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BoJack Horseman – A Feminist Perspective

Few shows go as far as BoJack Horseman in the quest to explore the nitty-gritty of mental health. Plus, it’s also correct, right? Mental health is a very sensitive issue and you need to have a nuanced understanding in order to produce any content on it.

However, our dear Horseman makes us embark upon a beautiful journey that gives a dark but deep look into the human (well, animal too) mind. The show serves to tell you the mental health is not fully black or white, it’s a dark grey colour that the human being fails to tackle throughout their life.

There are many many nuances to the show that can’t be covered in one article. However, what we will discuss in this space is a feminist perspective to the show. The entire series handles women in a way that is very rare for a show of our times.

Firstly, the trend with adult animated shows hasn’t really shown them to be very sensitive towards tackling their female characters. In the quest to be edgy, these shows often cross the border into misogynistic and crude.

However, BoJack Horseman avoids these trends as it takes the more difficult route – it portrays women as human beings.

HOW IS BOJACK HORSEMAN A FEMINIST SHOW?

NOT PEDESTALISING OR VILLAINISING WOMEN

There’s a very flawed tendency among popular culture to portray women as extremes. That’s why you’ll either find a very ideal woman or an extremely villainous woman. There’s no in-between there. You can either be a heroine or a witch.

In fact, this has a devastating impact on how women are treated in society. They always have a higher standard of nice to maintain in order to secure their place. A little deviation from the standard would mean their villainisation and dehumanisation.

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BoJack Horseman - A Feminist Perspective
(L-R) Diane Nguyen, Princess Carolyn, and Beatrice Horseman

The good thing about BoJack Horseman is that it expertly avoids this temptation. Women in BoJack Horseman are flawed characters who are as human as everybody else. They have their amazing qualities while they also have their weaknesses.

Diane is a person who has her own independent voice. She likes to take risks with her life and never refrains from raising her voice for her fellow woman. Most of all, she’s a feminist who understands the structures of oppression that alienate women. However, she has her own faults in that she fails to talk about her feelings out loud to the people closest to her. She lets the bad feelings manifest until they burst into a volcano.

Our beloved princess Carolyn is your standard hardworking lady who has paid her dues to be where she is. It is expertly portrayed how she went through abusive bosses and egotistical men to achieve what she wants. However, the poor cat lady suffers from her work-life balance. Perhaps, the fear of not being able to become as good as her potential scares her to the limit. She wants to be everything at once and that always proves to be her devastating antithesis.

A very interesting female is the mother of BoJack Horseman. Beatrice is a person with a troubled childhood. She goes on to become a troubled alcoholic mother.

What I seek to convey is that these women are a product of their circumstances. It has been expertly explained that whatever they’ve become is because of past experiences.

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HANDLING THE #METOO MOVEMENT SENSITIVELY

BoJack is perhaps one of the best representations of the #MeToo movement. It explains the strengths of the movement by showcasing how many women gained their voice. However, it doesn’t drift from the reality when it shows how a popular person like Hank Hippopopalous can disregard experiences of all their victims and how the media and society become their sympathisers.

BoJack Horseman - A Feminist Perspective
Hank Hippopopalous

A pressing concern has been the fact that how quickly society forgives harassers. These people apologise and again find themselves in the mainstream media. That’s where the movement exhausts its energies.

However, the show doesn’t stop there. It has also shown how capitalism has co-opted the movement. Famous magazines run flashy me too stories but forget them as soon as they lose their popular interest among masses.

BOJACK THE PROTAGONIST

Lastly, it is important to explore BoJack Horseman as the protagonist of the show. Of course, BoJack is no feminist icon. In fact, he’s done terrible things to women around him and doesn’t care much about feminism.

However, the underlying fact is that he is never glorified. In fact, he is never the hero and he doesn’t get a happy ending. He makes women around him suffer due to his own mental baggage and he, in turn, suffers deeply due to the consequences of his grievous actions.

BoJack Horseman - A Feminist Perspective

Look more closely and you’ll find that the two major women in BoJack’s life receive better endings than him. Diane settles in another city for a new life. While Princess Carolyn settles down with the man she loves and a beautiful daughter.

That’s where the show handles the nuances of feminism well. It explains the drawbacks of the movement but also tells us why the movement is very necessary for us. Most of all, it refrains from passing any value judgements.

BoJack Horseman can be explained in one sentence – our actions have consequences and we need to deal with the ripples they create in the lives of people. That is the essence of the modern feminist movement. Our beloved show runs on that principle.

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Rhythm Bhatia

Rhythm Bhatia

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