BoJack Horseman: A Quick One, While He's Away
November 1, 2019 12:08 PM - Season 6, Episode 8 - Subscribe

As BoJack comes to term with his life and actions, others dig into and expose his past. Hollyhock goes to a party in New York City, while Kelsey Jannings presents her pitch for a superhero movie with a woman's perspective. [Mid-season finale]
posted by filthy light thief (15 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
It has to end with Bojack being offered an out (as always) and choosing not to take it. He's been insulated from consequences for so long it would be insulting for him to evade this and just (conveniently) become a better person. The only way for the show to give us a truly developed Bojack is for him to actively accept responsibility, not for himself, not for others, but for his own past actions.

This show has gone deep on intergenerational trauma, so I hope it has the depth to give us a real payoff on all this sordid misery. Maybe breaking the chain is the key?
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 5:22 PM on November 1


For some reason I didn't realise that there would be a second half to this season, and thought this was the final episode. And I was thinking what a great and devastating end it was. BoJack seems to be in a relatively good place, and then for the last episode we see the consequences of his former actions still rippling out to all the women he has wronged.
posted by Paragon at 4:09 AM on November 2 [2 favorites]


I don't think BoJack is responsible for Sarah Lynn's death. They shared a death ride. Both of them were worldly wise enough to know a nihilistic bender ends in sobriety or death. Now, he may certainly have played a role in damaging Sarah Lynn as a child and warping her toward a path of addiction; the show pretty clearly places blame at his feet for that. But I don't think he killed her. Both of them knew what they were doing and where their road would take them.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:36 AM on November 2 [2 favorites]


I agree he didn't murder her. I agree she knew what she was getting into.

But if I called up my sober, ex-addict friend, said, "You wanna party?", and the direct end result was that she died, I'd sure as hell feel responsible.
posted by kyrademon at 8:23 AM on November 2 [1 favorite]


I find the focus on Sarah Lynn to be weird because it's not even as if he supplied her with the drugs and she's been an adult for a long time. Many people contributed to her death; I don't really see BoJack as especially culpable. If he'd not been a horse, he might have OD'd on the heroin instead of her. Would we blame her then the way we blame BoJack? I get that BoJack was a father figure to her, which he actively participated in and himself strongly felt, and that implies a responsibility that otherwise he wouldn't have had. I'm not hostile to seeing BoJack as having some responsibility for Sarah Lynn's death, but it doesn't sit fully right with me -- less in defense of BoJack than it is that making it about him not only ignores everyone else around her, but especially how we, the audience, even as a kind of meta-audience, have participated in projecting all this stuff on her, as a child actor and former child actor, that sort of erases her as a person and instead appropriated her as a representatation of some problematic things.

It's what BoJack did to Penny that I find outrageous and unforgivable. The end of season two was almost a breaking point for me in watching the show and it certainly exceeded my limits on my ability to forgive BoJack. I think it's kind of odd and revealing that the focus is on Sarah Lynn and not so much (yet) on Penny. Here, as an audience, we keep talking about Sarah Lynn and not about Penny even though Sarah Lynn was an adult and Penny was not, and while, at worst, BoJack co-opted a very willing Sarah Lynn into his theater of self-pitying addiction (leading to her death), with Penny he blatantly used a child (an older teen, but very far from being an adult) in service to his romantic and sexual fantasies which, again, was all about his own self-pity and unwillingness to accept responsibility for what he's done. What he did to Penny was abhorrent on its face -- but it was also a kind of doubling-down on the toxic behavior that had already led himself to self-hatred. At some level, he knew he was being the very worst person he could be and was doing so deliberately, wallowing in it, and achieving a kind of apotheosis of malignant, solipsist self-regard.

There's a lot to he said about how the public revelation of BoJack's involvement in Sarah Lynn's death will center the narrative of BoJack's ultimate decline even while for him, personally, his sister and friends learning about Penny will (rightly) hurt much worse because what he did was much worse ... and yet the show itself has sort of encouraged the audience to focus on Sarah Lynn, which we've more than willingly done.

The show has slyly made us complicit in something and it's not precisely what we think it is. Our empathy for and desire to forgive BoJack is not being complicit in his behavior. Instead, our complicity is found in what we pay attention to and what we don't, and in how much we, like BoJack himself, are willing to be appropriative and dehumanizing in ways that are all about what's comfortable for us. When we sort of turn our faces away from Penny because what BoJack did to her makes us intolerably uncomfortable, is the flip-side of what we're doing when we fetishize Sarah Lynn as a tragic character and appropriate her as a symbol, erasing her personhood ... which is, if course, what audiences often do to real-life child performers just as the in-universe world did to Sarah Lynn, not the least BoJack himself. Similarly, BoJack appropriated Sarah Lynn the actual person as the fantasy version the father-daughter relationship they portrayed on the show -- because the fantasy of the show, and this mirrored relationship with Sarah Lynn, helped BoJack feel better about himself.

The comparison to The Good Place is very apt because even though Simone and Chidi are quite right to call out and refuse to tolerate Brent's egregiously privileged behavior, that, alone, doesn't help them become better people. What's wrong with the metaphysical morality of TGP universe is its whole concept of a point system which invites comparisons between people about which person is better than another -- none of the original group, nor any of the new group, get anywhere when they are focused on judging their own virtue relative to other people. They only become better people when they become better people on their own terms.

BoJack has never stopped looking for a point system which can tell him that he's a good, worthy person. He malignantly uses the people around him not because he's deliberately malicious, but because he refuses to see other people as anything more than some sort of measure of himself. We, the audience of a BoJack Horseman and The Good Place, are similarly missing the point when we think in terms of how much we're better or worse people than BoJack or Brent.

Which is okay -- both shows, in their own ways, have led us down this garden path. Both shows invite us to judge the moral worth of their characters. But I think both shows want the audience, or hope the audience, will realize that the failure to "tend one's own garden", so to speak, is how these characters have stymied themselves from their own self-improvement. Both shows, I think, want us to look to ourselves instead of to others, to ask ourselves how we can be, on our own terms, a better person today than yesterday -- which BoJack keeps almost learning to do, except that he repeatedly, in the end, finds distraction and evasion easier. The characters in The Good Place, even as they've each managed to make more progress than BoJack ever has, nevertheless keep slipping back into some older, bad habits despite all they've learned. The point is that this isn't a game show and you win a prize at the end and you're done. You're never done. That's ... daunting. It's a truth that's difficult to face. More than difficult: to someone like BoJack, it's possibly the most terrifying truth there is.

And we can see why. This is a truth that takes a lot of preparation to accept. This is not a child's truth, nor should it be. A good parent acts as a substitute arbiter of self-worth, slowly easing the child into this role for themselves. BoJack had a very tragic childhood, one pretty much precisely the opposite of this ideal. It's asking a lot of someone who, all their life, never had a core sense of self-worth, implanted there and nourished by a loving parent, to just build the whole thing themselves, from scratch, especially with a lifetime of maladaptive habits which attempted to compensate for this lack.

I think we should empathize with BoJack, we should be (within limits) forgiving and tolerant of BoJack. None of us had that truly ideal childhood, we're all at least a little bit like him and some much more than a little. Even so, BoJack's actions affect other people. His actions have consequences. His choice is to either walk the admittedly difficult path ahead of him, or just keep hurting other people.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:31 AM on November 2 [10 favorites]


i do think there's still another shoe waiting to drop with sarah lynn's abusive stepfather (who is clearly modeled after noted abuser terry richardson).
posted by JimBennett at 10:39 AM on November 2 [3 favorites]


Yeah, and the parallel with BoJack and Penny is pointed.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:44 AM on November 2 [1 favorite]


> "When we sort of turn our faces away from Penny because what BoJack did to her makes us intolerably uncomfortable, is the flip-side of what we're doing when we fetishize Sarah Lynn as a tragic character and appropriate her as a symbol, erasing her personhood ..."

I'm not sure I agree that's what's going on, in either case.
posted by kyrademon at 11:15 AM on November 2


Also:

> "Would we blame her then the way we blame BoJack?"

No. He called her.

If she'd called him, I would.
posted by kyrademon at 11:26 AM on November 2


Ivan Fyodorovich: There's a lot to he said about how the public revelation of BoJack's involvement in Sarah Lynn's death will center the narrative of BoJack's ultimate decline even while for him, personally, his sister and friends learning about Penny will (rightly) hurt much worse because what he did was much worse ... and yet the show itself has sort of encouraged the audience to focus on Sarah Lynn, which we've more than willingly done.

It feels like the second half of this season is queuing up to focus on that, with the "vintage" reporters bringing the story back to New Mexico, and Hollyhock's new acquaintance, Peter, AKA Pete from Season 2 (rough transcript; FanFare thread), when BoJack was hanging out with high school kids, getting them drunk to the point of alcohol poisoning, and making bad decisions with the daughter of his (former) crush.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:55 AM on November 4 [3 favorites]


honestly I just want more of Paget Brewster doing this encore victory lap as Sadie Doyle
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:49 AM on November 12


The show has slyly made us complicit in something and it's not precisely what we think it is. Our empathy for and desire to forgive BoJack is not being complicit in his behavior. Instead, our complicity is found in what we pay attention to and what we don't, and in how much we, like BoJack himself, are willing to be appropriative and dehumanizing in ways that are all about what's comfortable for us. When we sort of turn our faces away from Penny because what BoJack did to her makes us intolerably uncomfortable, is the flip-side of what we're doing when we fetishize Sarah Lynn as a tragic character and appropriate her as a symbol, erasing her personhood ... which is, if course, what audiences often do to real-life child performers just as the in-universe world did to Sarah Lynn, not the least BoJack himself.

This is super interesting but I'm not totally convinced. The split of the last season heightens the sense that his failure toward Sara Lynn will provide the material for the climax of Bojack's story. But there are also a lot of hints that Bojack reckoning with what he did to Penny is going to be an important a part of the show's final chapter. It's like in a monster movie when the camera gets really close, you know the threat is right behind, about to be revealed. (To be clear, the monster is the damaging effects of Bojack's past actions, not Penny herself.) Of course, we'll have to wait to see how that plays out in January. I haven't read anything about why the last season was split, but with other shows with split final seasons, there have been logistic and business reasons, not storytelling reasons, for that decision.

That said, I do think that Bojack's role as a quasi-father figure to Sara Lynn is thematically central to the entire thrust of the show, and thus it is not weird at all for it to get a good deal of emphasis as the show heads toward the end. It is not Bojack's role in her death but his role in her life and especially her childhood that's most important. These last few episodes have intermixed Bojack's memories of his relationship with Sara Lynn with his memories of his own relationship with his parents. He was positioned to play a positive role in her life, or at least to protect her from some of the worst of life as a child star, but he ultimately failed, like his own parents failed him. A big part of what I get from the show is the message that the damage that we do to each other is not reversible: we can be better, we can learn to live with things that happened, we can build a life on better foundations, etc. but we can never fix the damage in ourselves or that we've caused in others.

Sara Lynn's mother and presumably stepfather treated her as an object to their own ends, sending her the message that her only value was in what she could give them. Her "fall" wasn't predicated on Bojack pushing her into drugs and alcohol, it was predicated on her not having a sense of self-worth outside stardom. In an early episode Bojack counsels Sara Lynn on the set of Horsin' Around that she is nothing without her fans, because that is what he believes about himself:

"Hey, you see those people?... Well, those boobs and jerkwads are the best friends you'll ever have. Without them, you're nothing. Remember that.... Your family will never understand you, your lovers will leave you or try to change you, but your fans, you be good to them, and they'll be good to you.... The most important thing is, you got to give the people what they want, even if it kills you, even if it empties you out until there's nothing left to empty. No matter what happens, no matter how much it hurts, you don't stop dancing, and you don't stop smiling, and you give those people what they want."

Although what he did to Penny was worse (or at least he was more clearly the villain), I don't think it makes sense to weigh the incidents or to compare Bojack's exact culpability in either case. Nor do I think the creators and writers are trying to trick us into focusing on the "wrong" crime in Bojack's past. Rather, Bojack's betrayal of Penny is an echo of all the themes that played out in Sara Lynn's story: breaking the trust of someone who looked to him for guidance, using someone else to assuage his own feelings of emptiness without thinking about them as real person. The bottom line is, while Bojack's behavior with Penny crossed a line that he did not cross with Sara Lynn, I don't think they are supposed to be viewed as two different things but as a pattern that Bojack must break.
posted by nequalsone at 11:11 AM on November 12 [1 favorite]


I don’t have much else to add from an analysis standpoint, other than that I find it interesting from a structural standpoint that this last episode featured none of the main cast members at all
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:36 PM on November 12 [2 favorites]


She’s doing Katharine Hepburn. The dress is based on the wedding dress from Philadelphia Story. I guess Maximilian Banks is Cary Grant from His Girl Friday? More Clark Gable with that mustache.

I appreciated the analysis of Captain Marvel.

The title of the episode is based on a six part song by The Who.
posted by bq at 10:56 PM on November 13


Sure, the voice is based on Katherine Hepburn, but it’s the exact voice she used for Sadie Doyle in Beyond Belief segments on the Thrilling Adventure Hour.
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:16 AM on November 14 [1 favorite]


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