My wife and I recently binged season 2 of Big Mouth and season 1 of Big Little Lies, and I noticed a key bit of thematic overlap between the two.
Big Mouth, Netflix’s obscene, irreverent, gut-bustingly funny cartoon about kids going through puberty, introduced the Shame Wizard character in season 2. Voiced by a slithery David Thewlis, he creeps among the kids whispering shame-inducing accusations and judgments. He even has a (NSFW) song:
Oh, I hate to be a bummer
But, my dear, I’ve got your number
And I’ll whisper it forever in your ear
Bringing the shame, shame
You’ve got no one but yourself to blame
You thought no one was watching
But I’m right here in your brain
It takes a while for each of the kids to realize that they aren’t the Wizard’s only victim. Each had separately internalized the shame and let it negatively influence their self-image and behavior.
The Shame Wizard would have fit well in Big Little Lies, the HBO series based on Liane Moriarty’s excellent book. Wealthy parents with kids in a public school deal with an accusation of bullying as they struggle with the ripple effects of domestic violence, infidelity, divorce, and trauma. What’s kept hidden from others by kids and adults, lovers and friends, because of their own version of the Shame Wizard really propels the story.
When things finally get out in the open in the final episode is when many of the characters finally experience freedom—even if, like a bandage being ripped off, it hurts like hell getting there.