Bojack Horseman: 5:12 The Stopped Show
The Bojack Horseman issue has always been this: Bojack is a very messed up person who needs to stay messed up and relatable for audiences to identify with, whilst also needing to seek help and grow in order for his character development to be believable. So far, Bojack Horseman has consistently toyed with the idea of Bojack beginning to become accountable and ask for help - his friendship with Diane was the first massive turning point in identifying that he even has a problem. Yet, he has always bounced back from the precipice of real change and therefore stayed in the limbo land that audiences expect. If Bojack seeks help and gets ‘better’, then the character development will be rewarding. On the other hand, if Bojack does get ‘better’, then, on some level, the very core of what makes Bojack Horseman such an interesting show will be lost.
Better, being a loose and extremely subjective term of course. What is better to Bojack could mean a myriad of things - including getting therapy, dealing with his addiction or learning to be at peace with himself and his past.
So, here we are at the end of season five, where this conundrum appears to have reared its head. Following on from his meltdown at the end of The Showstopper, Bojack completely blacked out post choking Gina on the set of ‘Philbert’. He doesn’t remember what happened and has to be told of his actions by Princess Carolyn, who has arranged a press junket for Gina and Bojack to clear up what happened between them. Though clearly distressed by the assault, Gina is keen to put the whole thing behind them in fear of this taking over her new-found recognition as an actress.
It’s a sad story, but one that rings true of so many women who’ve spoken out within the #MetToo movement. Gina, quite rightly, doesn’t want to be known as the woman who ‘got choked’. She wants to be known for her acting ability. Why should her career have to suffer because of yet another violent man?
Meanwhile, Diane and Mr Peanutbutter are dealing with the emotional fallout from sleeping together after the premiere of ‘Philbert’. Mr Peanutbutter refuses to acknowledge that their tryst is really a problem. Instead of coming clean to Pickles, Mr Peanutbutter ends up proposing to her - solidifying his utter inability to own up to his actions (sound like someone else?). Diane, on the other hand, seems to be moving on. Despite her hideous apartment, being alone is working for her and there’s real hope that this might be turning point for her character. If the two of them can stop sleeping together, that is.
Princess Carolyn, whilst also trying to keep a lid on what happened on the ‘Philbert’ set, finally gets what she’s wanted all along - a baby. Though she’s convinced this is really what she wants, Princess Carolyn also believes that having a baby will make her life less complicated - which is clearly the farthest thing from the truth. Unfortunately, Princess Carolyn has ended things with Ralph for good and there simply is no-one else to talk her down from this decision that she may end up regretting. Motherhood is a complicated issue and it’s a role which so many women feel they must perform. Is motherhood just another project for Princess Carolyn to embark on to distract herself from her loneliness? I guess we will find out...
The Stopped Show ends with Bojack actually checking into a rehabilitation facility, with the help of Diane. At this point, Diane is probably the only person still willing to help Bojack but it’s certainly implied that she won’t continue to do so unless he gets himself together. Checking into rehab seems as much a gesture for Diane as it does for Bojack’s health.
Season five has been a hard look into the idea of accountability and realising the flaws in those closest to us. Bojack, who has never exactly been an example of shining morality, has been portrayed in a vastly different light to seasons past. Even Mr Peanutbutter doesn’t get away unscathed - why is it that he continually dates women significantly younger than him? Why can't he be honest Pickles?
It’s true that all of the male characters are put under a microscope this season, but the seeds of their character flaws have been sewn from season one. None of this information is new, but it’s only in season five that we asked to question why it is that we (the audience) routinely excuse Bojack’s behaviour time and time again. It’s easy to slot Bojack Horseman in with the multitude of other TV programmes that are responding the #MeToo movement. Yet, Bojack is doing something slightly different in that it’s taking a long hard look at the men behind these crimes, men we know and make excuses for, and questioning the systems that allow these acts of violence to take place.
It may not have the standout episodes of seasons past, but season five was a fantastic commentary on the state of power in the creative industries, and a fresh look on Bojack himself.