The Netflix animated series Big Mouth is never one to shy away from topics surrounding sex — specifically during those awkward teenage years of puberty. In an episode from Season 3, we are introduced to a new character named Ali (Ali Wong). She walks into class, introducing herself with confidence. She wears cool glasses, has a swagger about her and, most importantly, she is a Ravenclaw. Then she reveals that she is pansexual which, despite the teacher’s apprehensions, becomes a fascinating point of discussion amongst Nick (Nick Kroll), Andrew (John Mulaney) and the gang.
In the clip below, Ali says pansexuality means she is “into boys, girls, and everything in between.” Her confident explanation seems valid and assured, but unfortunately, it isn’t entirely accurate. It gets even more muddled when Ali beings using metaphors of burritos and tacos to describe the difference between pansexuality and bisexuality. It didn’t take long for Twitter to chime in to make some corrections.
With bisexuality and pansexuality being cut from the same cloth and sharing similar details in the definition, the terms is framed differently for each person. With bisexuality, people are attracted to two or more genders. Pansexuality can be defined as someone who is attracted to all genders or do not take gender into consideration at all. This includes men, women, non-binary or however else a person identifies. In Ali’s attempt at explaining the difference between the two, it implies that bisexuality is non-inclusive and paints trans people as a third gender when they are in fact men and women.
Twitter was fast to criticize the definitions. One Twitter user called it a “gross misunderstanding” while another said the episode “was a disservice to the bisexual community.”
On behalf of fellow co-creators.Nick Kroll, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett, Andrew Goldberg was quick to take accountability for their misstep with the episode, posting an apology on Twitter: “We missed the mark here with this definition of bisexuality vs. pansexuality, and my fellow creators and I sincerely apologize for making people feel misrepresented. Any time we try to define something as complex as human sexuality, it’s super challenging, and this time we could have done better. Thank you to the trans, pan, and bi communities for further opening our eyes to these important and complicated issues of representation. We are listening and we look forward to delving into all of this in future seasons.”