How "BoJack Horseman" Talks About Touchy Subjects Well

BoJack Horseman is an adult animated comedy that may seem chaotic and inappropriate at the surface, but it addresses many societal issues in a cohesive and sensitive manner. While these are just a few of the touchy subjects this show presents, we urge to watch it to get an even better understanding as to how BoJack Horseman brings these issues to light.

Sexual Abuse (Season 2 Episode 3)

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Sarah-Lynn’s stepfather is a brown bear who was a photographer and home-schooled her. When she licked bear fur, she was able to identify it, implying that her stepfather sexually abused her as a child. Throughout the seasons, it is more strongly implied her stepfather raped and abused her. Even though this is talked about very little in the show, the fact that it is even implied shows how important it is for the topic of sexual abuse within the family to be brought to light.

 

Family Trauma (Season 2 Episode 1)

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BoJack Horseman’s parents both emotionally abused and neglected him. BoJack hated his parents, more so his mother. She did not care about him and verbally abused him all his life. This treatment from his parents was traumatic and this trauma has followed him throughout his life. BoJack Horseman shows how emotional abuse through parents and guardians had negative effects on your life forever.

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Beatrice Horseman’s mother got a lobotomy after the passing of Beatrice’s brother. This trauma from her family paved a terrible path for Beatrice Horseman. She became depressed, abusing cigarettes and alcohol while she was raising BoJack, and despite her dementia as an elderly woman, this traumatic lobotomy episode stayed in her memory. Again, domestic abuse and family trauma are prevalent in this show and BoJack Horseman does an excellent job at addressing this issue.

 

Substance Abuse (Basically every episode)

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While there were many other characters who suffered from substance abuse, BoJack is the most important and prominent. He has dealt with alcoholism almost his entire life. It is not until the most recent season in which he actively seeks help in rehab. He knows his substance abuse has negatively affected virtually everyone in his life. This show has beautifully shown BoJack’s struggle with alcohol and the choices he had made because of his addiction.

 

Depression (Season 4 Episode 2)

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Tying into family trauma, Honey Sugarman, Beatrice Horseman’s mother, fell into a deep depression after her son died. Instead of helping her and being there for her, her husband took away her mind with a lobotomy. We see Honey with a scar on her forehead and leaves her with nothing else but her shell of a body. This trauma led to Beatrice being depressed her whole life as well.

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Along with BoJack, the character Diane Nguyen also goes through depression and mental illness. She struggles immensely with being happy and does not allow herself to be happy anyway. She doesn’t think she deserves it and had a hard time coming to terms with her depression, denying it almost every time it’s brought up. This show depicts Diane as both an empathetic and problematic character, but it also shows how common depression is and how it can affect someone’s day-to-day life.

 

Labor Rights (Season 6 Episode 6)

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This episode focuses on the assistant strike. The assistants of Hollywoo (not Hollywood) are on strike because they are treated like garbage by their superiors. They are forced to do everything under the sun and are sick of it. When the assistants unionize and go on strike, the city screeches to a halt. Princess Carolyn and Lenny Turteltaub come together to create an agreement with Casey McGarry, the leader of the assistant strike. In reality, they are just giving the assistants a better sounding title with the same terrible treatment. When they are negotiating with the assistants, Princess Carolyn realizes how unethical they are being and scratches up the plan, replacing with it the benefits their employees had been asking for the whole time: not to be treated like garbage. This episode shows how hard people fight for fair treatment and equal rights in the workplace. America is a corrupt, capitalist society and this episode brings to light how employees get treated unfairly in the workplace, especially in the entertainment industry.

 

Sexuality (Season 5 Episode 3)

While sexuality is being explored in many new television shows, BoJack Horseman looks into asexuality, unlike any other show I have seen. BoJack’s friend (although he would never admit it), Todd reveals that he is asexual at the end of Season 3, but continues to explore what this means for him and his relationships throughout the rest of the series. Todd taught me a lot about what it means to be asexual and dismissed common myths associated with his sexuality, especially the difference between asexuality and aromanticism. The show follows Todd as he discovers and becomes more comfortable with himself, and it is a beautifully real depiction that is not regularly shown on television.

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Abortion (Season 3 Episode 6)

This episode focuses on Diane, who is pregnant and getting an abortion. It shows her and Mr. Peanut Butter going to Planned Parenthood and the mandatory things that Diane has to do before the procedure. While things like watching 20 hours of cute puppy videos may not be completely true, they represent the kind of shame that women who decide to have an abortion have to go through. At the same time that all of this is occurring, a celebrity in Hollywood, Sextina Aquafina is pretending that she is pregnant and having an abortion because of a mistake by Diane, who handles her social media. Sextina ends up empowering other women who are also going through this process. In true BoJack-fashion, everything is taken to the extreme in this episode, but it still makes some powerful and moving points about a woman’s access to abortion.

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Racist Policing (Season 6 Episode 6)

Throughout the whole series it is never clarified whether the seemingly white character Todd Chavez is actually Latino because of his last name. In season 6 this disparity is finally revealed when his stepfather, Jorge Chavez arrives and discloses that he gave Todd his last name. This episode depicts the two going on an adventure to get back a kidney for Todd’s mom that Todd donated. In the end, the security catches them, but thinks that Todd was in danger of Jorge because Todd is white and Jorge is not. Even though this may not be a whole episode dedicated to differential policing, even this little section has a profound, deep and realistic outcome.

Image courtesy of Netflix

 

Body Image (All of Season 4)

BoJack's daughter that he didn’t know existed, Hollyhock appears in the fourth season and is immediately a lovable character. As she grows as a character, she becomes more self-conscious of her body. She describes herself as a “blob” compared to other women, and BoJack even reinforces this idea when he questions her new boyfriend. Dementia has caused BoJack’s mother to secretly drug Hollyhock to lose weight, until she rapidly loses weight and eventually overdoses. The effects of Hollywoo’s depiction of women as thin affected Hollyhock to the point that her own life was in danger. 

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Infertility (Season 4 Episode 9)

Princess Carolyn is a hardworking feminist character who is faced with many infertility issues when she wants to start a family of her own. In this episode it is revealed that she had a miscarriage with her partner Ralph, and that she has had miscarriages in the past as well. She wants to keep trying, while Ralph wants to consider other options which ultimately leads them to break up. The blatant portrayal of the effects that miscarriages can have on women is clearly depicted in an industry that typically does not show issues with such intimacy.Image courtesy of Tumblr

 

These are just a few of the issues that BoJack Horseman touches on. Other issues that weren’t mentioned here are: corporate power, the treatment of women, gun violence, fracking, and many more. Because this show is animated it makes talking about touchy subjects seem more lighthearted, while still getting the point across. This show will make you laugh, cry, and everything in between all while discussing topics that affect our everyday lives.