Hailing from the famously offbeat Netflix, BoJack Horseman is the adult cartoon that bites back. From nihilist existentialism to abortion, BoJack Horseman doesn’t pull any punches, especially when it comes to feminism.
Feminism can sometimes be a bit of a dirty word these days, but BoJack is fearless, approaching feminism by using different characters to embody different archetypes: Diane is an ardent, verging on traditional, feminist, while Sarah Lynn is a Miley Cyrus-type celebrity. This allows the show to intelligently and purposefully contribute to the feminist debate. With the addition of the fourth season, BoJack doesn’t seem to be letting up on its feminist roots, instead choosing to tackle miscarriage.
To celebrate its return, we’re going to take a look at a few of the times BoJack stuck it to the patriarchy and explored some of the issues women face in the modern world, political correctness be damned.
Sextina Aquafina Babyyyyyy
In Season 3 episode 6, the 14-year-old dolphin dubstep superstar Sextina Aquafina accidentally Tweets about having an abortion. This Tweet sparks an overwhelmingly positive reaction, with Aquafina’s fans praising her bravery. Inspired and intrigued by this, Aquafina releases the absolute banger “Get Dat Fetus, Kill Dat Fetus” — despite the fact that she did not, actually, have an abortion at all.
Sextina’s pro-abortion stance is refreshing, so people are attracted to it. In a country where women are often forced to listen to their foetus’ heartbeat before a termination, an open declaration about getting an abortion is completely out of the ordinary. The song is undoubtedly beyond crass and plenty of people were outraged, including Diane.
Diane, who is actually having an abortion, speaks to a young woman in the clinic waiting room when she is unable to see the appeal of the brazen banger. The young woman, who enjoyed the song, tells her that getting an abortion is scary: “and when you can joke about it, it makes it less scary, you know?”
Later on in the episode, Princess Caroline laments not being in a loving relationship or a position to think about having children, and Diane talks about the guilt of aborting her puppies when she is in a loving marriage and able to provide for them. Diane begins to explain her decisions and Princess Caroline says: “Diane you don’t need to explain anything. To anyone.” With this simple, and touching exchange, BoJack successfully attacks the notion that women have a responsibility to have children if they can. In just one episode, BoJack manages to address more issues surrounding pregnancy, abortion, and motherhood than almost any other show on air.
“I’m Uncle Hanky, you can’t beat Uncle Hanky. That’s just the way it is.”
In the seventh episode of the second season BoJack tackles the monster of misogyny in the entertainment industry — taking aim particularly at the way that some male celebrities can be hounded by accusations of physical or sexual assualt on women and walk away unscathed.
Hank Hippopopalous, talk show host, has been racked by allegations from past female assistants, all of whom have been paid off and since kept quiet. That’s until Diane Nguyen brings it up again on BoJack’s book tour. Despite the fact that Diana spouted off a list of many celebrities (including real-life ones) who have been accused of abusing women, the crowd focus on her criticism of the beloved Uncle Hanky — and a media storm ensues.
Diane ends up at the magazine Manatee Fair, who want to do an exposé on Hippopopalous. Unfortunately this falls through because the magazine and Hippopopalous’ show are owned by the same conglomerate. This company leans on the magazine to drop the exposé, showing just how easy it can be for important men to cover things up.
The episode wraps up perfectly. Diane is sat on a bench in an airport, and a random man sat near her looks over to her and says: “hey… smile”
If this doesn’t make you internally sigh then I’m not sure what will.
BoJack is slamming shitty sexism all over this episode: news anchors asking women to not get hysterical, male superstars too big too fall, websites called “Titpuncher”, and strangers asking you to smile. Mostly it tackles the protection that some men have from their actions. This episode obviously feels like a call out to the accusations against Bill Cosby, but there are so many people, in the entertainment industry or not, who manage to shrug stuff like this off.
A Safe Space For Women, Now For Men Too!
“Has your creepy driver ever tried to give you his number or told you that you reminded him of his dead girlfriend? Or repeated your address slowly like he was trying to memorize it?”
BoJack now takes aim at the tech industry, as well as the tendency for women to get harassed whilst doing banal every day things like taking cabs. Todd’s answer to creeping cab drivers is to have female drivers only for his female customers, training these new drivers on how to be respectful and not harass people. “Cabracadabra” is a huge success, because who knew there was such a demand for a safe space for women?
But then Todd and Mr Peanutbutter take it a step further and open up their safe space for women to men: “that’s an untapped market!” They then head to a gentlemen’s club to find new drivers that are comfortable working with the new male clientele — who are, naturally, invited to harass their female drivers at every turn.
Todd and Mr Peanutbutter manage to turn Cabracadabra from a “safe space for women” to strippers that are cab drivers. This is pure unadulterated genius. By creating a safe space for women, then destroying this by adding men in a way that facillitates the very problem a female safe space would avoid, BoJack manages to poke fun at the ability of men to understand women’s safety without completely condemning the characters.
BoJack Horseman uses humor and on-point social commentary to explore feminism as it stands today. It manages to tackle issues that serious dramas rarely touch, not because it has the veil of humor, but because it has the balls — or maybe even the ovaries — to actually approach things head on. Feminist in-fighting, sexism in the media, abortion, miscarriage and more: nothing is off limits for this audacious show.