For those of you who aren’t familiar, BoJack Horseman is an adult animated comedy series on Netflix. It has earned an impressive 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes for its second and third seasons, with the fourth set for release on September 8, 2017. The show follows the self-loathing escapades of the titular character, an anthropomorphic horse and former TV star turned alcoholic and his friends. It’s a satirical dark comedy about fame, self-sabotage, and the entertainment industry. Needless to say, this article contains SPOILERS about seasons two and three.
BoJack follows the quick-witted vein of recent adult animated series such as Bob’s Burgers and Archer, which are redefining the genre by using snappy dialogue and more intelligently developed characters to convey humor. The series characters are multi-dimensional and sympathetic. I never expected to become this emotionally invested in a cartoon horse who can’t seem to stop ruining his own life, yet here I am.
What surprised me the most about the series so far is how beautifully it addressed two extremely relevant social issues: sexual assault claims against male celebrities and abortion.
Male celebrities being accused of (and sometimes openly admitting to) sexual assault and facing zero consequences is nothing new. In the past year alone, we saw Bill Cosby walk free after rape allegations from 50+ different women, as well as a certain toupéed piece of shit be elected president after the “grab them by the pussy” clip went viral. On BoJack Horseman season two, episode seven, it is revealed that beloved talk show host Hank Hippopopolous
(go ahead and try to spell that, I dare you) has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women. Diane speaks out about the issue, and finds herself the target of overwhelming national hatred and death threats. BoJack, Wanda Pierce, and even her own husband, Mr. Peanutbutter, plead with her to be silent because of their professional involvements with Hippopopolous.
The hardest-hitting points were delivered when “Manatee Fair” Editor Amanda Hannity says, “When we know what we know about a monster like that and we still put him on TV every week, we’re teaching a generation of young boys and girls that a man’s reputation is more important than the lives of the women he’s ruined.”
Hannity also adds, “Everyone is gunning for you right now, because you’re a woman who is talking out of turn about a man. We’re not supposed to have opinions. We’re supposed to smile and look pretty.”
It’s a poignant look at the reality of what happens when a woman voices an unpopular opinion on a famous man and our culture of victim-blaming: it’s the accuser that is attacked for her gender, rather than the man for his crimes. It’s satire performed with all the subtlety of a airhorn in a library- and that’s a good thing.
Abortion has certainly begun appearing more on television, such as on Scandal and Jane The Virgin, as the conversation around choice changes. Instead of a guilt-ridden dramatic storyline, it’s appearing exactly as it should be: a personal decision and a quick medical procedure. No one else needs to have an opinion, no one needs to chastise themselves and wring their hands. In season three, episode six of BoJack Horseman, Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter find themselves confronted with an unwanted pregnancy, which they decide to terminate. Unfortunately, Diane accidentally tweets that teen superstar Sextina Aquafina is the one getting an abortion. While initially angry, Sextina decides to exploit the issue and releases a song about abortion. A girl at the clinic tells Diane she enjoys the song because “abortions can be scary, with the protesters out front and how you have to listen to the heartbeat and all that… and when you can joke about it, it makes it less scary, you know?”
The true shining moment, however, came when Diane was sitting with Princess Carolyn after the procedure. Diane begins to stumble into an explanation, but Princess Carolyn stops her and simply says “You don’t need to explain anything to anyone.”
Much like BoJack himself, it’s comical in an dear-god-how-has-it-come-to-this sort of way that a cartoon about an anthropomorphic horse with substance abuse issues is doing a better job at handling women’s issues than any Conservative lawmaker.
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