Season 4 of Bojack Horseman recently was released and while essay upon essay could be written about the continued brilliance of the series themes and story arcs, I want to focus on 2 portions of a long running arc, and how they show the amazing writing behind the show. A show that gets how to utilize your own expectations to rattle you.
It is no secret that the Bojack Horseman series is a harsh and real look at base doubts, fears, mistakes, and anxieties, all told through the narrative of a absurd human and animal filled Hollywood, but season 4 gave what I want to say is the perfect examination of love and love bombing.
Long time viewers will be familiar with the relationship between BoJoack’s friends Mr. Peanutbutter and Diane. Throughout the series, many times they have been challenged by the questions many people ask over the course of a relationship.
Most notably Should we stay together?
Most of the time under the surface of course. On the exterior it is a growing disconnect between the two on many issues, but mostly the running of Mr. Peanutbutter for governor of California and how Diane’s job as a news writer conflicts with him and his issues. This comes to the exterior a few times and in any other drama it would be the breaking point every instance he comes out in favor of something Diane doesn’t support. Instead, she marches through, even admitting to BoJack about how she was unhappy and how that unhappiness shouldn’t exist because she has the things that make her happy. She believes herself to be a ungrateful person. A dark pit that absorbs all forms of happiness put into it. In a life or death scene mid way though the season we see several characters all scream what they regret comically, but Diane’s is not comical. Diane’s is a admittance that she resents everything. I was ready for her and Mr.Peanutbutter to talk about it, which they did. My expectation was for this to be the story point when the issues with their relationship finally comes out and the big breakdown that you can see boiling underneath would finally erupt. Instead… the two attempt to be supportive and understanding. Diane says she wants to be supportive of Mr. Peanutbutter’s goals and he announces he no longer wants to be the governor.
They move on, but things still felt unsettled. As though things still needed to be said. This was a sitcom ending and BoJack Horseman doesn’t do those.
The overall plot progresses and everyones arcs proceed and come to satisfying ends (or as satisfying the real lens that BoJack puts over situations can get). Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter have to buy a new home and before moving to it, decide to take a spontaneous road-trip to Hawaii (that’s a whole thing that that you will have to watch the show to understand).
On this road-trip they argue but make up with the cutesy moment anyone who has dated enough can recognize, and in a scene where they stare out at a beautiful ocean scene and munch on sandwiches, they exchange a bit of dialog about Diane’s fantasy of a beauty and the beast styled library. She describes it as a place all her own. Mr. Peanutbutter gains interest and they progress to more cutesy couple moments.
Now I knew what was going to happen… partially. Peanutbutter built her a library, complete with furniture with poorly drawn faces and a massive fireplace.
In any other story this would be the confirmation point. this is where she would know she picked right and he would know he could make her happy.
Instead, she panics. She is overwhelmed. She feels robbed of a private fantasy, that thing you think about on a bad day. Because it’s just a thought, it wont be spoiled by being real, by being infected with harsh memories. She cries and tells Mr. Peanutbutter how it makes her realize she is tired from trying to like their relationship. Mr. Peanutbutter voices his concern that she will leave like his ex wives did, that he just wanted to create a space in the home for her to not feel like she’s a guest. And that is it, their season arc leaves us in a room with Diane crying and Mr. Peanutbutter unsure how to comfort her. The concern of what do we do next left hangs between them.
And I feel bad to say that I really enjoy what the show did. This would normally be where two people confirm their love for each other, instead they are left broken at the actions and responses of their loved one.
Love bombing (which i want to write a whole thing about its constant use in stories, but another time) is the act of constantly pouring affection and attention on someone in effort to demonstrate how much you care about them. It is attributed to abusive relationships, as well as normal ones in dire straits. I don’t think Mr. Peantubutter meant harm. There is a fine line between romantic gesture and love bombing. The show has shown again and again that Mr. Peanutbutter is good and caring, however… I find Diane’s reaction completely normal when looking at the whole picture and am slightly ashamed of what my expectations were.
I had no uncertainty that she would accept it and they would love each other, but I was left with broken people. Diane had misgivings that wouldn’t be settled with a big gift. Mr. Peanutbutter has fears that could maybe be settled for a bit if Diane had accepted, but wold always likely return at the end of every argument they have.
BoJack has before noted how the comfort of a sitcom is that after 30 minutes have passed, the viewer knows that no matter what has happened everything will go back to normal in the end. It has stated that but doesn’t do that. It doesn’t want the characters world to go back to normal, because that in itself isn’t normal. Life is complex and messy. Giving someone gifts wont take away their doubts. You denying someone the right to fear what they mean to you isn’t fair either. Neither Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter are in the wrong, just broken and confused.
I love BoJack Horseman as a thing to deconstruct and examine. This is just one of those one of those many moments, and if you have not had a chance to watch and analyze the show, please do. It is a masterclass on how to tell a simultaneously comedic and dramatic story.