Women: Should I keep watching BoJack Horseman?
November 12, 2018 7:25 PM   Subscribe

Female fans of the show: I'm in the middle of season one, and it touched a raw nerve. Suddenly it's not funny anymore. Will it get better?

I'm currently burned out on romantic relationships and to a certain extent male friendships, after a string of men using me as a replacement for therapy, a pit stop on their journey of self-discovery (be my fling/temporary adventure pal), sex, to feel smart or funny.

I just watched episode 7, "Say Anything," which is the one that ends with Princess Carolyn's phone telling her it's her 40th birthday. She spends the day bending over backwards to get BoJack a part. At one point Vanessa Gekko encourages her to drop him as a client, and she says he's going through a hard time. PC lands him a part, and when she calls him to tell him, he says, "Nah, not interested anymore." Meanwhile he's been off with Diane (younger, prettier (I guess? Hard to tell since PC is a cat.)) Doing something emotionally draining, but still, off with her.

And suddenly I just absolutely could not. BoJack was suddenly all of those men, and I absolutely could not muster any interest in following a show about someone like that. Even if the show is about how, I don't know, how sad and miserable he is and how that's driving his behavior - that's not any better, I don't give a fuck about understanding someone like that, feeling sympathy for them, or watching a show about them.

So should I keep watching? I would prefer answers from women.
posted by unannihilated to Media & Arts (31 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't finished watching this show either, because although it's very funny and well observed, it is really just about one of these guys. Maybe I will someday; maybe I won't. I just wanted to tell you what it's taken me a long time to learn -- we don't have to engage with stuff that does this to our emotions just because everyone else praises it. The world is full of artwork, dark and complicated as you like, that doesn't punch those buttons.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:34 PM on November 12, 2018 [60 favorites]

a string of men using me as a replacement for therapy, a pit stop on their journey of self-discovery (be my fling/temporary adventure pal), sex, to feel smart or funny.

This (and struggling to stop doing this, and then backsliding right back into doing this) is most of BoJack's personality, and continues to be for the whole run of the show. You are definitely not going to enjoy watching it, and I say that as a huge fan.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:36 PM on November 12, 2018 [25 favorites]

Straight cis dude here. I didn’t get much further; none of these characters made me want to spend my time with them.
posted by mce at 7:43 PM on November 12, 2018 [7 favorites]

I wasn't able to 'get past' the reality enough to 'appreciate' the satire it's claimed to be, after the first episode. Life is short, don't waste it trying to 'appreciate' things that are just unacceptable.
posted by Dashy at 7:50 PM on November 12, 2018 [10 favorites]

Probably stop watching, especially because of S2E11, "Escape from LA."

In short, Bojack has an inappropriate encounter with a friend's daughter. They get caught taking each other's clothes off. If you want more details, here's a full plot summary, which you should read to the end.
posted by meemzi at 7:51 PM on November 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

Hi, I’m not a woman, but my girlfriend is, and she loved BoJack and we used to watch it together. She enjoyed the first few seasons but has tapped out on the most recent one. She says she did love the show but it became too much to take.

Also I will say that if that Princess Carolyn episode infuriated you, you should definitely stop now. Season 4’s Princess Carolyn-centric episode, “Ruthie,” is absolutely devastating.
posted by ejs at 7:57 PM on November 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

I also bailed on the show at about this point and felt no qualms, even after recently catching part of a Fresh Air interview about it. Terry Gross and Bojack’s creator talked a lot about the show’s ability to really explore dark shit because viewers got hooked in on a seemingly light benign cartoon animal premise and I’m like, what light premise, your characters were clearly profoundly yet mundanely terrible people from the word go. Sometimes I wonder if I should ask the Green for show recommendations from people who feel like mce so succinctly put it above. I don’t feel bad about prioritizing people I’d want to spend time with in my personal or professional life, and at this time in my life, I’m okay prioritizing the same thing in my fictional entertainment a lot of the time, too.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:03 PM on November 12, 2018 [21 favorites]

Bojack Horseman the show is not a comedy, it is a deep dive into emotional damage, substance abuse, depression, and the ways people use and abuse each other - including, and often especially, the people they care about. I consider it one of the most overtly Feminist shows on television right now.

I say this as someone who quit watching halfway through the first episode and had to be convinced by a good friend to continue. I also say this as someone who hasn’t watched the latest season yet because the last season was so emotionally devestating.

I think the show is amazing, and I 100% give you permission to quit watching it.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 8:12 PM on November 12, 2018 [81 favorites]

The whole show is definitely like this.

I'd also take any "it's soooo brilliant and nuanced and woke" recommendations with a grain of salt; there's some pretty big failings, especially regarding people of color, so there's no reason to struggle through it if you don't enjoy it.

I have a very sensitive anxiety response in response to anger/danger/realistic and plausible violence, even just depicted onscreen, and I quit Twin Peaks like three episodes in. I have lived through endless media cycles of hype among all my friends whenever new Twin Peaks stuff happens, and I'm not tempted back because I know I absolutely don't enjoy it.

You will survive not keeping up with Bojack.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:19 PM on November 12, 2018 [16 favorites]

I love BoJack Horseman (the show, not the character) and am a woman and an ardent feminist. That said, I give you 100% permission to not watch a TV show that upsets you, even if other people like it.

Interestingly, the current season is essentially focused around this very question - IE, can movies/media depict The Asshole ironically, or do all depictions of The Asshole just glamorize/build acceptance of Asshole Behavior? The show creator recently gave an interview on NPR and talked about this struggle and the tight line he has to walk. For me, I can watch the show for it’s good points, but I can see where others might not be able to look past it’s low points, and that’s fair. In the interview, He also said he felt that some of the jokes in Season 1 were no longer funny to him - that he had some regrets. If the showrunner himself feels that way, you shouldn’t hold yourself to a higher standard.
posted by samthemander at 8:21 PM on November 12, 2018 [17 favorites]

For what it’s worth I don’t think the show asks you to excuse Bojack or sympathize with him, at least I don’t. I think it’s more about just telling the story of how fucked up he is and the consequences of it. That being said I couldn’t imagine having to watch it twice. If you don’t like watching it, you don’t like watching it. That THAT being said, if it helps, the characters start to find some peace this season in a way that is really satisfying to watch.
posted by bleep at 8:24 PM on November 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm a woman and absolutely love this show (it's one of my favorite shows on TV right now). However, if Season 1 is upsetting to you, you should consider stopping, - it only gets worse in terms of how emotional it gets. I think that's part of the point of the show - they are trying to take a real look at depression and emotional damage, and there are lots of episodes that come later that made me cry. It's okay if you don't like the show - it's not for everyone, and just because some of us love it doesn't mean you have to. And also, I hear you about Bojack being one of those guys. I don't think the show is asking us to sympathize with him and I absolutely don't. The characters I relate to more are Princess Carolyn and Diane and I love the episodes that center on them more...even if it is sometimes heartbreaking to watch.
posted by FireFountain at 8:42 PM on November 12, 2018 [8 favorites]

Fresh Air interview from October deludingmyself mentions above (direct .mp3 link)
posted by XMLicious at 8:46 PM on November 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the responses so far! I know it's a dark show. I'd heard it dealt with issues of depression and substance abuse in a real way, and I started watching it because I wanted to see that. What I wasn't expecting was the toxic masculinity/emotional labor/general asshole-ishness in the character. I'm not opposed to watching things with characters who are bad people - see recent post on the blue referencing It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - but this particular type of bad person the character is coupled with where I am in my life right now is just making me think about things that make me feel bad. Which is too bad, because I did like it other than those parts. I'm going to stop watching.
posted by unannihilated at 8:50 PM on November 12, 2018 [10 favorites]

Woman here. Couldn’t abide it. Couldn’t choke down more than one episode. Still have all the super-woke-and-deep types in my circle evangelizing its virtues at me.

I have reached peak “self-styled satire that’s really just bathos attempting to make you feel sorry for an unlikable male protagonist” sometime in the last little while. It’s a nice peak to have summited, and you’re welcome to join me up here.
posted by armeowda at 9:16 PM on November 12, 2018 [47 favorites]

Woman here. I love the show and think it's one of the best things on right now. I love how it swings from absurdly silly puns and visual gags to devastating heartache and back. But that doesn't mean you have to love it. Don't watch any more if you don't dig it! (I will say I didn't start loving it until the last few episodes of S1.)
posted by lovecrafty at 9:35 PM on November 12, 2018 [6 favorites]

I enjoyed the show, but i also nope out of critically acclaimed television all the time because I can't deal with the violence or subject matter. Bojack keeps being Bojack and it gets worse. Stop now.

Maybe if you want, skim plot summaries for the eps that do interesting stuff with narrative and aren't focused on dudes being terrible. ("Ruthie" is devastating but also fantastic and iirc might work for you, since it's PC focused)
posted by momus_window at 9:43 PM on November 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

I also give you permission to stop watching Bojack and instead watch these shows that are written/produced/directed by and/or star women and nonbinary folks as their main characters:

Jane the Virgin
Chewing Gum
Orange Is the New Black
Parks and Rec (Old but never fails to make me laugh)
posted by sleepingwithcats at 9:54 PM on November 12, 2018 [8 favorites]

Woman here. I love BoJack and also find it incredibly hard to watch. The things you're bothered by don't go away in later seasons - if anything they become worse. I'd leave it if I were you.
posted by nerdfish at 3:06 AM on November 13, 2018 [6 favorites]

Quit watching. It will still be there if want to give it another shot when you're in a different place.

I love the show but I'm mostly using it to try to figure out why humanity is such a mess.
posted by bunderful at 5:37 AM on November 13, 2018

Bojack Horseman the show is not a comedy, it is a deep dive into emotional damage, substance abuse, depression, and the ways people use and abuse each other - including, and often especially, the people they care about.

posted by slkinsey at 5:44 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

For a mood boost and to see characters who love each other, watch "Pose" on FX instead :-) Janet Mock is one of the producers, and several of the main characters are trans women who are actually played by trans women.

Just walk away from content that strikes you as dude-broish; trust your gut.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 5:52 AM on November 13, 2018 [6 favorites]

I just wanted to say that my wife and I bailed halfway through the very first episode for similar reasons to the ones you're describing (and others in this thread have described as well), although reading the comments I guess maybe it's worth our while to give it another shot...
posted by saladin at 6:44 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Another woman here, and 100% quit the show. You're good.
posted by ancient star at 7:02 AM on November 13, 2018

I'm a woman and Bojack is one of my favorite, favorite shows. But yes - its main character is an asshole who is full of toxic masculinity and offloads all of his emotional labor in cruel ways and just keeps, keeps doing those things. The show tries to be critical of the character and usually succeeds IMO - but if watching a character act like that stresses you out too much to enjoy the show, no, it will not get better in that regard.
posted by anotherthink at 7:41 AM on November 13, 2018 [15 favorites]

Adding my voice to the numbers of women that got to about that point & went, I can feel this shitty in RL I don't need a cartoon to remind me of it. Life is too short, watch Bobs Burgers instead.
posted by wwax at 11:29 AM on November 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I vote dump it. It seems so proud of itself and is really just another men-behaving badly show. While the supporting characters are fleshed out, it doesn't give a satisfying answer to the question of "Why should I pay attention to this particular main character for this long?"
posted by Dmenet at 11:42 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

I love the show, but as said above, to me it's not a comedy, it's realism that is meant to clash with the whole talking animals! world.

I find Bojack toxic, entitled, cruel, and pathetically sad. Like in my view the show makes a huge effort to show you that he is a complete piece of shit, with zero redeeming qualities, and I like that and find it different from other similar stories.

In my case, I can watch the show because I am lucky not to have people like him in real life. I could not watch it if I had similar issues going on. It'd be depressing as hell.
posted by Tarumba at 1:49 PM on November 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

I'm a woman and I love the show, but based on what you said, I think you should stop watching it. It's not like the show itself is kind to Bojack, the humor is sharp and difficult and painful in every direction, but he is still the kind of dude you're heartily sick of. No matter why he is that way.
posted by tomboko at 6:02 PM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I’m a woman and yeah, bojack is definitely a predator in some respects. I didn’t feel like i was supposed to like him - i more felt like the show was saying “yep, this is the type of casual abuse that can happen when somebody who hasn’t dealt with their shit gets successful.” I actually felt like the show was easier to watch before I moved to LA, and now it’s almost too real for me.

With that said, the show has also helped me in some respects. A later season goes into bojack’s relationship with his mom. the mom character is indisputably abusive (so is the dad, but he dies earlier) and you can see how adult bojack is still writhing in pain from his childhood that he hasn’t dealt with and how he takes it out on anyone who cares about him. That plot arc helped me deal with an abusive person in my own life who I felt was making me into a worse person. I actually ended up cutting off contact with that person because I was like “if I don’t deal with this now, I’m just going to project all that repressed pain onto other people.”

Anyway. All that is to say: I think the show does have some good stuff to offer, but there is no denying that it can be really triggering, and if it’s hurting more than it’s helping, I don’t see a reason you should continue with it.
posted by firstlittlepig at 9:12 PM on November 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

My two best friends (20-something woman and 40-something man) both love the show. When I said I was thinking about trying it but was concerned it was going to hit wrong, they both (separately but with similar emphasis) said I should stay away for my own emotional well-being. I'd say follow your instincts.
posted by epersonae at 10:20 AM on November 14, 2018

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