Lee has a bachelor's in English Lit. She loves analyzing fiction and obsessing over books, film, and television.
As you might know from my earlier review of the first three seasons, I'm only just now (as of December 2018) getting to Season 4 of the adult cartoon Bojack Horseman. I binge-watched it recently and . . . I loved it.
Season 4 was amazing in that it really developed each character, told engaging stories, and reigned in the sexist jokes. There were only two unfortunate jokes that I remember but two too many. I hope mocking women's periods doesn't become a regular thing on this show. As someone who's spent twenty years dealing with this, the symptoms are painfully debilitating, and the shitty jokes about mood swings are stereotypes that belittle our suffering.
But I digress. Let me gush about how much I loved this season.
Tragic Princess Carolyn
Let me start with Princess Carolyn.
I loved the fact that she didn't mope around after Bojack dumped her. Instead, she moved on and tried to be happy with her boyfriend. She's such a great character that I always find myself rooting for her to finally be happy in her life.
It was hilarious when she went home with Ralph, her mouse boyfriend, whose family turned out to be racist against cats. She had to sit there in polite silence while they said horrible things about her entire "race," and for the sake of her relationship with Ralph, she could not defend herself.
Anyone who has interracially dated might relate to this.
It was really sweet when they were leaving and Ralph stood up to his family for Princess Carolyn,saying that they were going to have a baby and that he didn't care what they thought.
Then it was really sad when Princess Carolyn and Ralph broke up after she had a miscarriage and became depressed.
Honestly, Princess Carolyn's entire story arc was a roller coaster of emotions for me, but thankfully, it never got so dark that it depressed me. It was honestly pretty great. And once again, I am so grateful and happy to have so many wonderful female characters prevalent on the show and so well written. By the end of her story arc, I really felt for her. That's the essence of good writing.
I think Todd's entire "asexual" arc -- including the clown dentist weirdness -- was dumb.
There. I said it.
I'm also really starting to grow weary of Diane's entire arc. Mostly because it's just another version of Bojack's same exact arc.
She is so, so unhappy no matter what. Much like Bojack, Diane is unhappy because she doesn't love herself. Her family abused her, made her feel less than, and now as an adult, she can't form emotionally healthy relationships because she has no sense of self-worth.
Mr. Peanutbutter -- while he pulls the occasional crazy antics -- is a wonderful husband who loves and cares for Diane. And aside from having a rich, handsome, devoted husband who is terrified of losing her, Diane has a steady paycheck writing for a blog, a nice home in LA, and friends who give a crap about her . . .but it's still not enough.
Watching Diane destroy her life was painful. I screamed when she divorced Mr. Peanutbutter (though I kinda of don't blame her. Mr. Peanutbutter's level of immaturity would make anyone leave).
One thing I really love about this show is how it doesn't go back to square one at the end of every episode. Instead, the story continues to carry over -- even to the point that everyone now calls Hollywood "Hollywoo" after Bojack stole the "D."
Hollyhock is an arc that carries over. She is a cute teenage horse girl who arrives in LA with the announcement that she might be Bojack's daughter. She doesn't want anything from him, though, except help finding her mother.
Bojack agrees to help Hollyhock, at the same time welcoming his senile, mentally disturbed mother into his home.
There is one episode called "You Piece of Sh*t" (or something) that really develops Bojack as a character. Bojack spends the entire episode insulting himself, and while it's supposed to be funny, it's actually pretty painful and sad to watch.
Just like Diane, Bojack is the typical result of lifelong emotional abuse. He was treated like garbage as a child, and because children don't question things, he believed it when his parents put him down.
The "voices" that developed in his head are a result of the psychological damage his mother and father's emotional abuse inflicted.
People like to act like emotional abuse doesn't matter, but it has lifelong repercussions. In Bojack's case, it destroyed his entire life. He's such a broken, emotionally crippled man, I wouldn't be surprised if the show ended with him dying of an overdose.
What's even more heartbreaking is that Hollyhock reveals toward the end of the episode that she has the same voices in her head, telling her she's crap and ugly and stupid. She asks Bojack if they ever go away, and -- rather than admit he has the same voices -- he tells Hollyhock that the voices eventually go, likely with the hope that it will help her to believe it.
Beatrice was Not a Monster
So this section is an update.
The video above is a defense slash explanation of Beatrice as a character. I first noticed it years ago, but I never looked at it because I figured it would just make me angry. I'm a survivor of childhood emotional abuse, so I hate to see a child abuser "defended" in any way.
But after finally looking at the video, I realized that I agreed with everything that was said in it. I also realized that I was looking at Beatrice through the filter of my own abuse.
My mother was a sociopathic narcissist. This means that she hurt me for her own pleasure and to feel good about herself. This was pure evil. I could go into detail, but just looking up what lifelong damage malignant narcissistic abuse does to children should give you some idea.
Meanwhile, Beatrice was never evil at all. She never meant to hurt Bojack but couldn't help herself because she was broken. Deep down, she loved him but wasn't capable of expressing it due to the tragic circumstances of her upbringing (being taught that love was a weakness, etc).
There was even that scene in the earlier seasons (which I had completely forgotten about) where Beatrice calls Bojack on the phone and apologizes for all the abuse. I mean, sincerely apologizes. No ulterior motive, no manipulation. Just a sincere apology.
This is not something a narcissist would do. And yet, in the original version of this article, I insisted Beatrice was a narcissist (like my mother) because my own trauma was preventing me from seeing the truth of the situation . . . much like Bojack.
Beatrice's Past Revisited
We know from past seasons that both Bojack's parents were pretty horrible to him. They were constantly insulting him and dismissing him, and if they weren't insulting him and dismissing him, they were fighting with each other.
As a result, Bojack never learned what love was, how to love himself, or how to love others, and has a bitter hatred toward his mother.
Beatrice is now a feeble, senile old woman who thinks her dolly is a real baby. A bitter Bojack snatches the doll and throws it over the balcony, and it's pretty sad how Beatrice cries, now tormented by the son she used to torment.
But why did she torment him?
As each episode unfolds, we are given horrible tidbits about Beatrice's life.
When she was a child, her older brother died while serving in the war. This drove her mother into such a deep grief that she had a public breakdown.
Beatrice's sexist, P.O.S. father forced her mother to get a lobotomy that turned her into a walking doll. He literally objectified his wife in a very real sense. All because he didn't feel like dealing with her "irrational" "womanly" emotions.
With the death of her brother and the loss of her mother, Beatrice lost two stabilizing relationships and was left alone with her emotionally abusive father.
At school, Beatrice was bullied and had no friends, which -- between her asshole father and her vegetable mother -- only served to isolate her further.
She came down with an illness that nearly killed her -- very traumatic for a child -- and to contain the virus, her father burned all her toys and possessions, a nightmare she was reliving when Bojack threw her doll over the balcony.
Later when she was grown, her father tried to sell her like chattel to a man she didn't care for (picture above). She ran away with Bojack's father in retaliation and got pregnant.
Bojack's father wanted Beatrice to get an abortion. She decided to keep the baby, and thus the two of them wound up in marital hell. It would have been better for everyone involved had Beatrice just put Bojack up for adoption -- a fact which Beatrice comes to realize much later in life, when she cautions the mother of Hollyhock to do the same.
In the end, Beatrice had a horrible life and never recovered from it, which made her unfit to be a parent.
By the end of this season, I felt nothing but immense pity and sorrow for her. She was really well written and a character I feel compassion for.
But there is no excuse for the way she treated Bojack. The same way Bojack really has no excuse for his own behavior. We are all responsible for dealing with our own demons and for becoming better people in spite of circumstance.
But Beatrice's life was so crappy, it's very touching when Bojack finally stops being angry and decides to comfort his broken mother. It was probably the first time in decades that someone was kind to her. And the fact that Bojack did that for his mother -- put his own bullshit aside to care for her -- shows his own personal growth.
This goes back to what I said about the story arcs for this show carrying over. Once Bojack starts to release his anger against his mother and feelings of worthlessness, he gradually becomes a happier, better person, as seen later in Season 5.
This show could potentially help people with low self-esteem learn how to recover from emotional abuse if Bojack ever picked himself up and learned to love himself. I honestly think that would be pretty awesome, as unlikely as it is.
All in all? Season 4 was pretty great, and I can't wait to binge-watch Season 5.
© 2018 Lee