Bojack Horseman: 5:04 Bojack the Feminist
“You’re getting a Forgivey? Damn, your publicist is good!” says Princess Carolyn to Vance Waggener, an abusive, anti-semitic, bigoted actor who we are introduced to in the cold open for Bojack the Feminist.
Vance isn’t a stand in for Weinstein, no. Vance is a shoe-in for the many other public figures who’ve been caught saying something racist, have been recorded behaving in a way they shouldn’t or just generally being a terrible human being. Vance is one of the many who comes out publicly and apologises (with Stellan Skarsgård, as Vance also rampantly attacked the Swedes), and is then promptly forgiven.
Cut to five years later and TV’s ‘Philbert’ is in desperate need of a ‘bad boy, someone dangerous, someone you see coming and think, this guy is trouble’. Enter Vance - as suggested by Princess Carolyn. Again, all is forgiven, Vance is back in business. Though all is not simple - as the episode title suggests, Bojack becomes the accidental figurehead of the feminist movement against Vance. At first a misunderstanding, Bojack’s inflated ego leads him to believe that maybe he really his the feminist that the feminism has been waiting for all along.
Bojack’s big ‘feminist’ moment is on chat show The Squawk, where he states ‘it’s not good that [Vance] choked his wife’. This is leapt on by the chat show hosts and the audience who think ‘it’s amazing to hear a man say that’. It all feels eerily familiar. Bojack has done the absolute bare minimum required to be a half decent human being (denounce choking as something one shouldn't do to another) and suddenly he is a feminist hero. The whole scenario is quite deliberately reminiscent of the #heforshe campaign, or the ‘This Is What a Feminist Looks Like’ T-shirt - trends which anyone can jump on to, even if their real attitudes towards women and misogyny don’t align with feminism at all.
The digs fly hard and fast in this episode (“so many amazing stars are being forgiven tonight; Megan Kelly, Mark Wahlberg”). This is hardly surprising because Bojack Horseman’s essence is taking down Hollywood by showcasing Hollywood at it’s very worst. In the current climate, that’s pretty easy. Yet Bojack Horseman doesn’t take cheap shots. Instead, it points out the flaws in this new culture of crucify-then-forgive, and also satirises men within the movement whose own agendas are at the forefront of their minds.
There is an appearance everyone’s favourite Hollywoo publicist, Ana Spanakopita (Angela Bassett), who is doing some incredible damage control with Vance’s reputation. A fiery conversation between herself and Diane leads directly to Ana playing Diance the tape of Bojack talking about his time in New Mexico, ending with his confession of almost sleeping with Charlotte’s 17 year old daughter.
The feminist icon, the man who supposedly stands up for women, is a fraud. Worse than that, Bojack is a bad person - someone who has taken advantage of a young girl and, by his own admission, may have gone further with her.
Objectively speaking, Bojack is exactly the kind of man we are talking about when we discuss the #MeToo movement. He has slept with young girls, taken advantage of co-workers and generally behaved like an entitled little boy who always gets what he wants to the detriment of everyone around him. Yet, because we know Bojack, we’ve come to see his insecurities and his reasoning (however skewed) behind what he does. Like Princess Carolyn, and Diane to an extent, we are enablers of Bojack’s behaviour - and that comes as a bit of a shock. The show wants us to be shocked though. We’ve spent so long legitimising Bojack’s behaviour because we know him, that it’s difficult to see just how much hurt and pain he has caused others.
Speaking of Diane - she spends most of the episode being the brain behind Bojack’s new-found feminist mouthpiece and arguing that, quite rightly, she knows how writing an article on Vance will end. “Our core readership eats it up, a bunch of dude bros call me a dumb slunt, and Vance’s career chugs right along”. If that isn’t an accurate description of the twittersphere, I don’t know what is. In the end though, Diane finally gets thrown a bone and is offered a job writing on ‘Philbert’ - Bojack’s idea.
Bojack the Feminist is an episode written purposefully written to hold a mirror up to what is happening in the entertainment industry (and across other industries) since Weinstein back in December 2017. It succeeds not by bouncing off old and tired stereotypes, but by shining a light on how we can all do better. Perhaps it’s by not enabling others, perhaps it’s by giving the right people the platform to speak out. Either way, it’s clear that this won’t be the last we hear about that tape.