Bojack Horseman season 5 highlights toxicity of entertainment industry

Elena Waldman

In a time where the most prominent waves of the #MeToo movement have melded the current cultural moment labeled the “post-Weinstein Era”, the new season of Netflix’s “Bojack Horseman” could not be truer.

Returning for a fifth Netflix season on September 14th, the show brings back many recurring themes, such as mental health, drug abuse and the corruption of the entertainment industry. The newest season focuses more on the nuances of Hollywood’s dark side.

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Based on the titular character Bojack Horseman, a washed-up celebrity still coasting off his success on a popular ’90s sitcom, the series has never shied away from mature subjects. In season one, Bojack is gradually revealed as a much more damaged and vulnerable individual. Many of the same struggles Bojack has faced throughout the series are still central to his character; his abusive childhood, struggle with alcoholism and inability to settle with his terrible life decisions have instilled in him a concoction of self-loathing and depression.

BoJack Horseman is now streaming on Netflix.

In season five, things briefly start to look up in the “Bojack Horseman” universe. Starring in a new fringe crime show titled Philbert, Bojack finally has a bit of direction. His current closest friend and memoir-writer, Diane, is adjusting to life as a recently divorced woman. His former best friend, Todd, has embraced his asexuality and once again found himself in a much higher professional position than he is qualified for. Princess Carolyn, Bojack’s manager, has embraced the idea of being a single mother.

As the season progresses, the lighthearted premises fade into much harsher societal truths. It doesn’t stray away from the show’s notorious format of deconstructing conventional television through self-deprecating humor and cheeky pop culture references. It does, however, pull back the curtain of irony to reveal its core message: popular culture has significant influence over society, and if the people working within it lack integrity, the results can be damaging.

Diane, the token ‘woke’ character of the show and often the voice of morality, brings up the point that mainstream media has the power to normalize certain behaviors or ideologies. The show within the show, Philbert, is a nod to many television shows and movies today that use the pretense of ‘conveying real-world problems’ to exploit rape culture, violence and drug abuse for shock value. The show forces the characters to ask whether or not building meaningful narratives around characters who display toxic behaviors is justifiable. 

Should you watch it? Yes. 

Bojack is essentially an irredeemable character, and yet the audience empathizes with him because we know why he’s so terrible. The same could be said about the culture the show operates within. Philbert, a product of the same industry that allows violence and sexual assault to thrive, is Bojack Horseman’s self reflection.

Elena Waldman can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @WaldmanElena.