‘BoJack Horseman’ Brilliantly Argues Why Comedy Belongs in the Abortion Debate

Episode 6, "Brrap Brrap Pew Pew," moves past the pro-choice v. pro-life debate to focus on the people who need an honest, open conversation — by any means necessary.
BoJack Horseman Episode 6 Season 3 Sextina Aquafina

[Editor’s Note: “BoJack Horseman” Season 3 is a feat of storytelling on both a serialized and episodic level. To honor the impressive accomplishment, IndieWire will be reviewing all 12 episodes over the next few weeks. Below, we delve into Episode 6.]

“It’s a joke. You get that it’s a joke, right?”

Of course, Diane did not “get” that Sextina’s pop song in response to internet feedback on her (fake) abortion, “Get That Fetus, Kill That Fetus,” was a joke. But that didn’t matter because the unnamed woman who defended Sextina did. Diane knew what she wanted to do as soon as she found out about her pregnancy and was vocal about it from the get go. Yes, she and Mr. Peanutbutter had a brief, difficult conversation, but that’s by far the best case scenario for a couple making this choice. More to the point, Diane never wavered once she spoke her mind. She didn’t flinch when the doctors told her she had to listen to the heartbeat — even if the news was rough on Mr. Peanutbutter — and she moved forward quickly with the procedure itself.

“Get That Fetus, Kill That Fetus” wasn’t for her. It was for everyone else.

Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s message in “Brrap Brrap Pew Pew” brilliantly depicted how a popular piece of entertainment — even one constructed for the wrong reasons and initially depicted as horrifically insensitive — can also work to shatter stuffy social stigmas and, most importantly, make people feel safe. By showing both sides of the issue — Diane, who was angered by the backstory of Sextina’s song as well as its brash construction, and the unnamed woman who saw the song as an extreme satirization of insensitivity via over-application of in-your-face lyrics — Bob-Waksberg shifted the conversation from the Pro-Choice/Pro-Life debate to a more vital point: How we talk about abortion is important.

READ MORE: How ‘BoJack Horseman’ Achieved Perfection Without a Word

Treating it sensitively is one thing, but over-emphasizing the act makes it all the harder to go through with — which is the goal of the Pro-Lifers, but not what progressive Americans should be concerning themselves with in 2016. The laws in effect requiring patients to listen to the heartbeat of their unborn fetus are obviously designed to push a Pro-Life agenda, and that they exist post-Roe v. Wade is an embarrassment worth calling out in an equally extreme fashion. Hence, “Brrap Brrap Pew Pew.”

The beauty of the episode lies in what function as opposing dynamics in the narrative, but become a two-pronged attack on ignorance for viewers. It’s okay that Diane wanted Sextina to take the topic seriously because it is a serious topic, but the unnamed woman at the abortion clinic was right to stick up for Sextina because the song helped her get through a difficult time. And what greater purpose could a song — or TV show — serve than make people a little more comfortable discussing a difficult topic? Twitter schmitter. “BoJack Horseman” proved itself the best forum for this discussion.

READ MORE: ‘BoJack Horseman’ Season 3 Premiere Review: Can ‘Bad’ TV Be Better Than Oscar Movies?

Key Foreshadowing (Spoilers Below)

BoJack dropped a major bomb in the foreshadowing department; a tease that doesn’t pay off until the season finale (so non-bingers, be warned: spoilers ahead for the season finale). When BoJack found out Diane was getting an abortion, the self-centered actor turned the conversation back to himself.

“I had more than my fair share of abortions in the ‘90s,” BoJack said (to no one in particular). “Well, I didn’t get them. I paid for them… Gee, I really hope all those women actually got the abortions and didn’t just keep my money.”

Well, it looks like one did. In the season finale, we see a college-aged kid unsuccessfully trying to connect with BoJack, and the implication is that our suicidal antihero has been a papa for two decades (or more). How that affects his future will certainly be addressed in Season 4, but demanding this kind of attention to detail from fans is what makes “BoJack” such a delightful binge, time and time again.

READ MORE: ‘BoJack Horseman’ Eviscerates SeaWorld With Killer (Whale) Strip Club Sequence

The Joke You May Have Missed, In a .gif

BoJack Horseman S3E6 mass shootings gif
“This just in: Nevermind.”Netflix

Harrowingly on point, even as an easily-missed addition to a news scroll.

Best Pop Culture Reference

The shouting. All the shouting. It’s just…it’s so fucking good.

BoJack Horseman A.O. Scott Shorter Season 3 gif

Not only that, but these exits create a pattern in and of themselves, emphasizing how streamlined the series is overall. The writers don’t even waste time shifting between conversations. Bob-Waksberg & Co. instead create a series-long motif to experiment with again and again. (Oh, and in case you were wondering, that’s Jay Mohr doing the voice of Jurj Clooners.)

BoJack Horseman Season 3 George Clooney Vivica A Fox gif

And, of course, Mr. Peanutbutter’s mysterious Erica — the instant classic that started it all:

BoJack Horseman Season 3 Episode 2 erica gif

Quote of the Week

BoJack: “He’s not God. He’s just an old guy who loves pranks.”
Todd: “Sure sounds like God…”

It’s worth noting this is as close as the episode came to addressing the religious aspect of the abortion debate, which again speaks to how “BoJack,” as a series, moved past the moral part of the debate in general — it’s no longer a question whether or not a woman should have the right to choose, nor should it be. But what matters about this joke — as well as all the others in “Brrap Brrap Pew Pew” — is that it exists.

People will argue this isn’t the right medium to talk about abortion because it’s a comedy, or because it’s an animated comedy, or because it’s not taking it “seriously.” But the parallels between Sextina’s song and Episode 6 are quite clear: Both exist to make it easier for viewers to discuss abortion on practical and emotional levels. That’s what matters. That’s what we need. That helps people. The medium doesn’t matter when the message is this good.

Grade: A

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