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Monday, November 6, 2017

Play Review: Chinglish (2011) Relationships and Culture Clashes

By On 3:27 AM

David Henry Hwang’s play, Chinglish, is arguably more about the major structural and social differences and similarities in Chinese and American culture in accordance to business relationships and conflicts. However, a major driving force for the play was Daniel Cavanaugh and Xi Yan’s affair and the many implications that one can draw from their interactions with one another. This is espeically because dividing factors in their relationship are not only the language barrier between them, but the differences in their cultures in accordance to marriage and the way that people show affection.

Daniel and Xi have a very explicit affair throughout the play, even though they come from two inherently different backgrounds. Though itt is revealed that this affair is not purely sexual, both the English and Chinese forms of the word “love” are brought up multiple times. Xi even explains how she's not happy with her marriage and Daniel even tries to convince her to leave her husband as he promises to leave his wife. However, this ends up not working. In the play, Xi brings up a word that seemingly means something along the lines of marriage relating to a partnership. In her opinion, marriage is similar to that of a contract and a binding one, at that. To Xi, marraige involves morals, but those morals also need to one’s moral that each party benefits and this stems directly from her culture. Though adultery is looked down upon in both cultures, Americans have a more relaxed attitude when it comes to the dissolution of marriages, much like we do with most conventions, which is why he sees no problem with simply leaving his wife.

He sees love as this wholly intrinsic essence which Hwang describes as “clumsy." “The word the way [he] use it. It can mean anything from altruistic love to brotherly love to lust” and in an essence, it’s a fantasy he and other Americans like him tend to get swept up in. Examples of this could be provided in the way that Americans idolize romantic comedies and other films that depict love in this grandious way. The idea of idolizing and glorifying love is rooted in American culture in both film and television and it wasn't until the mid 2000's that film began breaking the mold for what your standard romantic comedy looked like. However, the notion of love that Daniel attests to is highly damaging to Xi’s one belief of attraction and the mutually beneficial partnership that she has with her husband. In fact, she even uses her relationship with Daniel as a way to benefit her husband’s campaign. In a way, David’s exploration of their relationship extends the play much further than one on nationality, race and cultural differences into one involving gender politics as well by not having Xi deter from her ways and turn down Daniel. Even though she loses a sense of her own politics in her affair, her character still hold some agency while simultaneously getting what she wants (i.e: sex, her husband’s placeholder as mayor and the imprisonment of Cai), even though there is a bit of a struggle with her morals along the way due to language barrier that exists between them.

TV Review: Slasher: Guilty Party (2017), Justice, Death and Punishment of Sin

By On 3:13 AM
"There are some people on the forks in the road of life who persistently choose the wrong one."
Starring: Rebecca Liddiard, Paula Brancati, Melinda Shankar
Created By: Aaron Martin
Streaming/Airing On: Netflix
Release Date: October 17, 2017
Creator Aaron Martin cites a William Faulkner quote as the core for the second season of his hit TV show, Slasher. "The past is never dead. It's not even the past." This quote is a perfect reflection for this season as everyone has something to hide. Though the "guilty party" has tried to forget them, those secrets have marked them for death. The premise revolves around the reunion of a group of young adults five years after the death of one of their fellow co-workers. They return to the scene of their last meeting that has now become the home to a small community of people that have chosen to seclude themselves in the middle of nowhere. Though the group initially welcomes them into their home, they find themselves at war with the young adults over their overtly apparent secretiveness and the reasons for their sudden return. 
After a strong first season, Slasher returns following a clever formula that true classic horror fans will find quite appealing. From the classic camping ground setting taken straight from Friday the 13th to the cheesier lines reminiscent of films like I Know What You Did Last Summer, it could have been easy for this show to fall flat due to its plot and the many other generic convention it preys upon to keep things familiar. However, the show provides much more insight into the lives of the "guilty party" to keep everyone watching. There's mystery, suspense and gore all done to a certain degree, but it never seems to be done in vain as everything seemingly occurs for a reason: to keep things fresh. Some tropes are flipped on their heads. This includes killing the assumed "final girl" in the first episode and exposing not only her backstory, but those other seemingly important characters only to have them brutally murdered within in the same episode. Though the horrific, teen "whodunnit" has been done time-and-time again, we typically really get a sense of who unlucky victims are outside of their character tropes. Not only is the cast of this story diverse in the sense of their sexuality, but their motives are tested in ways that make everyone question not only why these people are doing what they're doing, but what we would do if we were in their shoes. 
Flipping between scenes from the characters' past and those of the present, the most interesting aspect of the show this season is just how much the past tends to reflect itself in the present. Death, retribution and justice are some of the primary themes of the show, but interestingly this is depicted primary through the character development rather than physical motifs or red herrings. One of the characters states that it's quite easy for someone to kill someone under the circumstances, which is not just a reflection of the blood on his own hands, but just how easy it comes to the other characters in the show as they're pushed closer to their limits by a senseless killer. Characters are slitting one another's throats, locking friends out in the cold, manipulating one another, and sleeping with each other's significant others all because they feel threatened or fearful of something. However, most of that fear stems from something that previously happened to them, which is why there's an exuberant amount of pathos in the show, regardless of how they choose to act. Even though they have chosen to let their secrets lie and move on, these people are unconsciously letting their past define their behavior in the present. In a sense, the past is repeating itself because they chose to run away instead of facing their consequences head on. Even the way in which their bodies are found reflect the way crime in which their crimes were committed. One character choose to ignore her part in someone else's dead and tried to run away again once the bodies start to pile up. After an encounter with the killer, her body is then found with her eyes gouged out with one hand over an ear and the other over her mouth. This is not only a direct reference to turning her turning a blind eye to an evil comitted in the past and the "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" ideology, but a symbol for a punishment that's seemingly fitting for that specific crime. Another character assaults another character in the past. Not only is he visibly assaulted late on, but his body is found with the dead body of the woman he assaulted on top of him as a symbol for another punishment seemingly fitting the crime.  While the only characters that seemingly atone for their sins are the survivors even they have to pay at some point for letting them go on for so long in the first place, which makes us question the motives of the show itself, amongst other existential concept. Who determines what sort of sins should be punished? And with what crime? Does the idea of karma truly exist and if so, to what extent should we expect to be punished once we're found out? For example, even after the Final Girl turns herself in for the crimes she's committed, there's still the lingering threat of death surrounding her. Even one of the characters seemingly with the least involvement in the main crime whose felt the most remorse over the past five years is still horrendously punished. And for what reason? 
Season One of Slasher dealt with sin in quite an interesting fashion. People were murdered off in accordance to the Biblical sin that they represented and that was that.  Though audience members weren't obviously rooting for the killer by any means, there was a lack of emotional connection to the cast. Their ends justified the means to the killer, and even to the audience at times, but there was no sense of an ethical discourse due to the fact there was no exploration into the motives of these people's supposed crimes to an emotional extent. Though there were basic ethical obligations to be held because most of people are decent human beings, in Guilty Party, the ethical discourse present in the form of excellent character development is what makes the audience wonder whether or not the characters were truly getting their "just desserts."
Obviously with shows like Scream airing on mainstream television networks like MTV, the idea of a long-form slasher seems a bit contrived. The question that remains in the back of all of our heads whenever this kind of idea is proposed is how does the creator prepare to deal with longevity of the show if a majority of it's cast is killed by the season finale? Aaron Martin has the perfect solution to this problem with this creative anthology that serves to both transcend and highlight the very genre it's paying homage to.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Play Review: Superior Donuts (2008), Bromances and Male Friendship

By On 12:21 AM
Though it is a play about donuts, Tracy Lett’s Superior Donuts is far from revolving on sweet talk alone. Delving deep into in the play will reveal that a touching and highly refreshing take on the way that males bond. Sebastian Bobik of Taste of Cinema explains that “Male friendships have some elements to them that kind of distance them from female friendships. Often things go unspoken and affection is underplayed. Often enough this dynamic can make for very interesting films” (Bobik). However, this can often lead to a lot of them feeling underwritten, underdeveloped or just plain sexist and riddled with inklings of  toxic masculinity. ATTN describes the idea of the a positive depiction of male friendship as “bromances,” or very intimate, close friendships between males.” In their video titled, The bromance is helping end toxic masculinity, they discuss the way that film and television previously stigmatized physical and intimate relationships between men who weren’t in relationships with one another. And this was primarily done because most men feared coming across as homosexual. The bromance initially began as a stereotypical, running joke in film and television, but as gender normatives began shifting, the idea that men could be intimate and stay friend became seemingly normal. However, this is isn’t to say that the media is completely devoid of any problematic depictions male friendships currently, even though things are getting better. 
In Superior Donuts, the “bromance” we’re presented is neither wholly underwritten or underdeveloped, but frankly, the complete opposite. However, even so, there is an inkling of something problematic underlying as, in the end, one of our leads ends up finding his bliss while the other is reduced to a mere plot device. Our main protagonist, Arthur, is a no-nonsense kind of guy. He’s strict, serious and he lacks any sort of decent relationship with his wife and daughter. He runs a donut shop, but, for the most part, he leads a monotonous, mundane existence. However, that is until a young man named Franco Wicks stops by his little shop to shake up his tedious actuality. Franco Wicks is the complete opposite from Arthur. Putting skin color aside, Franco is an optimistic, open-minded writer looking for work and after a little banter between the two, Arthur decides to hire him. Throughout the play, we’re constantly bombarded with the Arthur’s inability to move forward in his life. He’s stuck and it’s through his interactions with Franco that inspire his newfound self-discovery. Not only is their friendship unconventional because of their racial differences, which is highlighted in some of the conversations that they have on the topic, but because of their age differences as well. Franco is young, optimistic and striving to do his best, while Arthur has seemingly just given up, but it’s Franco that reminds him just how much life has to offer if you let it. 
Although this is seemingly sweet because ultimately, we’re subjected to root for Arthur, it feels as if his self-growth can only be expelled at the extent of the minority characters around him like Franco. Falling somewhere in between the concept of the “magical negro” and the “pixie manic dream girl”, Franco is not only Arthur’s crutch for self-growth, but this is done to the extent that his existence becomes almost miniscule to Arthur’s as we near the end of the play. And as not only is his precious manuscript burnt to a crisp, but three of his fingers are brutally cut off and he’s left jobless as Arthur sells over his shop after paying off Franco’s debt. Therefore, while Franco is seemingly the driving force for Arthur’s retribution, he’s left with little to nothing to say for all that he’s done while Arthur gleams with hope for the promise of a new day.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Short Film Reviews: The Sounds of Cooking (2016) & The Bridge (2013)

By On 3:15 AM
How often do we forget to fully thrust ourselves into our tasks? How often do we idly complete tasks mindlessly without a sense of purpose? In this short film, the premise revolves around a chef prepares a meal in a room filled with microphones. The film employs sound as it definitive driving force in order to utilize the sensory elements of an ideology called mindfulness. The idea of mindfulness is about fully thrusting oneself into whatever they're doing. It's about freeing the mind of outside forces that may attempt to disrupt a state of peacefulness that is created from taking a hold of the way a person thinks. When we watch a film, we have many different sensory elements working at once, such as sight, sound and touch. Though we have a visual aid of the chef preparing the meal, it is often disrupted by, proving that what we're really meant to do is sit back and enjoy the sounds we hear consistently throughout the film. And we are to do so without letting any distractions get to us, including ourselves, or else we're to subjected to becoming like the mindless robot that he feeds at the end of the film.
Watch the film here. 

Though The Bridge masks itself as an exploitative expose on the "construction and aesthetic appeal" of the Brooklyn Bridge, what it really seems to be doing is highlighting the appeal of everyday humanity. Though the bridge stands out at the centerpiece of Brooklyn, the more prominent elements of the film are the people who use the bridge, how quickly they move about it and whatever they're using it for. Buses, trains, boats and people just wandering around fill the screen and although the narrator touches primarily on the concept of building bridges, by watching, what you're beginning to understand is the fast-paced nature of  Brooklyn's residents and the bridge they use to get around to do what they need to do.
Watch the film here.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Short Film Reviews: What Men Fear Most (2016) & A Guide to Indulgence (2017)

By On 9:08 AM
“Masculinity is something that people kill and die for.”
What Men Fear Most is an elaborate and intricately spoken, tale that revolves around the psyche of a young man who fears something that he quite can't express to his father. We all have our own insecurities and emotional reactions to them, but then there's this concept of masculinity. Men are advised to be tough and strong and to not let these emotions show it to be depicted as masculine to the world. However, the concept of masculinity is so deeply ingrained in most men that they feel like the emotions that they experience could disrupt this facade, so they swallow their feelings to appear strong, but what most people forget is that they will eventually have to go somewhere. The filmmaker even reiterates this statement when he says, "What about when you're vulnerable, scared? Those feelings are never aired, but they have to live somewhere. And the question is where?" And it's in though provoking questions like these that the author transcends a simple exploration of toxic masculinity into something more-so in the realm of a poetic, hard-hitting, world shattering critique.
Watch the film here. 

A Guide to Indulgence offers a satirical and somewhat frightening look into the world of beauty and femininity. British photographer and filmmaker, Nadia Lee Cohen, uses a multitude of masked, made-up women who are more than comfortable in their own skin as the backdrop of this wonderfully crafted, modernized take on the vintage advice, beauty and grooming technique videos of the 30s, 40s and 50s. The stylized situations in the film not only reflect on how a woman's role has been built and transformed over time, but they also prompt many questions that ponder the minds of many. What does it mean to be beautiful? How is true beauty achieved? Who is really in charge for all the trends and styles that we pick and choose to recreate and embody? Is it us or does it come from somewhere else, somewhere unrecognizable? Though we may never find out, Cohen believes that it's time that we do.
Watch the film here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Film Review: When Harry Met Sally (1989), Exploring Chick Flicks and Genre Conventions

By On 2:04 AM
 "I'll have what she's having."
Starring: Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal, Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby
Written By: Nora Ephron
Directed By: Rob Reiner
Release Date: July 21, 1989

Buy the film here.
Directed by Rob Reiner and written by the wonderfully talented, Nora Ephron, When Harry Met Sally is a film that has topped numerous "Best Chick Flicks for Men" lists for the last 28 years. But what makes this award-winning film a "chick-flick" rather than just your average romantic comedy? Or vice versa.
I want to start off by explaining that not all "chick flicks" are romantic comedies, just like not all romantic comedies are "chick flicks." Romantic comedies are just that: films that are comedic, yet also romantic in nature. Their plots revolve around some kind of romantic entanglement and are centered on romantic themes and ideologies, but they're still funny. "Chick flicks" are simply films that are geared towards women and although these genres have traditionally been categorized as one in the same, they aren't. Consider the way that films like Clueless and Mean Girls are categorized as "chick-flicks" and just comedies, even though they feature elements of romance. This is similar to the way that any Nicholas Sparks film is labeled a "chick-flick" and a drama because they aren't typically comedic and are instead, fully romantic in nature. Contrastingly, also consider the fact that Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and (500) Days of Summer are just labeled romantic comedies and never really "chick flicks" because they're geared towards everyone. A majority similarity in relation to why these films are all labeled "chick-flicks" is not in their content at all, but in their intended audience, which is women. 
When Harry Met Sally features some, if not most, of the staple conventions that have categorized films as romantic comedies for ages. The basis for a romantic comedy involves the two leads meeting and then subsequently parting for some reason or another. Upon them parting from one another, it's traditionally established that the two believe they are not right for one another romantically, but both the filmmaker and the audience know that, secretly, they are. Eventually, they do meet again; however, there is usually some obstacle in the way of them being together, such as one or both of them being involved with someone else or other social pressures. In the end, one of them seeks out the other to put forth some sort of grand gesture or proposal of their love, and they come together to get married. This is essentially the plot of When Harry Met Sally. However, even though the film virtually subjects itself to following the stereotypical formula of a traditional romantic comedy, it subverts many of the various genre conventions it depicts by way of its dialogue and character development. And not only does it do that, but it also asks us questions about our own relationships and how we view society. Can men and women really be friends? Can a man compliment a woman without it being a come-on? Do most women fake their orgasms? Why does Ingrid Bergman really get on the plane at the end of Casablanca? While these questions and many more have plagued my mind since I saw the movie back in 2008, the more important question that remains is: Why doesn't it feel like other seemingly titled "chick flicks" are doing the same thing? 
Of course, there are always variations to any generic formula and many films have gone about flipping many of the stereotypical conventions of romantic comedies throughout the years. In (500) Days of Summer, our leads do not end up together. Instead, Summer leaves Tom and they both end up seemingly finding love elsewhere. In My Best Friend's Wedding, our lead female protagonist ends up alone and her love interest gets married to someone else. The reason that both films work so well is because they subvert our expectations about what's supposed to happen. Michael Tucker of Lessons from the Screenplay talks about genre in his video essay on When Harry Met Sally and from his reading of Robert McKey's Story, he concludes that: 
"The genre sophistication of filmgoers presents the writer with this critical challenge: [He or she] must not only fulfill audience anticipations...but...must lead their expectations to fresh, unexpected moments, or risk boring them." 
"The challenge is to keep convention, but avoid cliche."
Meaning that the conventions themselves are not the issue. The issue lies in how they're presented. The winning aspect of When Harry Met Sally over other "chick flicks" similar to it is that while the film follows through with these repetitive conventions, they don't feel tired. The film is giving us everything we've seen before without straying away from its contrived plotline and it does this for a very specific reason. Not much happens in When Harry Met Sally and this is so that we're able to dissect characters and their relationships via what they say to one another. 
When Sally and Harry first meet, Harry has a long monologue about how he feels like he's a dark person because he reads the last page of every he encounters in case he dies before he can finish it. This directly ties to the deep depression he goes into when his wife cheats on him when they meet again five years later. As for Sally during her and Harry's first meeting, we ultimately find out that she's a generally happy person, unlike her male counterpart. Also unlike Harry, she takes her breakup with her significant other much better than he does and sees it as more of transitional period than a dramatic loss. Comparing their words with one another not only reflects the differences and similarities that occur in their future actions, but also in the differences and similarities between men and women in general. When Nora Ephron initially released the script, she also included an 11-page introduction with it. That introduction included the many conversations on love and relationships that Ephron had with the film's director. And it turns out that all of this is what's reflected in the film's dialogue. Every piece of dialogue seems to be working to showcase who these people are and how they fit in both our world, as well as the one that Reiner and Ephron have crafted based upon it. 
"Chick-flick" or not, When Harry Met Sally has a lot to say. It's a film that's caused quite a bit of debate on many different topics, most importantly including the question as to if men and women can be friends. While we may not have a lot of answers to these questions, it's more important to discuss these things and relate them to how differently men and women are in how they think about things and operate daily. Though this is quite mundane, especially since nothing really happens in the film, it's real without having to do much, which I can't say a lot about many other films of the genre. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

TV Review: Bojack Horseman Season 4 and The Struggle to Find Meaning

By On 1:24 PM
"Oh my god, I'm the problem!"
Starring: Will Arnett, Aaron Paul, Amy Sedaris, Allison Brie
Created By:  Raphael Bob-Waksberg
Streaming/Airing On: Netflix
Original Release: September 8, 2017
Content Warning: 
This post contains discussion on suicide, suicidal ideation, and mental illness.
For the last couple of years, Bojack Horseman has been a show that never fails to send me sailing into another depressive, dissociative episode. However, even though I know the consequences to delving into a show like this one, I keep watching because I don't think I've related to a character as much as I have to Bojack. And that's honestly what worries me the most...
 Set in the world of Hollywoo, a world filled with anthomorphic animals and humans alike, the show's titular protagonist is a horse named Bojack (Will Arnett) that is just trying to figure out who he is and what the hell he's doing. For the past three seasons, Bojack's has gone through hell trying to reclaim the fame he once had in the nineties as a famous TV actor. However, through starring in the movie of his dreams and even becoming nominated for an Oscar for that performance, Bojack still finds that he feels nothing. Season Three began with him stating that if he was to win that Oscar, he finally would have meaning in his life, but he soon realizes that there's much more to life than fame because before he's an award-winning, television star, he's Bojack and having to deal with yourself and the things that you've done is honestly one of the hardest things to accomplish, especially when you feel like you're not that great of a person. During Season Three's episode "That's Too Much, Man", Bojack and Sarah Lynn (Kristen Schaal), who is also a famous actress/singer that Bojack views as a daughter-figure, come together to acknowledge their faults and ponder their existence after a drug-fueled bender where she eventually dies in his arms. This was Bojack's breaking point and Season 4 picks up during the aftermath of her death.
Choosing to begin the season without Bojack was a smart decision. Even though we're caught up with everyone else's endeavors in the wake of his absence, we're still met with so many more questions. The first thought that always crosses my mind with every season premiere rolls around is about if Bojack has killed himself. I was almost very certain that he'd actually done it this time, but when he appeared he was the still the same narcissistic, self-obsessed horse-man that he's been for the last three seasons. However, I was all-too relieved and excited to see a familiar face that I could directly relate to amongst the likes of Diane (Allison Brie), Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins), Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris) and Todd (Aaron Paul). But even though we meet Bojack again as the same man he's always been, this time he is on a different mission: to become a better person. The largest challenge for Bojack over the course of the last three seasons was comprehending the ramifications of his actions and fully feeling remorse for them. Whether your coping mechanism to feeling bad is by heavy drinking or drug use like Bojack's or self-destructively pushing everyone away via hostility and reveling in your own sadness and succumbing to self-harm like mine, doing any of those things always seems to be much easier than admitting your sorry or that you're wrong because, in turn, that admission would make you a bad person. Julia Alexander of Polygon writes that:
"BoJack is obsessed with himself and his own sadness, desperate to figure out why he feels so hollow. He wants to be both loved and left alone, adored by millions while sitting at home, stewing in his own self-hatred and wallowing in his paralyzing self-doubt."
And the thing that is so different about Season 4 from any other season is that even though everyone around him, including the audience, has already realized this about Bojack, he's finally realized and accepted this fact himself. During an episode ironically titled "Stupid Piece of Shit", Bojack says this to himself. "You're a piece of shit, but at least I know I'm a piece of shit, that makes me better than those other pieces of shit who don't know they're pieces of shit." Though the quote didn't really resonate with me the first time I watched it, it finally clicked yesterday. 
Yesterday, I sat in my car with the windows rolled up for a very long time. As I usually do when I get depressed, my first instance was to Google "how long does it take for you to suffocate in a car with the windows rolled up." That, unfortunately, takes quite a while, so my thoughts then moved to crashing my car into a tree, slitting my wrists in a bathtub, or burning myself with cigarettes. Though these thoughts may be alarming to most, they've become quite a comforting normality to me, but this time, they felt so comforting I almost went through with them. After hours of contemplating how I planned to end my life, I dialed the Crisis Hotline. Though I've never done this before and I don't know what prompted me to do it in the first place, I don't regret doing so. After describing my predicament and chatting for a couple of hours on the phone with a delightful young man who I will not name, he told something very similar to what Bojack says to himself. He told me that the best step forward in managing your mental health issues is recognizing that you have them in the first place. I've always been very self-aware when it comes to my mental illness and the instability of my emotions that come with it. However, until yesterday, like Bojack, I've always related them to myself and people like me, but not to everyone else around me who has to deal with me. And even more so, even though it's easy to recognize when I've entered a state of reveling in my own self-hatred and self-doubt (and even Bojack's), it's very hard to see just how I got there in the first place; how the mind braces itself for the fear of abandonment, loneliness, and disappointment with self-destruction instead of clarity or hope. Bojack finally realizing this is the first step in the right direction. However, meeting Hollyhock and reuniting with his mother, while he is attempting to better himself sends him spiraling back down the rabbit hole he's been trying to climb out of for the last three seasons.
The introduction of Hollyhock (Aparna Nancherla), a girl who presents herself as Bojack's daughter, was also an interesting turn of events, not only for the show itself, but for Bojack himself because now he's found something to give him meaning. Though she states that she's only come to Bojack to confirm his paternity and find her mother, some of the show's best moments come from the time that these two spend together on-screen. The similarities they share are almost uncanny. Not only are they both lazy and insecure about their own cosmic existence, but they both find something in each other, regardless of their faults. The only times that we've ever seen Bojack display any sort of organic happiness is when he is playing a father-figure to someone, even though he's not the best at it. The difference between him being a father-figure to Sarah Lynn and him being a father-figure to Hollyhock is that Sarah Lynn is bound to him of her own volition alone. Like Hollyhock, she also chooses to be around Bojack, regardless of his faults. She can leave him whenever she wants and often does. While Hollyhock is bound to Bojack in a comparable manner as well, she is also bound to Bojack by blood which he finds comfort in. This is especially since she's the only member of his family that's accepted him for who he is and more importantly, relates to him. Right before "Stupid Piece of Shit" ends, Hollyhock asks Bojack if the "tiny voice" in your head that tells you that you're worthless, stupid, and ugly goes away when you're older. Even though Bojack lies to her and tells her that it does, it's a very quiet and refreshing moment that highlights the fact that not only are these two characters one-and-the-same, but it resonates the idea that, regardless of whatever you're going through, you're not alone. 
Putting Hollyhock aside because they're so similar, this season really spotlights the fact that Bojack isn't alone in his struggle to find happiness. Although most of the other characters' struggles to find purpose appears have often just felt like filler episodes that almost fade into the background. This time around they're revealed to be some of the most beautiful and devastating parts of the show when you compare them to how these characters were portrayed in previous seasons. For example, Todd has always strived to rid himself of his toxic friendship with Bojack. Though we've seen Bojack hurt him time-and-time again, it was only last season that Todd had finally had enough with Bojack's selfish actions. However, Bojack only does this out of the fear that Todd will leave him. In his final efforts to stop Todd from leaving, he unironically does the very thing that hurts Todd the most and Todd says this: 
"You can’t keep doing shitty things, and then feel bad about yourself like that makes it okay! You need to be better! … No! No, BoJack, just stop. You are all the things that are wrong with you. It’s not the alcohol, or the drugs, or any of the shitty things that happened to you in your career, or when you were a kid. It’s you. All right? It’s you."
This hurt my feelings! While this probably stems from my own narcissism, it really hit home for me because every time I've ever hurt someone, it is my own fault for not acknowledging that I've done whatever it is. It is my own fault for doing the things that I've done and letting the past control my life, but it's so goddamn hard not to. However, someone can only keep being abused by someone they love for so long. Once Todd finally let's go of Bojack in Season 4, he's free to begin his own life and even though he's struggled with doing his own thing and being himself in the past, it's even harder now that he doesn't have Bojack to blame for bringing him down. All along, he's never really known who he was and dealing with Bojack not only inhibited him from being able to do so, but it's ultimately revealed that it was also an excuse for him to not have to. 
This also applies to Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter, who have their share of marital problems as well as their own internal issues that they have chosen to ignore for other external problems like those involving Bojack. Diane struggles not only with her own cosmic existence like Bojack, but she struggles with being understood by everyone else around her. She's frustrated with how the world treats women, it's gun laws and even the environment and though she voices her frustrations constantly, she still feels like she's not being heard, most importantly by her husband, Mr. Peanutbutter, who is solely focused on pleasing everyone else. Although Mr. Peanutbutter hasn't reached his breaking point yet (though I fear he will soon), last season both Todd and Bojack hit their's and this season, Diane has hit her own. In "Underground" after Mr. Peanutbutter's starts supporting fracking, which results their whole house collapsing, trapping everyone, including Bojack, Diane, Mr. Peanutbutter and a whole gaggle of various celebrities (such as a hilarious version of Jessica Biel, played by herself, and Zach Braff) underground. By being stuck underground without the likes of anything to distract her from her problems, she is confronted by everything she's both feared and been frustrated with thus far and it is then that she has her breakdown. Even though she's tried so hard to feel otherwise by thrusting herself into her work and marriage, similarly to Bojack's attempt to find solace in his fame, it hasn't worked and that's primarily because she would rather live in denial and pretend to be happy instead of just doing so. For example, the real reason her and Mr. Peanutbutter's relationship hasn't worked thus far is because they're fundamentally different. Even though she uses denial and busy work to keep herself busy, she also simultaneously trying to find meaning in everything, which is much more harmful than not. Mr. Peanutbutter's only purpose is to make everyone else happy, which is why his character is a dog, but because they only find despair in trying to find their own reason for existence, he remains unsatisfied as well. He finds comfort in his own uncertainty and accepts it. No one else around him is capable of that just yet and after spending the past few seasons, trying to help everyone become as happy as he is, it's only now that he realizes that's the one thing out of his control. With or without Bojack around, everyone is fundamentally one-and-the-same. Bojack, however, represents the end-all-be-all for all their emotional problems. They deal with their issues in certain ways because they do not want to end up like him. However, without him there as a reminder on how not to act, they all begin to fall down the same twisted rabbit hole that he has thus far.
Looking past all the witty, pop culture references and the intricately woven jokes that contain social/political commentaries on things like mass shootings, sexuality, and abortion, Bojack Horseman is one hell of an emotional roller coaster. The main reason that I always go back to this show is that Bojack never learns and not only does that send him spiraling downhill, but everyone else as well because they keep going back to him, fully knowing what will happen. But even though each season consists of him hurting the same people time-and-time again, even I go back to the show each season, thinking he will change. Deep down, I don't really think he will ever change nor do I think he's even capable of change, but at least he's trying now. I can only hope that if he does eventually change, so can I. 
For any of you or your loved ones that may have thoughts of committing suicide, please call this number: 1-800-273-8255
You won't regret it.


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