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In praise of TV’s horny cartoon girls
Stills from ‘Big Mouth’ and ‘Bob’s Burgers’ Mic/IMDb
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In the season nine premiere of Fox’s animated sitcom Bob’s Burgers, which aired Sept. 30, 13-year-old Tina Belcher follows a cute boy to open auditions for a boy band where — shocker — she finds herself surrounded by even more cute boys. It’s a dream-come-true for Tina, who, as is her wont, unabashedly ogles their butts as they stretch, bend over and warm up for their big auditions.

Regular viewers will know that Tina Belcher, voiced by Dan Mintz, is a sucker for butts, and her mildly sexy fantasies about boys her age usually involve just staring at their behinds. The rest of Tina’s family, both in the latest season premiere and past episodes, accepts and occasionally indulges Tina’s horniness because, well, she’s a teenage girl, racked with hormones. It’s totally normal that she would be constantly thinking about butts. Normal in real life, that is — but it’s not as normal is it should be on television.

Perhaps because of the freedom afforded by the medium, or because of the leeway offered by having adults voice adolescent characters, animated shows are doing a singularly fantastic job of representing horny girls of late. Both on Bob’s Burgers and on the much, much more explicit Big Mouth, which dropped its second season on Netflix on Oct. 5, the young female stars of the series are given the freedom to be just as sexually curious and eager as their male counterparts.

And Tina is, thankfully, also relieved of many of the sitcom tropes put upon teenage girls. She does have one recurring love interest (Jimmy Jr.) but she’s not restricted to storylines only involving him. She regularly lusts over other teen boys — at the local beach, at concerts and in her “erotic friend fiction.”

She’s also free from the cliché of a pesky would-be suitor constantly going after her (see, Milhouse and Lisa Simpson, Roger on Sister, Sister). Instead of being bugged by a horny teen, Tina gets to be the horny teen, flipping the tired, played-out gendered tropes and shifting the power to a 13-year-old girl, who, on other shows, might only get to be the object of a crush, not the star of her own sexy fantasies.

And over on Netflix, where Big Mouth creators Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg are free to swear, show animated penises and pubes and generally be as over-the-top as they want, things are even more explicit. The show follows a group of middle-schoolers muddling through the hormonal swamps of puberty, helped, or harmed, by “Hormone Monsters” who fill their heads with new ideas.

Source: YouTube/Netflix

The excellent second season of the show is, possibly, even dirtier, sillier and more thoughtful than the first (which featured an episode titled “Girls Are Horny Too”). While Jessi, a slightly angsty, smart teen who’s voiced by Jessi Klein and is one of the leads of the show, is preoccupied with her parents’ divorce, her best friend Missy — voiced spectacularly by Jenny Slate — is horny enough for the both of them. Missy, a nerdy kid who still says “playdates” and enjoys eating organic, sustainable food with her crunchy parents, is just as sex-obsessed as the boys.

In one excellent, Missy-focused episode, we learn that she fantasizes about actor Nathan Fillion while she masturbates by rubbing herself against a stuffed glowworm toy. On an overnight sleepover at the school gym, her classmates witness her romancing the stuffed toy and mock her for it, causing her to briefly despair that she is the biggest pervert in the world until her friend Andrew, voiced by John Mulaney, helpfully assures her that he believes he, too, is the biggest pervert in the world.

The second season of Big Mouth also introduces a new character, Gina, voiced by Gina Rodriguez, whose storyline becomes an effective summary of the double standard applied to boys and girls. When the rest of their grade finds out that Nick, voiced by Kroll, touched Gina’s boobs during a make-out sesh, Nick is cheered on by his friends and Gina is ostracized by the other girls in her grade, who call her a slut behind her back.

But in a pivotal moment, having finally cast off the “Shame Wizard,” who flies around making the kids feel bad about their new urges, Gina marches over to the most popular girl in school and announces, “I liked getting my boobs felt, and if that makes me a slut, well then, that’s your problem.”

The portrayals of adolescent female sexuality on Bob’s Burgers and Big Mouth may be awkward and played for laughs, but that’s because the universal pain of being a hormonal teen is often pretty funny (at least in retrospect). What’s revelatory is seeing the girls as the subjects, not the objects, of the story.

In a cultural moment when men seem particularly confused about seeing women as equal sexual beings with thoughts and ideas about their own experiences, it’s all the more important that our art portray teenage girls and young women as the wielders of their own sexual agency, not as vessels for boys and their fantasies. Now let’s make some of those girls queer, OK?