Big Mouth nails the all-consuming celebrity obsession
Stephanie Anderson on how Missy is us all
You’re reading Scene & Heard, a weekly newsletter where I chat to a guest writer about the one scene from a recent Netflix release that left them floored. It’s part of Netflix Pause, a publication that’s all about hitting pause to reflect on the latest film and TV. Subscribe now to get it in your inbox every week diving into screen culture.
I’m Joseph Lew, editor of Netflix Pause, and I only glowed-up once I left high school. Year 8 was a rough time. I wore clothes that didn’t fit me, had unrequited crushes on EVERYONE I laid eyes on, had a mop, and my skin-care routine was literally just Clearasil and a bar of soap. If you can’t picture it, here’s a visual aid.
I’ve never felt more attacked – and seen – by a show as I have by Big Mouth. This is an animation that captures puberty perfectly, from the throes of jealousy, the hormonal impulses, to the all-consuming obsession of a crush. It’s a love letter if you will: an ode to you, to me, and to our horny formative years.
For this week’s Scene and Heard, I spoke to Stephanie Anderson, a writer, editor, and diehard DiCaprio stan. Looking at a scene where Missy decides to break up with her celebrity crush in favour of a real one, Stephanie reflects on her own teenage infatuations, and examines the Frankenstein-like relationships we form with celebrities.
JL: Stephanie, Big Mouth is back and boy is it hornier than ever. Between all the tonguing, wet-day-dreams and all-consuming crushes, it’s a wonder that the students of Bridgeton Middle School are even passing Year 8! But we’re not here to talk about that today, we’re here to talk about our nerd-icon who's in the hardest stage of her puberty journey yet: breaking up with her celeb crush...
SA: I love this scene so much. Missy has just realised that she has a real-life crush on DeVon, a boy at her school. Suddenly, her long-standing crush on Nathan Fillion – whose voice you might recognise from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly and Castle – doesn’t have the same impact that it once did. So, after years of being true to her TV boyfriend, she has to break it off. It's so realistic, because her crush is depicted exactly as pre-teen crushes on actors are; they're kind of on the actor, kind of on the characters they play.
When Missy is breaking up with Nathan Fillion, he asks what DeVon has that he doesn't. Missy replies that not only is he real, but he's also more age appropriate. I love this, because when I was in Year 9 I was intensely in love with Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s David Boreanaz. More specifically, I was in love with Angel, but that was a mere detail in the plans that I had for our lives together. In fact, there is a small mark on the wall of my childhood bedroom to this day that says "I <3 Angel". Sorry, Mum! At the time, I was 14 and he was 29. Was it age appropriate? Absolutely not. Did that matter to me? Absolutely not. In my mind, the only reason this was an issue was because I thought it might be harder to convince him to date me, even though it was so clear (to me) that we were meant to be.
It's a sweet scene in a lot of ways, because it perfectly encapsulates this really specific part of your teen years where love, romance and sex go from a concept, a fairytale, a work of fiction written by and starring yourself, to an actual possibility. It’s exciting, and also kind of scary, because it’s another step toward adulthood. Those preteen celeb crushes are so intense, and the bittersweet feel of this scene really captures what it's like to come back down to reality, where crushes are messy and real and imperfect.
Angel?! No, let’s talk about Booth from Bones. The suit? The whole FBI agent shtick? That man could shoot me and I would say thank you. I remember religiously checking the TV-guide, so I knew when my next Boreanaz-buzz was coming.
Don't hate me, but I've never seen Bones! I know, ridiculous! Especially given my once-undying love for Boreanaz. But I'll refer you to a very important entry in my Year 8 diary, in which I once grappled: "Everyone knows me as the girl who loves Angel, but lately I've been more into Mark Wahlberg and I don't know how to tell people!" I was really out here stressing that my whole identity was going to fall apart because I'd switched out one buff brunette for another!? I think Missy could relate. Everyone knows her as the girl who loves Nathan Fillion, and breaking up with him is a big deal in her world!
Switching crushes after you've built your personal brand around your fandom feels like a massive betrayal. Angel wasn't the first time it had happened though; back in Year 6 I'd been madly in love with Zac Hanson, who, at only two months older than me, was a far more age-appropriate selection. I used to smooch his poster before bed (Shh, that's a secret, don't tell anyone)! Mortifying. Things were going great for me and Zac, until one fateful day when I saw a little film called Titanic. Heard of it? Poor Zac, it was over for him the second Leo looked up through that golden mop of hair. I felt bad, but soon enough I was in the schoolyard at lunch, trading my folder of Zac posters and magazine clippings for anything and everything Leo. My room was soon a shrine, and after the DVD was released, I got my local video store to give me a five foot cardboard stand of posters. Did it fit in my room? Not really, I had an inflatable armchair in there already. Did I make it work? Yes. I'd do anything for love.
A Leo shrine? I would have loved to see that. And don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me *wink*!
This photo really doesn’t cover the scope of my shrine, but it does paint the scene. Just picture a five foot cardboard stand on the other side of the room and copy/paste the amount of Leo posters to basically cover the wall. Another thing that I love about Missy’s crush is that the poster she interacts with is one of Nathan in his Firefly costume. It’s a seemingly small detail, but it reflects how we cherry-pick the traits we want from an actor’s characters and celebrity personas to create the ultimate fantasy crush.
Looking at my shrine, you can see a similar vibe. It’s not so much that I was in love with Leo (although I have seen nearly every film he’s been in and I did cry when he won his Oscar), but more that I was in love with Jack Dawson. Of course, Jack Dawson doesn’t exist. We pick the details we like about the actor, mash them together with their various characters’ traits, and before you know it? A frankencrush is created. A crush so perfect and so unrealistic that we have nowhere to go but back down to reality.
Frankencrush? I’m OBSESSED. Looking at your photo and Missy’s wall, I’m instantly reminded of my best friend, who had the entire back of her closet dedicated to celebrity paraphernalia (BTS was her boyband-of-choice). I think it’s super interesting comparing our crushes to that of today’s generation – there are now entire forums dedicated to sharing the intimate details of a celeb’s life. I know one of my mates used to wait in Shawn Mendes’ hotel lobby, information she obtained from an Instagram chat.
Right?! Social media has really taken celeb crushes to a whole new level, for better or worse! When I was a tween all I had to go on were Big Hit, TV Hits and Smash Hit magazines, and I devoured them, committing every fact to memory like it was a biblical text. Even now, in the place where I should keep information like a basic understanding of maths or science, what I have are facts about my past celeb crushes. For instance, I can tell you off the top of my head that Sarah Michelle Gellar's birthday is April 14, two days after her bestie and bridesmaid Shannen Doherty's birthday, and that SMG married Freddie Prinze Jr. in a Vera Wang gown. What I can't tell you is how to do simple addition. Thankfully, I have a phone for that!
These days, though, people have so much more access to celebrities through social media. Not only do we have a direct line of communication to them (if we can get them to notice us), but social media connects us to other fans. This is a game changer for finding out where your fave celeb is going to be, and when, which can increase your chance of getting a selfie – the ultimate goal. I never could've dreamed of that with any of my crushes! The closest I got was joining a fan email chain for Rose McGowan, which I accessed via my ~gurlmail.com~ account at the library after school, haha.
Social media gives us a whole new perspective on our faves, as well. Instead of collecting scraps of information from magazines and TV interviews, we get to see their Instagram Stories, the way they tweet, the way they communicate with their fans. It's a less detached, filtered view of their personalities, and it really amps up the parasocial relationships we develop with these celebrities. We feel like we know everything about them, but they know absolutely nothing about us. And we're still seeing a carefully curated view of these celebrities, they still control the narrative to a large degree, but because they give us so much content, we use that to fill in the blanks.
Look, I’m lowkey glad I never got a celeb selfie, because knowing me, it would have definitely turned out like this.
Oh my gosh, haha. That's a bit too relatable. In the first celeb selfie I ever took I looked like a frill-necked lizard! I was smiling so big all the veins in my neck were just like "HI WE'RE EXCITED!!!" and it wasn't even someone I was that into?! I ran into an actor who was in town for Comic-Con, and because I wasn't expecting a celebrity encounter, I was a bit too hyped.
It was a deeply valuable life lesson, though. When I started doing interviews with celebs for work I'd be like 'okay, smile like a normal person,' in my head, even if I was dying of excitement on the inside!
Missy's lucky, actually! Nathan Fillion is the exact level and type of famous to be doing fan conventions, so getting a selfie with her celeb BF is actually a very attainable goal! Hopefully she'd be able to contain her excitement, but something tells me she might end up in a frill-neck situation. I feel you, Missy!
I have to ask, is this immortalised on the gram too?
It's not! I took one look at it and was like "I will never post this". Some things are simply too mortifying for the public to see, and I've posted a lot of embarrassing content online in my lifetime!