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Alternative Character Interpretation / BoJack Horseman

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  • Is BoJack a Jerkass Woobie we should sympathize with, or a self-centered Designated Hero who uses the people who care about him to fill the empty void of his life? In-universe, BoJack doesn't know himself. As of season five, the show seems to be leaning towards the latter, but also pushing the idea that he can get better if he actually tries.
    • In-Universe, Diane worries that Philbert, whose personality bears more than a passing resemblance to BoJack’s, is informing viewers about certain toxic character traits or just enabling people who already have them.
  • Princess Carolyn: a confident, if desperate agent that tries to find meaning in her life? Or an utterly miserable person who's just as self-destructive as BoJack, but simply hides it better?
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  • In-Universe: Todd believes that the cop from the movie Die Hard and the dad from Family Matters are the same person. It's just that the cop went into witness protection after the events of the first two Die Hard films.
  • Todd sabotaging BoJack's chances at winning an Oscar may have been payback for BoJack ruining his Rock Opera. On the other hand it was destined to fail, given Todd's track record.
    • When Todd tips away his newfound wealth in the Season 3 finale, was it really an accident/stupidity? Or did he intentionally do it, given how he has personally seen what a lot of money can do to people, including his best friend?
  • Is Mr. Peanutbutter a genuinely kind (if stubborn and excitable) man working to make others happy who deals with a Jerkass like BoJack Horseman and an increasingly dissatisfied wife all while his own mortality hangs above his head? A passive-aggressive glory-hound who's just as selfish as BoJack but hides it better through PR? And how much of the failures you can call his past marriages could be put down to his own issues?
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  • Is Vanessa Gekko really any worse than Princess Carolyn? How much of their rivalry is fueled by PC being jealous of how Gekko managed to have a lasting marriage, children, and overall lifestyle she's longed for but could never get? Somewhat answer when Vanessa is shocked that Princess Carolyn admits to hating her.
  • Beatrice gets this, especially when we see her past and make note of some of her actions, which could suggest that she does love Bojack (i.e her watching Horsing Around, despite hating it and her, somewhat, acknowledging that she wasn't a good mother to him) but can't express it in a healthy way, which begs a question as to whether or not she's just a belligerent person or, like Bojack, she's a product of her circumstance. Similarly, one could ask if she mostly behaved the way she did towards Bojack because of her promise to her lobotomized mother and her bitter feelings towards her husband, Butterscotch.
    • On top of this, how accurate are her memories? Is she remembering everything detail-for-detail, or are some events (e.g. her father telling her "Your sickness has infected everything" in "Time's Arrow") the broad-strokes version?
    • In some vein, with the episode Free Churro, serving as this and an In-Universe version, was Beatrice really reading the ICU ward sign aloud or was she really acknowledging BoJack, as only she could in her dementia-addled mind and dying moments?. One could say that she was but her mental state had gone to the point as to where she herself couldn't tell, however, one could also say looking at the ICU sign because that was what she could fixate on or was she doing both? BoJack doesn't know either.
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  • Is Flip a Giftedly Bad writer who's deeply personal work just happens to include a lot of naked women, or did he just "fail upwards" into a showbiz career and is using it as an excuse to treat actors like his play things? The first episode of season 5 seems to make it ambiguous just how much he's putting in his show to spite Bojack and/or control Gina and how much of it is Bojack projecting. Later, he tells the camera man, with an intrigued grin, to continue filming when Bojack nearly chokes Gina to death. Is he trying to capture some Enforced Method Acting and work it into his passion project, or is it something more insidious?
  • While Herb certainly got screwed over, both by 90's politics and his child Horsin' Around, and cancer, and peanuts, is he really as innocent and righteously angry when Bojack comes to visit him as he acts?
    • Herb doesn't seem to entertain the possibility that Bojack didn't want to sell him out but had no choice, and that the only reason he never reached out to Herb after was because he just assumed Herb wouldn't want to see him ever again. However, it's possible that he considers this, but doesn't care and feels that Bojack has no excuse to do anything but stand by him when the scandal happened. He also flip flops between saying that he only did Horsin' Around for money and calling it his baby, making a scrapbook of bad reviews and deliberately bringing it up when he and Bojack get into a scuffle at the end of "The Telescope." Does he really think Bojack was a bad friend who screwed him out of his showbiz career, or is he just jealous of a guy more successful than him when he knew that, morally right or wrong, it was still his choice to get drunk at that party have have public sex with another man?
      • The last season offers another option with the reveal that the station was totally bluffing, and Bojack really did have the power to save Herb's job. Given that they fell out of contact immediately afterwards, it's entirely possible that he was never aware Bojack didn't know that.
    • Or, does Herb see Bojack as representing the kind of homophobic Double Standard that killed his career (that Bojack, a straight person, had the privilege of a safe, private sex life while Herb's only options at the time were seedy hookups or nothing) and Bojack being complacent was just The Last Straw, even if it wasn't entirely his fault? And even if he realizes this, is Herb just taking out his anger on Bojack because he it's easier to do to his peer than on the network executives who fired him or the legions of homophobes who convinced them to do so?
    • Herb also kisses Bojack, then backpedals when he doesn't return Herb's affection. Herb probably felt that his only hope of getting a relationship was to make desperate gestures like this and hope for the best. This theory is supported during a flashback in season six when Herb, in an attempt to loosen up Bojack for his first on-screen kiss, tries to force himself on Bojack to show him how to "do it himself."
    • "The Telescope" shows that Herb's ego got just as out of control as Bojack's midway through his time on the show, but also that he recognized this and wanted to make peace with his friend before they pushed one another away for good. On the other hand, while threatening to leave the show to stand by his friend would certainly have been noble, Bojack would have risked getting blacklisted and never working again (analogous to when Billy West continued to work on The Ren & Stimpy Show after creator John Kricfalusi was fired, despite Kricfalusi begging him to quit out of protest, which West refused to do both out of fear of blacklisting and not feeling any greater loyalty to Kricfalusi. Bojack has only slightly more of a reason to be loyal to Herb). Did he feel entitled to Bojack's loyalty in the same way Bojack felt entitled to an accepted apology? Was rejecting Bojack's apology an act of sincere anger or, again, just a power move on the one person from whom he'd gain some sort of closure by taking his anger out on? He outright tells Bojack that he's not going to give him closure, so he knows that what he's doing is going to hurt him. His line "I'm not gonna give you closure!" could be read as "I get closure! You don't!"
    • Herb also first met Bojack heckling his standup before more or less asserting himself to the title of his mentor. And while he did end up helping Bojack's career, was it an act of compassion and camaraderie from one performer to another, or did he just want to boss around this Naïve Newcomer and use him to get ahead himself? "Still Broken" shows that Horsin' Around was about as good as his writing could get, so he probably had just as much trouble breaking into the biz as Bojack due to his lack of talent.
    • Their entire relationship takes on a whole new light if you make the interpretation that Herb was grooming Bojack, preying on his naïveté and then making his move once he was sure he'd earned enough brownie points for Bojack to return his affection. The friction that built up between them may have been just as much Bojack not returning Herb's advances as it was their respective egos getting too big. Does Herb view himself as a Dogged Nice Guy? As mentioned above, a flashback in season 6 shows Herb outright forcing himself on Bojack, allegedly to show him how to do a proper on-screen kiss.
    • Tellingly, one of the few overt bits of Character Development Bojack has experienced is accepting apologies, accepting when someone rejects his apologies and being more forthcoming with apologies himself. However, he also desperately craves positive reinforcement from the people he looks up to to make up for how little he got from his own parents. Did Bojack actually value his friendship with Herb and take their falling out especially seriously, or is Herb just one of several people who's abuse Bojack mistook for compassion?

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