Bojack Horseman and The Never-Ending Cycle of Forgiving Famous Abusers
Ever since the mass exposes of predators within Hollywood, the media landscape has not been the same. Actors, producers, directors and CEO’s have been outed as abusers who for years have attempted to silence the women and men they have harmed but no longer can this go unnoticed. Many including myself predict that media within the next decade or so will touch upon the topic of #metoo and #TimesUp; the movements will be used as storylines to explore harassment, rape and assault. However, for right now we have Bojack Horseman perfectly encapsulating how abuse is allowed to run rampant and how we so readily accept abusers back scandal after scandal.
The shows parallel with Hollywoo and Hollywood was more evident than ever, and it had gone above and beyond to talk about how easy Hollywood forgives abusers. Within the episode titled ‘Bojack The Feminist’, we’re told that Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris) and Flip McVicker (Rami Malek) are looking for a ‘bad boy’ character for Bojack’s new show and so look into hiring an abuser without a second thought of how that would look. The ‘bad boy’ in question is Vance Waggoner (Bobby Cannavale ) who is every, and all abusers within Hollywood rolled into one. A person who has assaulted women, disrespected minority groups and is overall harmful and yet in his 40s is still viewed as someone with a merely a troubled streak. Diane (Allison Brie) is disgusted by the idea of hiring him and to put her at ease PC tells her that Vance is receiving a ‘We Forgive You’ award.
Through this episode, we are shown the constant cycle of Hollywood’s disavowment of abusers and their acceptance of them after they go away for a while. Think Louis C.K. who recently came back into the spotlight at a comedy club after women came forward about him allegedly masturbating in front of them without consent. We can also apply it to Roman Polanski having a revival even though he had raped a 13-year-old girl in 1978, and fleed arrest by heading to Europe. Polanski slowly being accepted back much to the disgust of the general public and has been given a second chance by Quentin Tarantino by casting Polanski in a new movie of his. I can’t say anything new about either case as everything has been said before and even more eloquently but what I can say is that until we break the idea that abusers are owed a comeback after they are brought down, nothing will change.
Bojack Horseman explores the idea of how much we are willing to accept someone back, even to the point of making the protagonist an abuser himself. While we had gotten Bojack (Will Arnett) in compromised positions before, none have been as blatantly abusive as season 5. During the final three episodes of Bojack Horseman, all of the buildups to the mess Bojack had created finally caught up with him. High on his medication from his injuries he’s incredibly out of it, to the point that during an actual taping of his show, ‘Philbert’ he strangles his castmate. When he lets go of her after being pried away, she drops the once a season f-bomb. That moment is when we as a collective audience were shown that Bojack is not just a messed up character that we can sometimes #relate to because of his mental health. He is a deeply flawed individual who has hurt others constantly and that our forgiveness of him even when he does something as harrowing that is what we tend to do for actual abusers in this industry.
When asked about writing Bojack without romanticising him, showrunner and writer Raphael Bob Waksberg states,
“So that’s a responsibility I take very seriously, and we have a lot of conversations in the room like, “what are we saying about BoJack, and how can we be sure that we’re not glamorizing him?” Even though you might feel for him or pity him, you’re aware of the damage that he’s causing. He’s not an aspirational figure. The people in his life that are yelling at him or trying to change him aren’t the bad guys trying to take him down.
We try to position our values without being didactic about it since we want people to form their own opinions. But we also don’t necessarily want to be like, “Diane is the voice of reason at all times! Everything she says is correct and everything BoJack says is wrong and stupid!” I like that those arguments have nuance. That big argument in episode 10, there are moments when it feels like, “whoa, Diane might be a little too harsh here,” or that she’s got stuff of her own that she’s not acknowledging. She can be hypocritical, too. But I do think the overall bent of the show is that I don’t want to be read as [granting] a blanket forgiveness of BoJack and his actions.”
While Bojack Horseman may have started out a comedy about a horse with depression it has grown into so much more than that. Bojack is every man in Hollywood who has messed up immensely and been accepted back with open arms, but if he’s no longer allowed to do so within Hollywoo, maybe it’s time we do so within Hollywood.