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Bojack Horseman: A Feminist Perspective

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Ash has a bachelor's in English Lit. She loves analyzing fiction and obsessing over books, film, and television.

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Yes, that's right. I'm a -- gasp! -- feminist!

There are different factions of feminists. Radical feminists believe in the radical notion that women are people deserving of the same rights and privileges as men.

With that aside, I'll admit that I avoided watching Bojack for years.I decided a few years back to stop watching adult cartoons that were edgy, offensive, regularly punched down on protected groups or justified hatred of some kind. This meant that I had to cut out a lot of adult cartoons, which eventually led to me not watching them altogether. Got to keep my ass in good vibes.

Also, a lot of people who watch Bojack Horseman also watch other shows that are offensive and try too hard to be edgy, and I mistakenly assumed for years that "Bojack" was just another one of these shows. What changed my mind was a clip I saw on Instagram. It was hilarious.

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So I binge watched the first three seasons of "Bojack," and I loved it. It was immediately obvious to me that I was looking at a parody of Bob Saget and Fullhouse (regardless of the creator's protests to the contrary).

Bojack isn't like the other male protagonists on most of today's adult cartoons. He's a jerk, but not on a shock-value, over the top level. Bojack isn't constantly spitting out racist, sexist things and then shrugging before sloppily drinking from his flask.

Bojack is flawed, bumbles into insulting people, pushes people away when they get too close, and continuously screws up his own life because he doesn't have a clue how to love himself.

But he also maintains some basic level of humanity that makes you pity him rather than hate him. For instance, his terrible guilt when he got Kelsey Jennings fired.

In short, Bojack is utterly relatable. Looking at him, I recognize my own struggles in life -- from my career, to my love life, to my abusive parents, I have struggled to be successful in much the same way. It is only now, in the later years of my young adult life, that I am learning to love myself.

I can totally relate to everything about Bojack. And that's why I love him.

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I immediately related to Diane as well when she appeared on the show. Much like me, she's a middle-aged writer struggling to make something of her career; she doesn't want kids; she's a huge nerd; and she is -- oh no!!! -- a feminist.

Diane was written very well as a character. She is fully three-dimensional and utterly human. In other words, she is a Strong Female Character. Anyone who's familiar with my articles on here knows how important this is to me, seeing fully human, fully realized female characters on screen -- mostly because I didn't have much of that growing up.

Diane is pretty much the female version of Bojack (except she's still not on Bojack's level of asshole), which is why I love her and relate to her so much. It's also why Bojack loves her and relates to her.

Ironically enough, she is hated by the male fanbase even while Bojack is loved. Those pesky double standards!

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Another favorite character of mine is Mr. Peanutbutter.

He is so awesome.

He's nice, outgoing, kind, considerate, fun, caring, he loves himself, he loves everyone else, everyone loves him, and he's really in shape. He's everything Bojack wants to be -- hell, he's everything I want to be!

He's such a good husband. It's really sweet how much he loves and cares for Diane. Their arguments are hilarious to watch and their make up scenes are heartwarming. Heartwarming.

It's been a long time since I've seen an adult cartoon that was actually heartwarming and hilarious. Not since those first five golden years of The Simpsons!

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There are also so many Strong Female Characters on this show! From Princess Carolyn to Kelsey Jennings to Diane, from Wanda Pierce to Bojack's mother to Charlotte Moore to Sarah Lynn.

So many Strong Female Characters. I was astonished and pleased and so gleefully happy.

Keep in mind that when I say "Strong Female Character," I mean women who are written well. Fully three dimensional female characters depicted as flawed, relatable human beings. This is why I mentioned both Sara Lynn and Princess Carolyn.

"Strong Female Character" doesn't necessarily mean the character has to be perfect and flawless. It means she has to be written well.

All the characters I mentioned have back stories, side stories, personalities, something to contribute to the overarching plot. They aren't just pretty decorations, sex objects, and plot devices that exist solely to serve the male characters or titillate the male audience.

And it's so ******* refreshing.

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My favorite episode so far is probably the one with the seahorse baby.

It continuously had me laughing, and on top of that, the animation was beautiful. The entire episode felt like an undersea fantasy adventure.

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I'm not fully caught up, so I might come back really pissed with a different opinion, but so far? I am loving this show. Plus, the end credit theme song is rad.

Back in the 90's
I was on a very famous tv show.
I'm Bojack the Horseman
(Bojack!)
Bojack the Horseman --
don't act like you don't know!
And I'm trying to hold on to my past
It's been so long
I don't think I'm gonna last
I guess I'll just try
and make you understand
that I'm more horse than a man
or I'm more man than a horse
(BoJack!)

Update: The only thing I hate is how season three is leaning more toward crass edginess. Almost like the writers feel pressured to compete with more offensive, racist, sexist adult cartoons. Bojack almost sleeping with a teenage girl was the beginning of this.

Then there was an unfortunate joke downplaying how women have to deal with sexual harassment every day (had to do with uber drivers being pricks). It was one of those moments where I thought, "Obviously written by a man who never has to deal with this shit."

Then there was that period joke in season four . . . ugh.

These few instances kind of threw me for a loop on a show that had otherwise been on point in regards to not making shitty offensive statements through its characters. Sadly, if the show continues in this vein, I will just stop watching it like the other shows before it and peacefully go on with my life.

I've already got one foot out the door, and the racist, sexist, homophobic fans who gobble this kind of crude crap up can have their precious cartoons.

No skin off my nose.

Update 2: My review of Season 4.

Final Update

Todd and Mr. Peanutbutter's uber service.

Todd and Mr. Peanutbutter's uber service.

I told you I would come back mad.

Found myself looking at season three again, and Todd and Mr. Peanutbutter's uber service with women drivers still isn't a funny joke to me. It feels very much like the writers wanted to mock women for feeling uncomfortable and even unsafe when men aggressively continue to hit on us after we have expressed disinterest. Yes, how dare we not shut up and enjoy constant, unwanted sexual attention.

Funnily enough, I had an incident with a taxi driver about one year after writing this article. So why not share my experience here?

2020 was a pretty bad year for me transportation-wise. I wound up in a new city with no car and had to take a taxi home from work after working late nights during the coronavirus pandemic (I am now working from home, thank God).

My driver was a guy who liked me, so every time I called the taxi service for a ride, he purposely took my call and came to pick me up. I found him really annoying and completely oblivious to the fact that I had zero interest in chatting with him and had zero interest in dating him.

Every night after work, I dreaded walking outside and finding that he was my driver. Sometimes someone else took my call before be could, but he would purposely try to beat them to it. So I would have to endure an awkward fifteen minute drive (thank God it wasn't longer) where he flirted and tried to make conversation while I stonily looked out the window and said nothing.

How could he be so stupid as to not see that I had zero interest and wanted to just be left the eff alone? I don't think he was actually dangerous or a creep. He was just . . . emotionally/socially inept. So he didn't make the connection that what he was doing was actually harassment. Repeatedly picking me up, trying to force unwanted interactions . . . harassment. I made it clear I wanted to be left alone. It's not my fault he was too dumb (or more likely willfully ignorant) to pick up basic social cues.

And because I'm not a mind reader, there was no way to know what would happen if I shut him down, asked him to stop, or lost my temper and completely went off on him. This is the scenario: I'm locked in a car with a man who wants to f*ck me, is bigger and stronger than me, and keeps picking me up and driving to my apartment building. He completely ignores my boundaries by driving close to the building so he can see where I live when I get out, even though I have told him repeatedly to stop at the corner . . . His behavior is not only disrespectful, it is creepy and alarming.

The thing is, most men don't understand the daily danger women have to deal with. So they don't understand how their behavior is creepy or stalkerish. So they don't even consider how their behavior effects us. They just see an attractive woman and for whatever reason can't read social cues and wind up pushing her boundaries.

I gave this guy three chances to back off (really, it should have been one). Then I sent an email to his manager and reported him for ignoring my driving instructions (drop me off at the curb, not near my apartment), and trying to force me into unwanted flirting when I had said many times before that I didn't want to talk to him.

I don't think he was purposely being a jerk. He was just an oblivious moron who wouldn't back off. His manager apologized, said they would retrain him in driver etiquette, and blocked him from my number so he couldn't keep answering my calls.

The entire experience was aggravating, but I consider myself lucky my driver wasn't an actual psycho. Some women have far more horrifying stories, where their driver psychically hit them or berated them . . . or drove them off to the forest to rape and murder them. I got lucky in that my taxi stalker was just a harmless, lonely idiot who was desperate to think I liked him when I was really just being coldly polite.

It's not an exaggeration that this sh*t is daily. It's true that women have to deal with unwanted sexual attention on a daily basis, and there's nothing f*cking funny about it. This began for me when I was nine years old because that's when I began puberty.

At nine years old I had pervy men who were ten times bigger and stronger than me trying to f*ck me while not taking no for an answer. I'm thirty-four now. And it hasn't stopped. It just goes on and on. Got to a point where I had to take a week off from work because I just couldn't get on the bus again and be sexually harassed some more.

One day this guy at the bus stop called me a b*tch because i was listening to headphones and I just went off on him. He was so shocked he . . . apologized. Don't think he realized that women have ten of him bothering us daily. All he could think about was his precious feelings and how they were hurt because I was tired after work and wanted to be left alone.

If I had been a grim man with headphones, he would have respected my desire to be left alone. But I was a small, attractive woman, so he wanted to f*ck me and felt entitled to my attention.

Some people noticed he was bothering me and came to stand behind me. This is the real reason I think he apologized. We were originally alone together when he started harassing me, and after I went off, that drew people. Not sure what would have happened if other people hadn't come over. Maybe he would have hit me or kept calling me slurs. I was really stressed out, sick of harassment, and didn't care.

After this incident, I realized that I was on the verge of an emotional breakdown and that I needed a break from the bus. I needed a break from men.

What does it do to women mentally over a period of decades to be disrespected, threatened, and terrorized on a daily basis? Why is sexual harassment not taken more seriously? Why is it considered normal for men to sexually terrorize little girls, teenagers, and women? Why is it okay to laugh at women and dismiss our experiences? Why won't men admit that they have made the world a terrible place for women?

All rhetorical questions. I know why: we live on a sexist planet.

And it sucks. All I want is for men to leave me the f*ck alone in public spaces. But they won't. I'm not a person going through my day. I'm an opportunity to get laid. I'm a lesbian, but even if I were straight, I doubt I would enjoy the constant barrage of unwanted attention while standing at the bus stop, waiting in the bank line, shopping for carrots . . . leave me the f*ck alone. Your d*ck is not more important than other people's right to move through public spaces without fear and aggravation.

I wish that instead ridiculing us and belittling our experiences, men would listen to us and take steps to better themselves as individuals. If every man on the planet took steps to treat women like people, the world would be a better place for us.

And for the "Not all men!" crowd, if the good men would actually listen to us and call their friends out on their shitty behavior (instead of taking every comment about male aggression personally) . . . that would help, too. Those people standing behind me with smartphones as I went off on the guy harassing me were allies.

I wish more people would step up like that when women are being harassed.

"Your silence won't protect you."

© 2018 Ash