No One Does the Very Special Episode Quite like ‘Bojack Horseman’

In ‘Thoughts and Prayers,’ ‘Bojack Horseman’ blasts American gun culture and mass media’s cynical, sickly response to it.

Mar 20 2018, 3:09pm

All images courtesy Netflix

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One night last week, when an episode of my latest Netflix obsession cut out, I realized that I hadn’t finished the latest season of Bojack Horseman, the animated bleak comedy/Hollywood satire about a washed up actor with enough emotional baggage to choke a whale. He’s also a horse, and yeah, this is a world with a lot of anthropomorphized animal characters that is only semi explained, but don’t worry, just go with it.

I had left off in a very relevant place: the “Hopes and Prayers” episode wherein Bojack’s razor-sharp writing team has a field day with the vapid, empty response that has become so common when yet another mass shooting occurs in our country.

In the episode, bigshot Hollywood producer Lenny Turtletaub and agent/manager Princess Carolyn become upset when there is a mass shooting at a mall. Not for the people who have died—for them, they usher a quick “thoughts and prayers” before getting back to the real discussion—but for their latest film project, Ms. Taken, about a woman (the studio’s big star) who takes bloody, gun-fueled vengeance to the mall when thugs threaten to shut it down.

They run a PR campaign to spin the “good guy with a gun” rhetoric, but under the guise of female empowerment, while text alert after text alert come in for more and more mass shootings. Every time, they mutter “thoughts and prayers” before going back to plotting how they can best take advantage of America’s gun violence epidemic and make their crappy movie a resounding success.

But lo! It all backfires when there is a mass shooting perpetrated by a woman, and then, gun control legislation successfully passes in the California house. “I can’t believe America hates women more than it loves guns,” a beleaguered series regular comments. Princess Carolyn side-eyes her, not unlike looking at a small, naive child, asking “no?”

But those “thoughts and prayers” mutters hit home with icy precision.

It’s what you hear, of course, from politicians after a mass shooting takes so many lives. “Thoughts and prayers.” “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims.” Of course, some of these people are in the position to do something about gun control in America, and of course, those deepest in the pockets of the NRA never will.

The hollywood elite in the episode are in a position to do something, too. They could, of course, fund and produce a movie that villifies gun violence (even typing that out, I can feel a Bojack-ready snortlaugh coming on). They could use their considerable power and influence and money to support anti-gun organizations. They could be, at the very least, decent people who don’t try to profit from tragedy.

those “thoughts and prayers” mutters hit home with icy precision.

“But dude,” the episode shouts, “this is Hollywood. Like hell that’ll happen.”

The biggest tragedy to them, which plays out in one scene towards the end, is having to throw out their film due to the bad PR. They cry over the crappy movie, whose “life was cut short,” after a final, empty “thoughts and prayers” for the victims of the latest shooting.

It’s good, distinctly unsubtle satire, as much of Bojack is. And easily my favorite “very special episode” on the subject, with Superstore’s “Guns, Pills and Birds” episode coming in at a fairly close second.

How about you, dear readers? Do you have any favorite “very special episodes” that touch especially on violence in a clever (or biting, or otherwise effective) way?

Let me know on the forums!

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