Saturday, July 23, 2016

That Abortion Episode of Bojack Horseman

Finished season 3 of Bojack Horseman. A few thoughts on the abortion-themed sixth episode.
When Diane discovers she is pregnant at the end of the fifth episode of the season, she and her husband (a dog named Mr. Peanutbutter) are in a state of shock. The totality of impending parenthood is a trope often used to inject conflict in a TV series, but this was handled in a much different (though not necessarily better) fashion.
The episode, sadly, seemed really shallow for a show whose characters create gripping internal conflict out of thin air. 
Diane Nguyen, introduced to the series as Bojack's ghostwriter-cum-love-interest, is the secondary character in the show. The parallel story arcs of Bojack and Diane are well-drawn. 
Bojack's low-point, even after season 3, has to be his time in New Mexico in season 2. It was the height of his selfishness. He showed up unannounced to the home of an old friend named Charlotte, a doe (a deer, a female deer), then expected her to leave her husband for him. He gave no consideration to how anybody else would react to that. He didn't even care about Charlotte's feelings. She was just an object he attempted to use for emotional fulfillment, which is an incredibly unfair burden to place on another person. When that didn't happen, he corrupted her 17 year-old daughter. It was his worst moment in the series, and one that haunts him throughout S3.
Similarly, Diane's reason for getting an abortion was simply "I don't want kids." She doesn't particularly care about the other two people directly involved in the situation (Mr. Peanutbutter, and her unborn child). She shows no real interest in how her actions affect anybody else. Rather than consider other people, both born and unborn, she makes an instant decision to do what she feels will make her happy. But instead of exploring the potential damage of her actions, the episode wraps up neatly and without any conflict between any of the main characters.
Diane is a morose character. She is referred to as "Asian Daria" later in the season. She constantly looks for fulfillment through her work. Her career, where she wanted to "make a difference" in the first season, now finds her ghostwriting tweets for celebrities' Twitter accounts. Her childhood was traumatic and filled with neglect, which is chronicled in a first season episode that showcases her roots in Boston. Her family can best be described as "Massholes" (my favorite line may be when one of her brothers, wearing a Red Sox jersey, says to Bojack "you have stolen my heart like Dave Roberts stole second base!"). The fact that she is so averse to having a child is fertile ground for a fuller analysis of her character, from her background as a neglected girl in a family full of boys, to her current situation as a celebrity's wife with a dead-end career. It is a shame that they did not take it in that direction. By aborting a child, you can look at it as her denying herself an experience (motherhood) that might make her life worthwhile. Instead, she fears change and makes a decision to revert to her routine, where she is bored and depressed.
The writers could have opened up the point to analyze how Diane's abortion was an incredibly selfish act. She conceives a child with her loving husband, a man (well, dog) of means and stature. Then it could have been expanded to point out that the characters in this show are largely self-centered and miserable, and those two things go hand-in-hand.
They could have gone that direction, but they resolved the story without ever really exploring these topics. The story was wrapped up with a fairly neat "Diane has an abortion, ends up feeling okay about it. Also it's good for women to open up and talk about abortion." This is a show where characters have relatively minor life events that inspire introspection. But abortion was NBD?
The worst part of all is that this could have been done without taking a stance on abortion. It didn't have to take a side in the broader debate about fetal personhood. It just had to examine the conflict one character has with the issue. For a show that has been such a brilliantly deep character study, they whiffed. It wandered away from introspection and into advocacy.
Bojack Horseman has been more than willing to criticize the narcissistic, amoral, and venal nature of Hollywood. Here, though, it sadly glossed over a product of that narcissism without giving it the weight it deserves.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Donald Trump Makes the Donaldson Trade

Look, Josh Donaldson is a good guy. Great guy. Known him a long time, everyone who knows him - they say “this is a guy you wanna have around.” So about early November, eh, let’s make that late October. Late October 2014, guy from Toronto calls me up. GM in Toronto. Always had a lot of respect for him. Classy guy. Very classy. He calls up saying he wants Donaldson. I tell him no dice. You see, this is how the deal works. This is how you do deals. Some of these other guys, I tell them, “you don’t know how to do deals. I do.” So GM in Toronto and I, we chat a bit, he asks for Donaldson again, I say no.

Keep in mind, I made the Mark Mulder trade. I made the Dan Haren trade. I built the 2012 team. You know this, you all know this. And they know this too. I’M THE GUY WHO SIGNED BRANDON MOSS.

You know Brandon Moss. Here’s a guy, nobody wanted him, this guy. He’d been bouncing around the minor leagues, couldn’t find a job, I tell him “look, Brandon, I believe in you.” I offer him a contract. A MINOR LEAGUE CONTRACT. Nobody else offered him one. I’m the guy who did. Long story short, you know where this is going, long story short, Moss kills it. Kills it. Comes up to Oakland and never stops hitting. Beautiful hitting. Classy guy. Lotta homers. Pretty wife. A real winner. I like guys like that. Like having them around.

So, so a few weeks go by, and I’m in the backyard, I’m enjoying the offseason, I’m working on a few things. I’m always working on a few things. Gotta stay busy. Gotta keep busy. Keeping busy, it’s imperative. That’s what I always tell everyone. So I’m in the backyard and my wife calls me in. My wife, beautiful woman. She calls me in, so I go inside, she says my phone’s been ringing. It’s… it’s always ringing, she knows that, but she feels something this time. She’s so smart, my wife. So I check my voicemail, it’s the guy in Toronto again. Lotta respect for that guy. So I give him a call, give him a few names that I like. Thinking maybe we can work out a smaller deal. A little deal, always nice. Help him, help me, beautiful. I ask him what he wants and he tells me Donaldson.

Now, now, I like this guy. Respect his persistence. Persistence is key in any deal, you wanna get what you want. So look, I tell him, “who do you want to hold on to? Who’s your best guy?” He says he doesn’t wanna give up his best guys. I tell him I know he doesn’t wanna give up his best guys, but he’s asking me for MY best guys. You know I like Nolin. Sean Nolin. Good pitcher. He’s excellent. Really, really first class. He tells me he’ll give up Nolin.

Okay, I’m listening. Obviously, Nolin, he’ll slot into any rotation you got. This guy can really pitch. Beautiful off-speed stuff. But I think I can get more. I tell him I like Graveman. Graveman. Another great guy. Fantastic guy. Honestly, I’m telling you this, I’m still impressed that I was able to get two of these guys. Really fantastic guys. Graveman, here’s a guy who was in the big leagues last season. Guy starts out in the low minors, riding the busses, eating McDonalds on the road. Travels the country, guy’s seen a lot. In a few months, he’s in the big time. He’s pissing on ice. He’s staying in 5-star hotels on the road. 5-star joints. These major league ballplayers, these guys live. Luxurious. Graveman’s that kind of guy. It’s in him.

So I say Graveman and Nolin, we’re getting somewhere. I still love Donaldson, mind you, but we’re still just talking. Talking.

Another few weeks go by, one of my guys calls me up and says “Boss, you think we can get Barreto?” I love this guy. Always has great ideas. Always calls me "boss". One in a million. I call up the guy in Toronto. Ask about Franklin Barreto. Young guy, very talented. You can see it in him. You can see it- I can see it, I see things sometimes other people don’t see, I see he’s a winner. This kid, this kid is worth Donaldson. Believe me. Believe me. He’s excellent. I love him, this guy.

Guy in Toronto says yeah, yeah maybe. I say okay, so Nolin, Graveman, and Barreto. He says yeah, but I can hear it. I can hear it in his voice, he could go a little farther. I tell him I’ll call him back. That’s how you make deals. Keep ‘em wanting your attention.

Another, another week goes by, it’s Thanksgiving. I think to myself, I’m watching football with the family, but my mind’s always business. Love my kids. Beautiful kids. You’re gonna love them, when they get older. They’ve got great parents. Love them, my kids. So we’re all hanging out and watching football and I think “what if we get Brett Lawrie?” Wow. Wow. I’m impressed with my own idea, and that doesn’t happen very often. That’s when you know it’s special. So I don’t call the guy in Toronto on Thanksgiving. I don’t know if they celebrate Thanksgiving in Toronto, but I don’t want to scare the guy off. I can barely eat my turkey, I’m so excited about this deal. I call a few of my guys, I can call my guys on Thanksgiving, they love me. Their families love me. Plus, I’m their boss. What are they gonna do? They gotta talk to me. They love it. They love me.

So I talk to them about Brett Lawrie. Every one of them tells me it’s a great idea. Every single one. That’s when I knew it was happening. I could hardly sleep that night.

Wake up the next morning about 5 o’clock, which is much later than I usually get up, but it’s the day after Thanksgiving. I call Toronto and I say “add Lawrie and you’ve got a deal.” Guy pauses. He accepts. Wow. Nobody else… Nobody else does this deal except me. Spectacular. You guys are so lucky.

I don’t care what they say about it. It’s a great deal. They question me. They always question me. But look at this, you’re gonna love this deal. It’s a beautiful deal. You’re gonna love it. Luxurious. That’s what we’re gonna keep doing. Making beautiful deals. We’re gonna make Oakland great again.