can prevent pregnancies, not just provide abortions. 

“There is a lot of stigma around abortion,” Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Dinah Stephens told TheWrap. “So I was grateful when I saw that the ‘Big Mouth’ episode included a range of services.”

Stephens, who helped coordinate the “Big Mouth” visit, said that for all its sexual jokes, a show like “Big Mouth” can help change perceptions while entertaining. 

Kroll emphasized that entertainment, after all, is the show’s first priority. If families can laugh together, it will be easier for them to talk together. 

“My hope is that the show gives a platform and vocabulary for kids to talk to their parents, each other, their educators about what they’re going through,” Kroll said. “You feel very alone at that point in your life. It’s very helpful in general for kids who are at that age to see that this is happening to everybody.”