Breaking Down Bojack: White Men Run the World
How ‘Bojack Horseman’ highlighted women’s rights issues.
Warning, spoilers for Bojack Horseman are present in this article series. If you have not finished Season Three, please consider saving this link and revisiting the article afterwards.
Breaking Down Bojack is an original article series from Project-Nerd. The article series will feature a new article periodically diving deep into the depths of what the Netflix comedy series, Bojack Horesman, is all about.
In the sixth episode of Season Three of Bojack Horseman, Diane, distracted, inadvertently tweets that she is going to have an abortion from the pop-singing sensation Sextina Aquafina’s Twitter account. Diane’s job is quickly in jeopardy as the tweet receives a considerable amount of pushback and questions. But Sextina, not at all angry with Diane, decides she is going to destigmatize abortion and releases her brand-new single, “Get That Fetus/Kill That Fetus.”
After Sextina’s single releases, it too is met with plenty of flack because of lyrics like “I’m a baby killer/baby killing makes me horny/Aliens inside me/Gonna squash it like Sigourney.” While Diane, a very clear feminist and activist, sees this as an opportunity to actually do what Sextina says she wants to do, destigmatize abortion, Sextina is really just trying to sell records with shock factor. She recklessly tears through interview after interview and handles the topic in a stereotypically insensitive way.
But it’s when MSNBSea’s Tom Jumbo-Grumbo takes to the topic by challenging Sextina with a “diverse panel of white men in bow ties” that the plot thickens. The men state, “I’m a man, but if I got pregnant, would I put my life on hold for a child I didn’t want? Yes I would. I can say that with confidence because I will never have to make that decision, so I am unbiased.”
Spending most of its time posing as a shallow comedy, Bojack Horseman actually digs deeply into many issues. It usually focuses on mental health and the everyday dealings with that, as I covered in my previous Breaking Down Bojack article. Despite its comedic facade, it also pulls no punches when it comes to Hollywoo or even the many social issues the series covers. Topics other satirical comedies typically stray from.
The reason this episode works so well, is that the it rolls on as if Sextina’s treatment in the media is normal, and to be honest, this is our current norm. Over the past few months we’ve had a “diverse panel of white men” in ties, all with the same political and social views, all claiming to be men of faith, making decisions for women. Decisions that include forcing young girls to carry their pregnancies full term even when raped.
The show isn’t just taking on the topic to poke at the it though. What’s important to understand here is that Sextina’s publicist, Diane, is really planning on having an abortion. Amidst the great public fiasco that Sextina creates, the show also takes a very real look at Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter’s situation. This isn’t the Hollywoo movie moment where she hesitates walking in, or one of them wants the kid and the other doesn’t. Her mind is made up the entire time, and Mr. Peanutbutter never raises a complaint. Diane, and the show itself, treat abortion as a reasonable adult decision rather than a political or social issue. Neither of them are ready to be a parent. Diane makes her choice, Mr. Peanutbutter supports her, and there’s nothing to debate.
We are privy to the steps Diane has to take to complete the abortion. Her doctor at Planned Parrothood walks her through the necessary steps, including being required to watch videos of cute puppies (Mr. Peanutbutter is a dog) and asking a very daunting series of questions. This truth disguised as humor is presented to the viewer on one hand. Meanwhile, the show does what it so masterfully does with its other hand, reminding you of somebody you know could be in Diane’s shoes at this very moment. The reality is that in this moment in history, a handful of states have removed your friend’s right to make the decision.
Once again, the diverse group of white men have interjected.
The abortion storyline in this episode is just one of many plot points. It’s award season and Bojack is up against great talent trying to win the Best Actor award for his mostly CGI role in Secretariat. But none of that seems to be important because, as funny as those other scenes are, the matter at hand is that the debate over abortion continues to be driven by the same people and treated as a huge political and social issue rather than Diane’s decision.
This is more important than you realize. As Bojack Horseman is making a spectacle out of the debate of abortion, not abortion itself, it’s also doing what the show does well by putting us through the reality of it all. The episode’s ability to hold onto the Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter piece and not losing itself in Sextina’s comedic anctics helps remind the audience that this isn’t just a series of humanoid animal beings but once again a series of people we know in our own life. And as that piece is brought into our homes reminding us of that, we take a second from laughing at the spectacle and start remembering this isn’t fiction and this topic is just as real as the other major issues Bojack Horseman so masterfully covers season to season.
And similar to when the show covers mental health, sexual harassment, deep family issues, relationships, and the terrible hypocrisy of Hollywoo, Bojack Horseman handles this topic so well by painting a picture we should see as far fetched and then reminding us that it isn’t far fetched at all.
That this is reality.
Is this a matter of real life reflecting art or is it just that once again creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg as well as episode writer Joanna Calo ingeniously pulling in reality and cutting straight to the social wound without any apologies?
That question might be better reserved for later. But the real question is “Can any of the other questions the episode raises be pushed off any longer?”