Asexual Representation: Todd Chavez from Bojack Horseman
Bojack Horseman. We went from hating it, to loving it, to enshrining it is as one of our all-time favorite pieces of media. In 2016, we watched in delight as season 3 teased an asexual plotline for audience-favorite Todd Chavez. And friends, it only got better from there!
Courtney: Hooray! Todd episode! Oh, welcome back everybody! This is the moment you have all been waiting for. Or at the very least, it is the moment that I have been waiting for. Because today, we are going to talk about our asexual hero, Todd Chavez. If you are new around here, hello, welcome to The Ace Couple podcast. My name is Courtney. I’m here with my spouse, Royce. We are an asexual married couple. And today, we are discussing our favorite asexual character – I wanted to say TV character, but truthfully, probably, our favorite character in all-encompassing media as of yet. And, you know, so far on this podcast, we’ve talked about some good ace representation, some bad ace representation, some mixed bags. No doubt we’ll talk about a variety of representation examples in the future. But today’s episode: truly, truly the pinnacle, the best of the best, god-tier, dare I say Todd-tier. So let’s get right into it. The show is BoJack Horseman. Now, it is a Netflix show and… let’s see, how would we describe BoJack Horseman to someone who has not yet seen it?
Courtney: [laughs] Carefully, yes.
Royce: Because BoJack Horseman is one of those shows that I have heard some people refer to as the best written show on TV, period.
Courtney: Deservedly, I would say.
Royce: But it can also be difficult to get into. And part of it, one, is because it is animated, and two, because it is animated with a mixture of anthropomorphic animal people and…
Courtney: It’s weird.
Royce: …other people.
Courtney: It’s unusual. And it’s not just that, either. Because we actually, the very first time we tried watching it, we also had a rough time getting into it at the start. So when I recommend the show to anyone, I just implore them to stick through the first season.
Royce: It’s a show that you have to recommend with a few caveats.
Royce: There’s a decent amount of setting. There’s a decent amount of characters. On your first watch-through, the first six episodes or so may be a little bit slow. But when we have watched them after having seen the season, we didn’t feel the same about them as the first time we had watched them. It made sense.
Courtney: It retroactively got better [laughs] in the second watch-through. But yeah, so –
Royce: I would also say that BoJack Horseman is story-focused, and it’s a tragedy first and a comedy second.
Royce: And a lot of the weird quirky things about it are to be able to tackle some of the heavier topics.
Courtney: And they get into every heavy topic you can think of, just about. They really, really go deep. And they explore all of these exceptionally dark themes in a really mature way, despite the fact that a lot of the characters are not mature, and some of the jokes are also a little crass, occasionally childish. But the overarching themes and just the emotion behind it is very raw and very, very good. And when we first started watching it, it was not with the pretense that there was going to be an asexual character, because at the time we started watching, we didn’t know. We actually had some friends recommend the show to us, which is about the only way you can get us to watch a new show [laughs]. I especially – to a certain extent, maybe you as well – but we’re a little picky with the things that we watch, especially if it’s an entire TV series that is going to take a lot of time to get into, and just some of our general tastes and things don’t always match the public hype. For me, a really good example of that is Game of Thrones. Everyone thought I would love Game of Thrones. I had it recommended to me by everybody for years before I finally tried to watch it, but there was too much sex. There was too much unnecessary gore. I don’t mind gore, but they really went out of their way to gore everyone.
Royce: I think your summary of Game of Thrones Season 1, at the time, was that they took half an hour of content and made an hour-long episode for every episode of the season.
Courtney: Yes, and I can’t stand that. Don’t pad time, please. And that’s something that BoJack Horseman… Although the first watch-through, the first season seemed like there was definitely some unnecessary components, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t really think so. They used their time very, very well, pretty much throughout I would say. So we had friends who just, purely based on the themes, the writing, said, “We think you will like this. You should watch it.” A few episodes in, I remember, we were looking at each other like, “Should we keep going…?” [laughs] This is not very good so far.” Because the main character, the titular character, BoJack Horseman: not a likable guy [laughs], especially right off the bat when you don’t know anything about him.
Courtney: But we stuck through it. We watched the first two seasons, which were the only ones that were out at the time we started. So by the time our beloved Todd Chavez actually came out as asexual, we were already in love with this character. And that is maybe my favorite part of it. They had us get to know this character. He is sort of the lovable silly sidekick. He’s often used as the comic relief. So it’s hard not to love him in a show that is this dark, because he’s the little ball of light in this really oppressive world.
Courtney: So, one of the main things we want to talk about today are the asexual representation itself. How was it handled? What did they do? And we want to talk about our opinions and why we think it was good, what we’d like to see other shows take their lead and do more of. But I think in doing so, we’re also just going to give you kind of a… shall we say, a Todd Chavez timeline. What do we know about him, and how does he grow and develop as a character throughout the show? And Todd is there right from the get-go. Very first episode, he is staying at BoJack Horseman’s house. He sleeps on the couch. He’s just very happy and bubbly. Very, very go with the flow. He doesn’t get in a twist about too much.
Royce: Should we back up for a moment? And explain that BoJack is a washed-up TV show star from the ’90s?
Courtney: Yeah, yeah.
Royce: We kind of skipped that part.
Courtney: We should. [laughs]
Royce: This is –
Courtney: I’m so excited to talk about Todd!
Royce: Just so everyone’s aware, if you are unfamiliar with the show, it does take place in Hollywood, or Hollywoo.
Courtney: It’s Hollywood until the D on the Hollywood sign gets stolen.
Royce: And then it’s Hollywoo for most of the rest of the season, or series.
Courtney: And then it’s just… Hollywoo.
Royce: But just in case that wasn’t clear, BoJack has a lot of money. He has a very large house. Todd sleeps on the couch a lot. Going into the timeline, there will be a lot of events that happen around a lot of celebrities or money or things like that, or situations that a normal person could not conceivably get into. And I wanted to preface that because we kind of skipped over the whole “Back in the ’90s, I was on a very famous TV show” thing.
Courtney: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. So BoJack Horseman, sitcom star, very… very Full House-esque TV show. He was the father figure to… orphans? He adopted orphans. So he’s the single dad, sort of the lovable TV type from the ’90s, but hasn’t actually had any career success since then. So he has enough money that he’s still rich and famous, but he also has substance abuse problems. He ruins a lot of interpersonal relationships with those around him.
Royce: Anyway, back to Todd.
Courtney: So we’re introduced to BoJack Horseman just groggily getting up, going to the kitchen. And Todd being Todd is just like, “Good morning, sunshine,” [laughs] there from his couch. And he – oh, he calls him “roomie,” like “Oh, roomie!” And BoJack, very surly, very grumpy, “We are not roommates. You are my house guest.” And very first episode, Todd says, “Oh, we don’t need to put a label on things,” which I love because that becomes an issue later on where he’s not totally comfortable with labels for a period of time. And I just want to illustrate that because that didn’t just come out of nowhere. I’ve seen some people sort of… very lightly criticize this representation as, “Oh, it kind of came out of nowhere. It was kind of rushed and forced.” I definitely disagree. I can see how, if you are a casual watcher of the show, you might forget some of these finer details because everything else is so heavy, and there’s a lot going on and a lot of characters.
Royce: There’s a lot of dialogue, a lot of things happen very quickly, and Todd is just kind of doing wacky things in the background a lot.
Royce: So I could see him fade into the background pretty easily.
Courtney: And so you kind of get their backstory, at least a small glimpse of it, here in the dialogue. Because grumpy BoJack is like, “I don’t even know why I let you stay here in the first place.” And Todd says, “Oh, well, because my parents kicked me out and I had nowhere to go. And even though you don’t want anyone to know, you’re actually a really good person deep down.” And I thought this next line was very interesting, because BoJack says, “Oh, you told me they didn’t approve of your alternative lifestyle. I thought you were like a troubled gay teen or something.” Seems like a throwaway line, but not the first time someone… thought that Todd might be gay.
Royce: Which – That’s something we’ve talked about before, is how some people, if they’re not very tuned into LGBTQ spaces, if they feel that someone is in some way queer, gay is the only term that they know to attempt to assign to that.
Courtney: Yes, which is a really clever bit of the ace representation here as well. Because even in progressive places – even in, you know, LA – when people are generally cool with gay people, bi people, trans people, there’s still a subsection of those progressive allies who either just don’t know about asexuality or they don’t really treat it the same way they treat other queer identities. And this show kind of highlights that, because with the asexuality plotline, it is the only orientation where they sort of coach you through it, introduce you to it, sort of immerse you in that experience. Because they sort of take it that all other queer identities are normal and accepted here, at least in this community of people. Because we have multiple lesbian characters who – just not a big deal, that’s just a part of them, including, they have two Black married women at one point who pop up as characters. They do have lots of gay characters who – they sort of go back and forth between present day and the past, because present day, it’s okay to be gay in Hollywood, but they also talk about how it wasn’t necessarily okay back in the ’90s. And so they do show those historical issues, but also kind of take for granted today, like, “Yeah, you’re okay, you can hang.” Even polyamory sort of gets the treatment of “This is totally cool and acceptable and normal” when a character has eight gay dads in a committed polyamorous relationship.
Royce: And her last name hyphenates all of them.
Courtney: Which is great [laughs] because the last name is a joke. They never make the dads the joke. I think they handled the actual dads pretty well. And they show that they are really good dads, and they have really raised their daughter right, and they really look out for her. And so the only joke is the eight last names, which… let’s see if I can remember them all right off the top of my head: Manheim-Mannheim-Guerrero-Robinson-Zilberschlag-Hsung-Fonzerelli-McQuack. [laughs] I think I did it.
Courtney: So, the show doesn’t really make sexualities the butt of any joke, which is something I can also say for asexuality and how they handle Todd. Todd himself is usually a comedic character. He’s not comedic in the sense that he has no depth and doesn’t develop, because he absolutely does. But even though he’s often there for wacky Todd shenanigans, his being asexual is never treated as the comedy. And there were a lot of little character traits about Todd or other little asexual easter eggs that I think I noticed and maybe some other aces out there noticed. But I don’t think the allos watching this show picked up on some of the little easter eggs.
Courtney: I think it’s really great that one of Todd’s characters traits is he just really loves food, especially sugary food, snacky food. We in the ace community are quite food-centric, [laughs] usually, at least in jest, because we’ve kind of taken the, like, “Oh, this cake is better than sex,” and made it extremely literal [laughs]. And for that reason, I love Todd all the more. Because right in the first episode, he’s like, “Oh, if you’re looking for the toaster strudels, I got really high last night and ate them all.” And that’s how we’re introduced to him, is his food. And that never lets up. He’s always eating fun little desserts, and I love that.
Courtney: And so throughout the first couple episodes, we don’t get to know a lot about Todd as a person, because he is just kind of a silly character for a bit. But we get these glimpses into his past experiences that are all just very unusual. He finds himself in a lot of quirky and/or difficult situations, which could just be seen as Todd being a little childish, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. And one thing I noticed in the first couple episodes is that he seems to have this naivete around dating specifically. Because we don’t see him seriously try to date anyone until a bit later. But we see a backstory of getting tangled up in a drug cartel. And even though we don’t know all the details, he’s just dramatically shouting a woman’s name. So it’s like, were you dating a woman and she got you caught up in this? Because it’s just kind of a theme with Todd. He gets caught up in situations he should just never be in. And that one’s pure speculation, since we don’t know all the details. But we do see real time, he starts to see a woman online who is just clearly trying to rob him, and he does not get the hint. Oh, what are some of the things she asks him that he doesn’t realize what’s going on? He’s like, “Oh, isn’t it so cute? She wants a framed picture of my mother’s maiden name.” [laughs]
Royce: “What do you think I should get her for our 12-hour anniversary? She wants a framed picture of my mother’s maiden name.”
Courtney: [laughs] 12-hour anniversary! Which is really funny, because anniversaries, especially ones that are dating anniversaries that are weird increments – I’ve seen actual allo people do, like, “Oh, we’re celebrating our three-month anniversary,” so that very much seems like, “Oh, I am told we are supposed to celebrate big moments. So I’m just going to do it.” [laughs]
Royce: “She’s hilarious. I never met a girl who was so curious about American bank routing numbers.”
Courtney: [laughs] So yeah, dating naivete. Some of it just flies right over his head. And Todd’s sexlessness is such an interesting counter to BoJack. Because BoJack makes all the bad sex decisions, which we see even start to escalate throughout the series. But he makes a particularly egregious creepy sex mistake [laughs] in Episode 3, by sleeping with a girl who was the kid on his TV show, who is now an adult. But there’s a lot there. That’s an issue. But they just sort of start… getting busy on the floor, right in front of Todd, a few episodes in. And Todd’s reaction, in hindsight, is so beautiful, because he’s like, “Uh…. What is happening? Guys? Guys, what are you doing? Please don’t do this. Let me, let me just get my blanket out from under – [increasingly horrified] Oh, oh, oh god, no!” [laughs] Which I can only imagine would also be my reaction [laughs] if people just started having sex right in front of me.
Courtney: Todd’s snacking game keeps increasing. At one point, we see him dipping cotton candy into a bowl of Froot Loops. That is clever. That is creative snacking right there [laughs]. Very, very creative. We don’t have any mentions of an actual ongoing relationship until Episode 4, which is actually pretty early, now that I think of it. But he just mentions he had a high school girlfriend who left him because he got addicted to a video game called Decapathon. And Todd gets really passionate about these little projects and creative endeavors that just sort of come and go. And at this point in time, he’s writing a rock opera. BoJack Horseman, being a jerk, actually sabotages his rock opera by re-getting him addicted to that video game that he hasn’t played in years – which he does with the help of character actress Margo Martindale – but most of these have nothing to do with the main beautiful aceness that is to come. However, I definitely do want to mention – because this will be important later for an ace easter egg – Todd gets arrested. I don’t even remember what he got arrested for. Do you remember?
Royce: He got arrested for selling tickets for people touring Hollywood to come into BoJack’s house –
Royce: – after making it look like David Boreanaz’s house and making it up to be a sort of museum-like experience. And I don’t remember where the arrest came from. Maybe there was some money laundering or something. He got in way too deep.
Courtney: [laughs] That’s right. That’s right. Classic Todd shenanigan. But he gets arrested. His bail is low. It’s like $50.
Royce: It’s $50.
Courtney: But he keeps trying to call BoJack, like, “I’m in jail. Can you get me out? Bail’s $50.” And BoJack is just not paying attention, because he stole the D on the Hollywood sign. He’s trying to cover that up. Wacky antics are ensuing all about. But while Todd is in jail – Todd is a white man, but his last name is Chavez. They get into more about that backstory way later in the series. But given these two things, he is courted by two prison gangs. And Todd being Todd [laughs] is just being a people-pleaser. He’s also just like, “Hey BoJack, can you please get me out? There are two gangs who want me to join them.” [laughs] Because if you’re just a little Todd, what exactly do you do in that situation? But both the Aryan Nation and the Latin Kings want him, and he doesn’t know how to say no to either of them. So he ends up getting two prison tattoos, one on each arm, tries to do the classic sitcom “two dates to the prom” sort of thing, but with literal prison gangs. He gets a Latin Kings tattoo and one that says “Skinhead.” But of course he is just trying to survive this supermax [laughs], and he has no investment in either. He ends up altering those tattoos later.
Courtney: And Todd doesn’t have any romance plotlines for a little bit. He’s just Todd being Todd. And there’s one super, super weird scene that happens in Season 2. Everyone around him is making a ton of relationship mistakes. BoJack, for instance, started dating someone who has been in a coma for decades. So she is mentally a lot younger and more naive. And they are rushing things way too quickly. While BoJack’s agent, Princess Carolyn, who is a pink cat – Todd is a human, by the way, [laughs] in case anyone is listening this far and hasn’t actually seen the show. She literally starts dating two kids in a trenchcoat – or are they three kids, three kids in a trenchcoat who’s just trying to be an adult. In fact, his name is Vincent Adultman [laughs]. She starts dating Vincent Adultman. And he’s over at Princess Carolyn’s house. She is confident that she just saw a kid who looks just like Vincent. “So that jerk must have a family and has a son that he’s been hiding from me and I never knew,” even though it’s just the kid [laughs] without the other kids in the trenchcoat. So there’s wacky sitcom antics as Vincent comes over. And Princess Carolyn’s like, “Todd, you have to get out of here! You like to shimmy, right?” And Todd’s like, [serious tone] “Yes, I love shimmying. I’m gonna shimmy out this balcony down to the ground and I’ll wait for you in the car.” [laughs] Todd loving shimmying comes up on more than one occasion. That is just a canon character trait [laughs].
Courtney: But he’s got his phone and Princess Carolyn’s phone. He’s waiting in the car. He’s kind of the only main character, at this point in time, who isn’t making a lot of poor relationship choices. And he gets a little bored, and he just asks his phone, like, “Oh, phone, how many ounces are in a barrel?” And his phone answers. And then he’s like, “Well, I’m all out of questions. Hey phone, do you have any questions for me?” And then the phone [laughs] actually answers, and it’s like, “Todd, what is love?” And Todd looks so uncomfortable. So uncomfortable. And he just goes, “Ummmm….” And then it cuts away and goes to another scene.
Courtney: When it cuts back, Todd is just going, “Oh, yeah, and when you don’t regret the tattoo in the morning, that’s how you know, it’s love.” [laughs] And the phone says, “Todd, are we in love?” And again, Todd looks so uncomfortable to be in this situation. But then Princess Carolyn’s phone also starts talking and professes that phone’s love for the other phone, and asks Todd, “Will you help us kiss?” And Todd just looks horrified. And I know how weird and ridiculous this scenario is [laughs], that the phones are talking and asking Todd to make them kiss and asking what love is, but just… Todd’s reaction to them is so good. It turns out, at the end of everything, the phones had a bug [laughs] that caused phones to fall in love. So he had to do a system update to fix that. One of the phones is like, “No, Todd, don’t do it. Don’t update your phone, because we’re in love.” And the other phone is like, “Please, Todd, update me, because now I know that to love is to feel pain.” [laughs] Just horribly melodramatic. Very much a parody of any romantic media, basically. Basically all of it. But at the end of that very weird spectacle, Princess Carolyn comes back, and she’s broken up with Vincent Adultman. So Todd asks if she’s okay. And she’s like, “No, not really. We broke up.” And Todd just goes, “Love is… weird.” And that is the end of that. So these are the little nuggets where… it hits so much harder and it just hits a little different the second watch-through around.
Courtney: And, you know, BoJack Horseman as a whole is really trying to subvert the sitcom tropes. They use them as inspiration, and subvert them all the time, and often in very creative, clever ways. But Todd in particular seems to have these little moments of subverting the stereotypical romantic tropes. For example, when it comes to light that JD Salinger faked his own death and is now running a bike shop and is actually still alive, and he’s ready to make his big comeback, but not writing novels; instead, he wants to [laughs] create a game show called “Hollywoo Stars and Celebrities: What Do They Know? Do They Know Things?? Let’s Find Out!” [laughs] Todd gets a job working on set because he’s friends with the game show host. And he is just constantly poking and annoying the hell out of this girl who is very hard-working. She’s actually trying her best. She wants to impress JD Salinger. Because JD Salinger, on the opening night of the show, says, “I have this very special pen and I am going to give it to one of you who deserves it. One of you who has worked the hardest,” blah, blah blah. And that woman ends up winning the pen. And Todd manages to con her out of it. And it does that romantic, rom-com trope where it cuts to Todd looking very old, wrinkled, balding, and there are some heads in front of him, and he goes, “She was mad, all right, but kids, that’s the story of how I met… this pen.” [laughs] And he pulls the pen up. And it turns out it’s not even a future clip. He is just sitting back in wardrobe, and these are mannequin heads he’s talking to, and he just did this old man makeup on himself. And I just love that. I think that’s brilliant, because that trope gets used so much, like, “Oh, someone was awful to someone else, they were annoyed at each other, they hated each other. But cut to years later, they actually fell in love and now have grandkids! Won’t this be a funny story?” So the fact that they subverted that with Todd was just beautiful.
Courtney: And then there’s nothing yet in Season 2 about anything overtly ace. The last sort of notable Todd thing that happens is that he gets really lonely because his friends aren’t really there for him. So he ends up joining an improv cult –
Royce: An improv cult that is definitely not Scientologist.
Courtney: It is definitely not Scientology. Scientology is not a cult. Improv is a cult. [with Eastern European accent] “I want to make this abundantly clear to you. [laughs] Scientology is not a cult. It’s improv!” So that’s all fun and well and good. So those two seasons were what we watched right off the bat because they were both available on Netflix. And by this point, we were invested in the show. We were excited about it. We loved Todd. It’s hard not to love Todd. But Season 3, when it finally released, was groundbreaking. I am absolutely willing to use that word. I made fun of writers who called that singular episode in Sex Education – we talked about this in a past episode – I made fun of them for using, “Oh, this is groundbreaking representation.” No, it was not! It was five minutes, and it was shoehorned in. BoJack Horseman was actually groundbreaking for asexual representation.
Royce: Season 3 aired in July of 2016, just for the record.
Courtney: 2016, wow! Yeah, that has been a while. I mean there have been three seasons since. It’s been some time since the last one. But wow. So now we start to see, in Season 3, Todd’s actual backstory with his high school girlfriend. And the show is so funny every time they do these big flashbacks, because they just put in every possible reference from that year as they possibly can [laughs] in very funny ways. So, this is actually 2007, and it is a young Todd with a young Emily, who is the same girl we saw in just a teeny-tiny flash a couple seasons earlier when they talked about his Decapathon addiction. So, continuity is a thing this show does exceptionally well. And they have these flip phones. The girl says, [sing-song-y] “Hey Todd, I think you just got a text.” [laughs] And Todd opens his flip phone and says, “‘Who do you like, question mark, colon, bracket’?” And she’s like, “Yeah, that’s supposed to be a smiley face, homeslice. [laughs] So who do you like?” And then they have that conversation that I think everybody probably had around this age, whether they wanted to or not, because I certainly did! [laughs] Where Todd says, “Uh, I don’t really like anyone.” And she goes, “That’s redonkulous! You have to like someone!” He goes, “Uh, well if I have to, I guess…” and names someone.
Courtney: Which yeah, I think I’ve… [laughs] I think I’ve mentioned before that – you know, boy bands was a really big thing, and everyone would be like, “Who’s your boy band crush?” and no one would accept, like, “Nobody” as an answer. It was like, “No, you have to have someone! Tell us.” And that’s really because very few people actually understand that it’s an option to not like anybody. So if someone says “I don’t like anybody,” the receiving party is thinking, “You’re just withholding information from me. You’re just being secretive. You’re just lying. Come on, tell me the truth.” So I think that puts a lot of young aces in a situation of just picking a name, picking a crush, and sticking to that, “that’s my story.” And we see a snip from a different memory later on, where Todd and Emily are in a closet [mock gasps] and there’s party music bumping in the background. Todd, right off the bat, looks very uncomfortable. He says, “Uh, how long do we have to stay in here?” And Emily says, “Well, it is called Seven Minutes in Heaven.” Ugh, Seven Minutes in Heaven. Seven Minutes in Heaven and Spin the Bottle and all those weird party games that I think most people have been forced to play at one point or another, [laughs] whether they wanted to or not – very, very weird. Very weird allo culture, that. Especially when most of them are preteens.
Royce: Were you actually in a situation where that was being done? Because I thought it was just a TV show thing. Either that or I just didn’t go to parties.
Courtney: Are you kidding? No, absolutely. I want to say I was in elementary school the first time someone actually tried to get a group of us to play Spin the Bottle. It was a fairly regular occurrence. [laughs] But yeah. And Emily’s like, [dejectedly] “Oh, you know, we don’t have to kiss if you don’t want to. I know you’d rather be in here with some other girl.” And Todd’s like, “Oh, no, no, that’s not true. But I’ve never kissed anyone before?” And I mean, she’s pretty nice and she’s pretty respectful, because she goes, “Well, that’s okay. I mean, if you want, we can try it with each other, and then in the future, you’ll know exactly what to do.” [laughs] And I just love Todd’s response to that. He’s like, “Oh, okay. Um… how should we do it? French style? Eskimo? Butterfly?” [laughs] And then it is the girl Emily who actually has to take the lead and kiss him, because he is clearly not going to be initiating anything. [laughs]
Courtney: And then the last really impactful flashback of Todd and Emily as teenagers: they’re both sitting on a bed and Todd says, [oblivious tone] “Is it okay to be in your parents’ bedroom?” And that’s when Emily asks – pops the big question, if you will. She says, “Todd, we’ve been together for months now, so I was thinking maybe we should try sex.” And Todd just makes uncomfortable noises [laughs] in response to that. No words, just [groans uncomfortably]. And she goes, “I mean, we don’t have to if you don’t want to. I don’t want to peer-pressure you.” Which is good. That’s what she should be doing. But I think a lot of aces can understand this larger societal pressure. Even if the person right in front of you at that moment is not peer-pressuring you into sexual situations, there’s still a larger, more deep-seated pressure that this is something you should do, it’s something you should want to do, and this is how relationships are.
Courtney: So I can definitely sense some of that in Todd, because even though he’s uncomfortable and he’s making all these uncomfortable noises, he goes, [stilted] “No, I’m ready for sexual situations. Hooray, um, taking your virginity?” [laughs] Yeah, and then Emily responds with, “Yeah, sure, that’s how I would say it.” And Todd goes, “Okay, here I go. This is Todd, doing sex.” [laughs] Which, just, the discomfort is so beautiful when you can relate to it as viscerally as I can. But then, Emily’s father comes home. You hear a door slam. You hear some movement somewhere in the house. And she had previously been like, “Have you ever seen The Sopranos? That’s what my dad does.” So Todd freaks out and he’s like, “Oh no, your dad, the mobster?!” And she goes, “No, my dad’s the editor on the show The Sopranos.” And she’s like, “We got to get you out of here. You like shimmying, right?” And Todd just, [serious tone] “You know I love shimmying. But that’s a really long drop.” [laughs] And she goes, “Oh, here, well take this.” And she grabs a roll of the only copy of the last episode of The Sopranos [laughs] and is like, “Here, grab hold of this, use it to shimmy down.” And in the process he ends up breaking off the reel [laughs] and it’s just very very good.
Courtney: So it’s awesome that we have all of this backstory because we actually run into Emily present day. BoJack’s bringing Todd along to some fancy Hollywood party at this upscale venue, but there’s also a wedding rehearsal happening on the other side of this building, and Emily is there for the wedding. So they reconnect. They’re really excited to see each other. They get chatting. And while they’re speaking, Todd skewers an entire slice of cake on a fondue fork and dips it into the chocolate fountain. If that is not the most asexual thing I’ve ever seen in my life, [laughs] I don’t know what is.
Courtney: But yeah. And also, I really love Todd and his taking everything very literally all the time. He gets into these weird antics, and usually it’s because he takes things way too literally for what they are, and doesn’t really understand this thing that people do, especially in romantic situations, where you kind of play coy, you kind of say one thing, but mean another – all of that goes right over Todd’s head. And we see that again here [laughs] when Emily does this, like, “So, uh, do you think your girlfriend would be jealous of us spending so much time together?” And Todd is like, “What a weird assumption. I don’t have a girlfriend. How embarrassing for you.” [laughs] Which, I love that “How embarrassing for you,” because he pulls that out multiple times [laughs]. And it’s very comedic, but it’s kind of pushing the comedy onto social norms and not onto the person who’s subverting them, which I love. That is what we need more of. But, she’s like, “Wait wait wait, no, I mean, I was kind of hoping you weren’t seeing anybody, because I’m also not seeing anybody.”
Courtney: And that’s when BoJack Horseman sees them talking and he thinks he’s gonna play wingman. So he walks over and he’s like, “Hey hey, here’s a key to the room. You two better go [clicks tongue] test out those beds, wink wink, you know, come come, make sure that bed’s not defective.” And Emily’s like, “Yeah, that’s a great idea. Let’s go do that.” And Todd downs his drink. He just chugs it right then and there. And he’s like, “Uhhh… cool cool cool. Uh, let me get one or two more drinks and then we’ll… go check out that bed.” But then as he walks away, the look on his face and the way they animate that, he just looks like he’s sweating bullets. And when they actually do get up to the room in this hallway of this hotel, Todd spots a laundry cart and is like, “Hey! Laundry cart! Want to hide in the sheets and pretend like we’re ghosts?” [laughs] And Emily’s like, “No, I do not want to do that.” And she’s like, “I want to go into the room and fool around. Isn’t that what you want to do?” And Todd does this nervous, like, rub the back of the head and nervous laugh combo, and you can tell he’s kind of searching for the words. And he goes, “Well, I don’t know, Emily. I mean, you’re pretty drunk.” She’s like, “No, I’m not drunk at all actually.” And he’s like, “Oh. Well I’m pretty drunk, you know. Maybe I should just go to bed. I’m, uh, feeling kind of sick. Great to see you. Good night,” and just slams the door in her face, very quickly, shutting her out.
Courtney: And so obviously, by this point, we, as The Ace Couple, were like, “Todd is totally asexual. I really hope they make Todd asexual. Because we’re seeing those hints. They’re coming.” And a couple episodes later, we actually learn more about that night from a different perspective. The show does these really cool episodes every now and then that are very unconventional. Like, there’s an entire underwater scene where nobody talks basically the entire episode. And all these very experimental episodes are really cool. One episode is just a monologue, but it’s the most beautiful monologue I’ve ever heard in my life.
Courtney: And this particular episode is told in the form of BoJack yelling at customer service [laughs], because he is really frustrated that he’s being delivered a newspaper that he says he never subscribed to. So he calls and he’s yelling at Customer Service and they transfer him to Retention. They’re like, “We can’t lose this customer. Bring in the closer.” [laughs] So this person gets on the phone and it’s her entire job to make sure that he doesn’t cancel his newspaper subscription. And she says, “Oh, well, you’ve never filed a complaint before. Why is there an issue now?” And he says, “Well, it’s because until a week ago, the boy who lives with me was using the paper to make a giant papier-mâché Todd head.” The woman on the phone is like, “A what now?” And even though he’s angry and frustrated and kind of talking quickly, there’s this kind of sweet moment where BoJack actually refers to Todd as his best friend, which I don’t think he had done before that point. And he’s like, “Oh, Todd gets these ideas. He does these weird things. And he wanted to make a giant papier-mâché head of his own face.”
Courtney: And he’s very cranky. Because since we’ve last seen Todd and Emily, they decide to make a startup together. They’re creating a company called Cabracadabra. It’s basically your standard, like, Uber or Lyft, but the original concept was that it’s all female drivers that cater to women for safety’s sake. And they decide to set up operation in BoJack’s house. So he’s got all of these boxes, people moving around, lots of noise. He’s grumpy. And so this customer service agent on the phone is like, “If you didn’t want them to use your house, why did you let them?” And he’s like, “Oh, well, it’s because I felt guilty.” And that’s when we see a flashback of BoJack with Emily after Todd shut her out that night. And it turns out that they ended up sleeping together. And Emily wanted to tell Todd, but BoJack kept saying, “No. For his sake, we are not going to tell him. And besides, it’s not like we’ll ever see each other ever again.” But Emily did not know that BoJack lived with Todd [laughs]. So when BoJack and Emily run into each other again, they are very, very awkward and don’t quite know how to navigate that situation.
Courtney: No, [laughs] I need to break away for just a moment because I keep coming back to how weird it is that you have literally never played Spin the Bottle! [laughs] What about Truth or Dare? Because that’s one that is kind of designed to get raunchy when you’re in mixed company. [laughs]
Royce: Truth or Dare is one thing that I would refuse to play if it came up. I can’t remember if it actually came up or not. Probably not, because I don’t think I was in many mixed social party situations at that age. If I was at someone else’s house, we were probably playing video games. But the concept of Truth or Dare I feel like I should just not get involved with, because I just won’t do it if I don’t want to.
Courtney: Right. Yeah.
Royce: Also, I don’t take orders from plastic or glass.
Courtney: [laughs] That’s fair. Yeah, Truth or Dare is one of those ones where, like, yeah, each progressive year – you start kind of playing it in elementary school, and every year, it gets a little bit racier. And the younger versions of it are like, oh, if we’re playing with your crush, like, everyone knows that Emily has a crush on Todd. Everyone’s gonna be waiting for Todd to pick “Dare,” so then you can say, “I dare you to kiss Emily.” That is definitely the kind of thing that would happen, which, again, really, really weird. Very, very strange that children play this. [laughs] But anyway, I digress.
Courtney: The last really key moment in this interesting episode where it’s just BoJack talking to Customer Service and recounting all of this – he also states that he’s having trouble sleeping lately because Todd and Emily are staying up all night talking and giggling. And we see a little clip of them doing this, and it is so cute because they are clearly hitting it off. They are never short of things to talk about. They are just having a blast in each other’s company. And I love seeing that playfulness, because this relationship does not get sexual, but it’s very, very clear that they really mean a lot to each other and that Todd, especially really has feelings for Emily, even if he doesn’t want to have sex with her. And unfortunately, a lot of this starts to break down because Emily is getting increasingly more uncomfortable and defensive, as she’s constantly reminded of what she did because she’s in BoJack’s house and seeing him all the time. We see her get more and more uncomfortable, but we don’t actually know what the conversation was like when she decides to leave. Because we see in a later episode that there’s this big party for Cabracadabra. It’s experiencing some success. They’re doing this at BoJack’s house. And Todd is introducing BoJack to some people and he asks, “Todd, where is Emily?” And to that, Todd’s face instantly changes to look very hurt and angry. And he just says, “She left. [pointed] She said she didn’t feel comfortable here.” Very accusatory, very hurt. So, you’re kind of led to speculate, at that point in time, that Emily told him everything, but we just don’t know yet because we haven’t seen.
Courtney: And I suppose that brings us to the Oscar nominations [laughs]. Because BoJack kind of sort of stars in Secretariat, as Secretariat, and he’s trying to get an Oscar nomination for it. And [laughs] Mr. Peanutbutter is a yellow labrador retriever who was also the host of “Hollywoo Stars and Celebrities: What Do They Know? Do They Know Things?? Let’s Find Out!” He’s now hosting the Oscars. He really clearly admires BoJack and really wishes that they were better friends. But BoJack also just clearly doesn’t like him very much and is kind of mean to him, but he’s kind of mean to everybody. Mr. Peanutbutter, very happy-go-lucky. He and Todd get wild ideas together. If those two are alone in a room, they are just going to run with their antics. And Mr. Peanutbutter is often funding a lot of Todd’s kooky ideas. Like, I believe even Cabracadabra startup money came directly from Mr. Peanutbutter.
Courtney: So Mr. Peanutbutter is given the envelope of Oscar nominees, but he loses it [laughs]. And instead of asking for a replacement, instead of trying to figure something else out, he’s like, “Well, I guess it’s up to us to write a new list of nominees!” So he enlists Todd’s help. And they’re sitting here brainstorming, writing things on a whiteboard, deciding who’s going to be nominated for what. And of course Mr. Peanutbutter says, “Hey, why don’t we nominate BoJack for Secretariat? Because it’s the best performance that we’ve seen him in, and plus he’s our friend!” And that’s when Todd goes, “Oh, is he?” And he clearly doesn’t want to talk about it, but Mr. Peanutbutter pushes him and insists. And Todd just kind of says, “Well, I’m just tired of BoJack walking all over everybody and still getting everything that he wants.” Doesn’t say much more, but they do put his name on the list.
Courtney: So Mr. Peanutbutter reads his name aloud at the awards ceremony, or the nominations ceremony, and BoJack’s all happy that he’s nominated. He throws this massive house party. But it turns out he was never supposed to be nominated in the first place. And so someone has to tell him [laughs]. Mr. Peanutbutter comes to break the news. Kind of sends him into a spiral. And at one point. Mr. Peanutbutter lets slip that Todd was helping him write the nomination list, and Todd didn’t even want to nominate him in the first place. So BoJack kind of goes into total meltdown, feeling bad for himself, major pity party for not getting the nomination, and he doesn’t want to be alone. So after the party’s over and there’s no one else really around, he kind of begs Todd to stay with him, doing this whole, like, “Oh, you’re my friend” kind of thing. “I need you right now.”
Courtney: Todd, at first, tries to be gracious and just says, “It’s not a good time.” Tries to walk away carefully. But then BoJack says, “Oh, but besides, you owe me, right? After what you did?” And kind of accuses him, like, “What the hell, man? Why didn’t you want to nominate me? And after everything I’ve done for you.” And he starts naming off things, like, “Oh, I’ve let you live with me for six years, And I let you set up your company’s headquarter right here in my house.” And that’s when they have a real serious conversation. Because Todd says, “That’s not because you’re my friend. It’s because you felt bad about Emily.” BoJack goes, “Oh, you know about that?” And apparently Todd doesn’t really know, because he does this whole, “I think I know. Why, what do you think I know? I think… I know what I think but I don’t know what you think I think.” And Todd does that a lot. He talks in circles often. And I kind of like that as a little Todd quirk. But this particular scene is a very serious one.
Courtney: So BoJack finally just says, “So… you do know that I had sex with Emily.” And then Todd drops everything he’s holding and says, “You had sex with Emily?!” And he is clearly flabbergasted. He was not expecting that. BoJack, confused, like “Yeah, what else would it be? What did you think?” And Todd said, “Well, I didn’t think that! I don’t really know. I just knew something sketchy happened. And I thought maybe you gave her one of your weird monologues about how sad you are and it bummed her out.” [laughs] And so BoJack begins to apologize. And Todd, for the first time, really confronts him and says, “You can’t keep doing this. You can’t keep doing shitty things and then feel bad about yourself like that makes it okay. You need to do better.” And BoJack, you know, starts stammering a bit. He’s like, “Ah, it’s the pressure from the Oscar campaign it’s pressure from this,” making excuses. And Todd says, “No, BoJack. Stop. You are all the things that is 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?” And then – [whispering dramatically] this is a big moment. Are you ready for it? And I’ll explain why it’s a big moment – [regular tone] Todd says, “It’s you. Fuck, man. What else is there to say?”
Courtney: So let’s talk about the F-bomb in this show. This is the third one that was dropped in this entire show – this show that is riddled with profanity, so it’s not as though they just don’t curse. They use the F-bomb as a plot device to illustrate severing ties and sort of irreparably damaging a relationship. And this one really kind of hurt, because the first two F bombs were other characters, other people that BoJack had screwed over [laughs] in varying ways, but they were very loud, shouting, aggressive, combative situations. So to have Todd, just so defeated, just say, “Fuck, man,” that kind of hurt, because this is the pattern. And if you’re paying attention, you know that they only use that word when there is weight behind it, and there’s a meaning. In fact, the very first F-bomb was.. was the first one Herb Kazzaz?
Courtney: I thought so.
Royce: So we mentioned Herb briefly, not by name, earlier. He was the creator of Horsin’ Around, the TV show that BoJack was on. He was a long-term friend of BoJack. He was the person who was a closeted gay man in the ’90s. No, wait, he was not publicly out. He was out to a few friends.
Courtney: Yeah. That sounds right. Yeah, creator of the show. He’s the one who got BoJack that job. And the reason why I think it’s important is because when it publicly got leaked that he was gay, the network wanted to drop him. Even though he was the producer, he’s the creator of the show, he made this Horsin’ Around concept, and the network wanted to fire him. They said, “We cannot have this.” And even though Herb asked BoJack for his help, saying, you know, “You’re the star of the show. There’s no show without you. If you stand up for me, then they’ll listen.” And BoJack did not do that. He did not stand up for him. And so Herb got fired. And they didn’t talk for years and years and years. There’s a whole Herb plotline, which is not 100% relevant to this conversation. But what is important is that BoJack already has this sort of longstanding guilt of royally screwing over a very good friend and specifically not supporting his gay friend when he most needed it.
Courtney: Now, I don’t know if I could possibly describe to you in words exactly how many feelings I felt in the very last episode of Season 3. Todd and Emily actually end up getting $8,000,000 each for their Cabracadabra startup. And they’re seen at a diner, eating massive banana splits, and they’re just sort of ruminating and dreaming about what they’re going to do with their money. And Todd says, “Oh, I want to go to a super nice restaurant and order everything on the menu.” And Emily’s like, “Oh, yeah, duh, of course, we’re going to do that.” And Todd says, “Yeah, we should go sometime, together.” And that’s when Emily gets serious. And she says, “Todd, can I ask you something? What’s… your deal? I feel like you like me, but you don’t like me, but you like me, and I don’t know what that is. Are you gay?” There it is: second time someone mistook Todd for being gay – this time, someone who has been very close to him for a long time. And Todd goes, “Woah, why would you even?” And she says, “You can tell me if you’re gay. It’s fine!” I also kind of like this line. She says, “This isn’t the 1600s or some places in the present.” So that little acknowledgement that there are still issues, modern-day is good, because like I said, the show treats present-day homosexuality as just totally normal, to be expected, not different or odd or to be frowned upon whatsoever. “We are all perfectly loving and accepting.” So that little nod is good.
Courtney: But then Todd says, “I’m not gay. I mean, I don’t think I am, but I don’t think I’m straight either. I don’t really know what I am. I think I might be nothing.” And Courtney screamed. I was screaming. I knew exactly what this meant! [laughs] I was so excited, my jaw hit the floor. And even though he doesn’t have a word for it yet, Emily has a pretty supportive reaction. She just says, “Oh, well, that’s okay.” And Todd kind of, “Yeah?” “Yeah, of course.” And so it’s a really cool little moment and it’s kind of giving us a glimpse of what’s to come. I had very much hoped that this scene was going to be a precursor to an entire asexuality plotline, and they did not disappoint! That is exactly what happened. Now, immediately following this conversation – I want to bring this up because I didn’t see it as an issue. I have seen some people criticize it. The waitress comes back [laughs], and Todd goes, “Oh crap! I accidentally tipped the waitress $8,000,000! Well, guess I’m broke again.” I don’t know, Royce, what do you think about that? Do you think there’s any issue with that? I’ve seen some people criticize it as throwing away an endearing moment by making it a joke again.
Royce: Okay, I’m glad you clarified, because I couldn’t think of what a criticism could have possibly been at that moment. This is a show that throws comedic lines into literally everything.
Courtney: Yeah, and this is also a character that they lean on more heavily than other characters for that comedic moment. So, it’s also to me kind of showing, like, Todd is still Todd.
Royce: Yeah, accidentally writing away the $8,000,000 is a very Todd thing to do. I’m more wondering, how did he pay for the giant banana split, and how did he pay for the taxes on the $8,000,000?
Royce: Because he wrote out an $8,000,000 tip on the receipt.
Courtney: That’s true. He is probably now in debt. [laughs] Which, yeah, I like it because he’s still figuring himself out. We’ve got this very clear indication that he doesn’t think he’s straight. He doesn’t know what he is. He doesn’t think he’s anything. Is that possible? So you can kind of sense that there’s going to be some soul-searching and self-reflection to come. But at the end of the day, it’s still Todd, and these little quirks like that are what help make Todd Todd, so I actually think that that was good of them to do, actually. I had no issue with it whatsoever, especially because the end of this season was really heavy for a lot of other reasons. Each character has their own individual plot and development. And this was a really heavy ending for just about all of the characters. Just deep dark things. And for Todd to still have his dark moment where he drops the F-bomb, he kind of walks away from BoJack – it still shows that he has depth and multiple sides. He’s not all doom and gloom all the time. He’s not all jokes and shenanigans all the time, but it is a lot of the time.
Courtney: And yeah, I just… We’re going to have to make this a two-parter because we’ve already been talking for so long, and I think that’s the perfect place to end it right there. Because we as aces – we knew. We felt it. [laughs] Todd is totally ace. And it seems like, based on that ending, that they’re going to keep exploring that further. But it was a season ending on Netflix, and we’d just basically binged that whole season. So now we have to wait a tremendously long time to see how that plays out. And I remember I couldn’t wait to talk to all of my allo friends who watch the show to be like, “Hey, did you pick up on what I picked up on?” A couple of them did. I was very proud of them [laughs]. A couple of my allo friends were like, “Oh! Todd’s ace.” Unfortunately, a couple people – it went over their heads until later when they made it more explicit and started using the word “asexual.” But in terms of plot, that’s a great place to end on, because then, the very next season, we really start picking up on the asexuality journey.
Courtney: So to end out today’s Part 1, I want to recap just a couple of the things that are already very good about this. We haven’t even gotten into terminology or definitions yet. But Todd is a main character. We’ve seen lots of lovable sides of him. They helped us to know and fall in love with this character before presenting this. And it’s not just one single throwaway episode. It was sort of a – it started as a slow drip with teeny-tiny little signs, maybe one tiny sign every couple of episodes. And then it really started ramping up when he met Emily, and we’re getting these flashbacks, and then we’re getting a more well-rounded fleshed-out experience. And so we’re seeing how, even though he doesn’t have a word for it now and he’s clearly a little uncomfortable with it, struggling to understand it – we’re seeing how it has affected his life up until this point, and even continues to do so today. And I think all of those are really important for representation, because being asexual is not Todd’s personality. Todd has an abundance of personality, and being asexual is just one other part of who he is. So – and I love seeing the journey.
Courtney: So I suppose, if nothing else, that was an introduction to Todd, with all of the little bits of foreshadowing or context clues that were dropped within the first three seasons before we got to this point. So, our next week’s episode is going to pick up right at Season 4. And we are going to talk about Todd’s journey to learning about and embracing asexuality, and the way he as a character continues to grow and evolve after he has distanced himself from this toxic friendship. Because I do think that’s another very, very key part of this that I do not get nearly enough – or I do not see nearly enough discussion about is that Todd really only starts examining himself, coming into his own, growing as a person after he sets a healthy boundary. That is when he really starts to flourish. And I just have so much to say about it! So I hope you will tune in next week to hear Part 2. Bye!