*SPOILER WARNING* In case you are not updated or still planning on watching Bojack Horseman please do not scroll further.
Bojack Horseman has come to an end. The alcoholic 90’s sitcom star finally accepted the consequences of his bad decisions. But I will not dig deep into Bojack. Because the show proved that the story goes beyond Bojack. The show explored his relationships with the people he supposedly cared for and how his selfish decisions has either ruined them or himself. Instead, I will discuss the people in Bojack’s life and how the show fleshed out their secondary leads. Proving that forgiveness and redemption comes with healthy boundaries.
Diane: Bojack’s Anchor and Moral Compass
Diane’s relationship with Bojack was born out of a misguided sense of responsibility. Bojack needed Diane to reassure him that he was a good person deep down all the toxic layers. Roping Diane into his spiral of self-destruction, making her feel like it was her responsibility to guide him to the right path.
Answering his 3 am calls and entertaining his latest hijinks, hoping she can somehow change his mind out of a bad decision. Even when Bojack cut himself off from everyone, it was Diane who continued to call Bojack hoping he was fine. Diane was his anchor. As his friend, she felt the need to take care of him. Even if it means worrying about the worst and making herself available for everything Bojack needs. Despite the emotional exhaustion of it all.
“When you as a woman give awful men the cover of your friendship, you are then complicit, no, you are culpable for the terrible things they do”
What tested their friendship was the New Mexico incident with Penny. Conflicted with her morals and her care for Bojack, Diane wanted to make Bojack face one of his greatest mistakes. Angry and disappointed, she urged Bojack to take responsibility for himself.
And despite all the anger, she still supported him. She felt obligated to help him as a friend hoping her statement about being friends with awful men would not ring true. If she can’t change the world, she can at least be a good friend.
Nearing the end of season 6, we start to see Bojack’s world deteriorate. With no sense of control, his last phone call was Diane who he hoped would pull him out of his mess. We later find out off-screen, Diane blamed herself for what happened to Bojack. She felt a semblance of guilt knowing that if she answered the phone things would’ve ended differently. However, she also felt angry towards Bojack for having so much control over her.
In the end, she chose to cut Bojack completely out of her life because, in the end, she realized how toxic their relationship was. During Diane and Bojack’s final conversation we see how strained their relationship ended. She had no regrets but if she stayed any longer, she wouldn’t have the clarity she had to finally be happy.
Princess Carolyn: Setting boundaries and giving support
As an agent and ex-girlfriend, Princess Carolyn blurs the line between professionalism and friendship. Most of the time she enables Bojack’s toxic behaviour in the process of constantly trying to fix his mistakes. Princess Carolyn fought for her Bojack’s career harder than any agent should for someone like him.
No one in Hollywoo wanted to be associated with Bojack Horseman because of his cocky, flaky, and super-star diva attitude. But Princess Carolyn fought for his career harder than he ever did, because she beleived how talented Bojack truly was despite who he was as a person.
Unlike Diane, Bojack goes to Princess Carolyn to be taken care of like a child. When Princess Carolyn finally established boundaries between her and Bojack, he always shows up at the end of day on his knees begging for her to fix his mistakes. A tireless cycle, she endured as both his agent and friend.
“My life is a mess right now and I compulsively take care of other people when I don’t know how to take care of myself.”
But when Princess Carolyn made a few mistakes as his agent, Bojack questioned their relationship. In their dynamic, Bojack was the only one allowed to make selfish mistakes meanwhile she had to practically beg for forgiveness when the tables were turned.
After helping Bojack twist the Sarah Lynn narrative to Bojack’s favour, making the public sympathise with his cowardly behaviour. Bojack let his ego get in the way of Princess Carolyn’s good judgment. With the final straw broken, she walked away leaving him to clean up the mess he made.
In the end, after everything that Bojack did, Princess Carolyn still invited him to her wedding. Because it was much easier to care for Bojack as a friend rather than an agent. She recommends a different agent to handle his post-prison career. Finally placing herself first in their toxic relationship.
Hollyhock: Bojack’s Last Chance of a Second Chance
One of the most painful parts of Season 6 was Bojack’s arc with Hollyhock. After finding out about the other side of the New Mexico incident, underage drinking and avoiding accountability for alcohol poisoning, Hollyhock distanced herself from her half-brother. In some way, we as an audience felt the frustration of closure. She never confronted Bojack nor did we hear her explanation for being distant towards Bojack. But can we blame her for avoiding any sort of confrontation?
Out of all the women Bojack cared for, Hollyhock was a bond he badly wanted to strengthen. Being his half-sister, he saw it as a chance to finally have a family that could love him. Maybe, Hollyhock could fix all the childhood trauma his parents inflicted on him. But in the end, blood was not thicker than water.
“Oh. Well, that’s fine, I don’t want a relationship. I already have eight dads. It’s not like a 9th dad is what I need to suddenly fill a hole in my life that the unconditional love of eight dads couldn’t already fill.”
Losing everyone he ever loved, Hollyhock was his last chance to make things right. All he needed to do was explain his side of the story to gain back Hollyhock’s trust. But we never got to see that. She decided on her own that it was best to sever the ties with her half-brother.
Hollyhuck has already witnessed Bojack’s worst-side, from his drug addiction to his narcissism. Finding out the extent of his selfishness was enough to make her realize their relationship might turn on her in the long run. She didn’t need to explain herself for her decisions especially if it was healthy for her.
Todd & Mr Peanutbutter: A few good friends left
In most anti-hero stories, Todd and Mr Peanutbutter could’ve easily been his sidekicks. The only friends he had despite how shitty he treats them. Unlike the women in Bojack’s life, he never depended much on Todd and Mr Peanutbutter. But he didn’t treat them great either.
Todd Finally Leaving Bojack’s Couch but not his life
Todd was the first person in the series to establish boundaries with Bojack. After ruining his rock opera and sleeping with Emily, Todd decided Bojack was too toxic for his life. And the more we see him drifting away from Bojack, we truly see Todd thrive. He had many semi-successful businesses during the run of the show and was the California governor for one hot minute.
With no one constantly yelling at him that he was useless. Todd was able to gain self-respect and find love. Getting off of Bojack’s couch was the best decision he has ever made. But he never completely cut Bojack out of his life. Todd cared for him yet was wary of him. He knew that his friend was not yet ready to take responsibility for any of his toxic behaviour. Instead, he kept him at arm’s length without losing any love for him.
“No! No, BoJack, just stop. You are all the things that are wrong with you. It’s not the alcohol, or the drugs or any of the shitty things that happened to you in your career or when you were a kid. It’s you. All right? It’s you. Fuck, man. What else is there to say?”
In the end, we see Todd help Bojack feel comfortable during Princess Carolyn’s wedding reception. Todd reassured him that with every misstep he can get back up again and again. Because all he wanted to be was for Bojack to realize he is capable of change.
Peanutbutter the friend Bojack needed
Meanwhile, Mr Peanutbutter, being the lovable golden retriever that he is, stayed by Bojack’s side. He sees the good in Bojack. Even with all of Bojack’s snide remarks and insults, we see Mr Peanutbutter being the only constant in his life willing to stand with him. We see how annoyed Bojack is whenever Mr Peanutbutter tries to establish a friendship between them. While some find him charming, Bojack sees Mr Peanutbutter as an annoying, clueless actor who made a career by being lucky.
Mr Peanutbutter never defended nor justified Bojack’s actions to gain his friendship. Mr Peanutbutter even confronted Bojack about kissing Diane and his selfish view of the world. He was aware of how toxic Bojack was but it never stopped him from trying to be his friend.
“Bojack: Everything comes so easy for you
Mr Peanutbutter: Oh, and it doesn’t for you? You’re a millionaire movie star with a girlfriend who loves you, acting in your dream movie. What more do you want? What else could the universe possibly owe you?”
Bojack and Mr Peanutbutter’s friendship makes sense. Both men had their own issues to sort through; a nihilistic view of the world, and their flimsy relationship with women. Both had their own journey to deal with their respective issues.
But we later learn, Mr Peanutbutter is more than just a fluff-ball of sunshine and optimism. We see his inability to have meaningful relationships with the women he loves because he refuses to listen to their needs. No doubt that Mr Peanutbutter has good intentions but many of them are inconsiderate to his current partners. In some way, he was as selfish as Bojack but less destructive and narcisstic.
In the end, it was Mr Peanutbutter who picked him up from prison to the wedding and offered him a home when he had nowhere else to go. The only change in their relationship was Bojack finally extending a hand of friendship.
Bojack Horseman and his anti-hero redemption arc
At the end of most anti-hero stories, it is the guilt from their actions that immediately absolves them. Because forgiveness is used as a tool to avoid accountability. We praise the anti-heroes we see on TV and glorify their toxic behaviours. Idolizing their redemption arcs as a story of hope.
Because forgiveness falls in the hands of the anti-heroes’ small circle of loved ones. A group of secondary characters existing primarily to push the protagonist’s growth further. Characters whose storylines were written to showcase the anti-hero’s vulnerability. Worst cases they use a female love interest as refrigerator tropes* to push the anti-hero’s character development further.
*Refrigerator Trope definition: a common trope where a woman’s intense suffering is used to kickstart or progress the male protagonist’s storyline
But Bojack Horseman’s second leads never downplayed Bojack’s mistakes or ignored their own baggage to push Bojack’s character development. They were not reduced to being his tools to become a better person.
The show portrayed the importance of boundaries when dealing with someone as toxic as Bojack. We are aware of his trauma and childhood but it was never used as an excuse for his actions. His addiction was not used to justify his behaviour. Instead, we saw him take responsibility and the steps to become a better person in the end.
And how everyone he loved finally got the happiness they all deserved.