by Luv Mehta
It’s been a week since BoJack Horseman’s fourth season got released on Netflix. I've written about why the show is so amazing before, and and this new season hasn't disappointed, rocketing the show up to the top of my favourites. It’s a fantastic crop of episodes, combining the strong character development of season two with some of the experimental nature of season three, and the plotlines show a strong commitment to the theme of family.
However, as amazing as the main storyline revolving around BoJack is, there are a lot of thoughts in my head regarding a secondary one. Although, to be fair, no storyline can really be called secondary by now, since the whole cast is an ensemble of deeply interesting characters with interesting lives. And none fascinate me more than the relationship between Diane and Mr Peanutbutter.
This article will contain spoilers.
The pairing of Mr Peanutbutter and Diane has been established since the very beginning of the show, with their relationship being a huge obstacle in the way of BoJack’s attraction towards Diane. Of course, since the show wasn’t interested in rewarding its main character for toxic behaviour, BoJack didn’t get the girl. Diane, who had been in a relationship with Mr Peanutbutter for many years, was unsure of what the commitment would bring. In a flash of realisation, she decided that this risk was exactly what she wanted to take - a leap of faith that could very well be worth it.
Three years later, she’d be admitting to Todd that marriages were based on lies, and all one could do was depend on a single kernel of truth it was based on - the hope that that leap of faith would eventually work out.
Mr Peanutbutter met Diane in a cafe in 2007, coming up on the tail-end of his second marriage with Jessica Biel (played by a very game Jessica Biel). Both of them bonded over the fact that they didn’t want to care about what other people thought of them (as well as their insecurities about wanting to do so). Mr Peanutbutter was blundering through life, trying to get noticed by studio executives; and Diane was hanging out with her hipster friends, performing menial jobs, one after the other, as she went along with their verbal denouncement of capitalism and bourgeois culture and every established norm they could think of.
In a way, they have always been defined by these aspects of their personalities.
Diane Nguyen is the daughter of a family that always disrespected and neglected her, and she’s always been broken as a result. She’s impulsive and headstrong, but she wants to be calm and rational. She wants to make a difference and stand up for what’s right, but when circumstances push her far enough, she breaks down and gives up, forever resenting herself for it. She suffers deeply from depression, and part of why she chose Mr Peanutbutter seems to be that he’s so happy and jovial and cheerful all the time - she hopes it’ll rub off on her. I find Diane fascinating because she’s extremely similar to BoJack - she’s got this gaping wide hole inside her that nobody but BoJack understands, and she tends towards impulsive behaviour that occasionally borders on being self-destructive.
Mr Peanutbutter, born on the Labrador Peninsula, has had a happy childhood - too happy, perhaps, since he is chronically unable to process or understand sadness. He’s happy-go-lucky and fun loving, but he’s also headstrong and opinionated, frequently shutting Diane down when she tries to tell him something important. He’s also extremely manipulative - his grandest plan has involved double-crossing BoJack and using his stupidity to propose to Diane and get some sweet publicity on the side. He loves being liked and adored, and he puts on the requisite persona to do so. That he makes a pretense out of his devil-may-care whenever he wants to makes him much more inscrutable to the audience - how long did he pretend to be fine with BoJack trying to kiss Diane? How long did he hold his anger back at Diane for her wanting to go to Cordovia? What else has he been hiding? Did he really blunder through the studio looking at VIncent D’Onofrio (for some reason) as a viable lead for a comedy show, or was it a precisely planned apparent sitcom-style blundering audition? Was he concerned about not being able to ski when he challenged the mayor of California, or did he prepare that speech at the end beforehand, to accuse the mayor of being privileged with skill?
So you have a performative extrovert on one side, and an introvert suffering from depression on the other. Mr Peanutbutter is more of a roses and candlesticks and paparazzi kind of guy, and Diane is more of a Vietnamese takeout in bed sort of girl. And, somehow, both of them fell in love with each other and decided to get married.
Now, before everything else - I do genuinely believe that these two people love each other a lot. Even if they don’t always express it in ways the other person would prefer, they are genuinely grateful for having each other. They’ve supported each other through a lot of things, and they have tried really hard to make their marriage work.
The problem is, they’re just too different to make it work, and they know it. And this frustration often manifests in extremely toxic ways, ranging from destroyed parties to angry sex. Even marriage counselling doesn’t work, and Diane increasingly becomes hostile towards Mr Peanutbutter because he takes her for granted while getting caught up in the elections.
And Diane breaks down by the end, tired of trying to make it work, tired of believing that her marriage was perfect, that all she had to do was change her expectations from it.
I remember seeing a lot of people being disappointed with that scene towards the end, with Mr Peanutbutter gifting her the Belle-room. “It was such a sweet gesture!” was something I was hearing and reading a lot. As was “Why can’t she be grateful and accept it?”
Let’s take a simple analogy. Say you love beef steaks. You tell it to someone you love. They spend a ton of money to have the largest beef steak possible made for you, and now it's in front of you and you don't know what to do. All you did was say you love beef steaks. That huge room-sized steak is in front of you, and you can't have it all at once, and you don't know why they'd think this was a good idea, but you know where they're coming from, and you feel guilty for even mentioning it, but now you feel responsible for having to accept that grand gesture no matter what - all because you made the mistake of mentioning you love beef steaks. Or even liking beef steaks, because if you hadn't, you wouldn't have told them, and they wouldn't have made it for you. It was just a thing you liked, and the "liking it" part was yours.
Of course, this isn't a perfect analogy, since this library isn't as real as the huge steak (with the fake books and all), but yeah. And, of course, you might be the sort of person who would love the grand gesture and invite your friends and family to finish it and have fun. But Diane, as we've already seen, isn't that sort of person.
We often stick around in relationships because we buy into the ideal that love conquers all. We see relationships disintegrate all around us, and we see people falling out of love with each other, and we assume that this lack of true love is the only reason people can’t stay together. We listen to songs about opposites attracting, and we assume that any relationship can last, no matter how different people or their needs are, because all two people need to last is love.
But it’s a complete lie - one based on the existence of a true love that is, unfortunately, of little consequence. You can’t make a relationship work without compatibility, and compatibility requires compromise on the needs of both parties. And, often, the level of compromise needed is so hefty that the people involved understandably refuse to do so. This creates a divide, which causes frustration, which ends up with the relationship becoming abusive towards one (or both) of the parties involved.
And now we have to discuss the ugliest moment of the relationship between Diane and Mr Peanutbutter, a moment that happened in season two, episode seven (Hank After Dark). It's an episode about Hank Hippopopulous, a celebrity guilty of sexual assault, but more than that, it's about all the people who enable him, excuse him, and fight in his besmirched name - never mind that the people they're fighting are hapless victims no one cares to defend. And there's no happy ending to be found here.
Diane has very few people left in Hollywoo who will support her in her endeavour to out and shame this sexual assaulter by the end of the episode. She's trying to make sure the man is brought to justice, and she's excited about having an opportunity to write for BuzzFeed about him. But for Mr Peanutbutter, none of that matters. It doesn't matter to him that Hank is possibly a rapist - he’s got a new show coming up, one written by J. D. Salinger himself. And despite all appearances to the contrary, he really doesn't want to be out of a job again, and Hank getting indicted is the last thing his show needs right now.
So he suggests that he'd prefer she leave the city for a dangerous war torn nation.
To be clear, he does say he's afraid for her, and he hates having to read violently misogynistic letters aimed at Diane. But I don't buy it, not for a single bit. For him, it's much more convenient that she go to Cordovia, a place full of death and destruction, so that his show can get off the ground and on the air without any further problems. It's easily the ugliest thing he's done during the entire show's run - at least, till now.
And for the longest time, this was what we considered the healthiest relationship in the show.
I see a lot of comments and posts in groups and subreddits about how the relationship would work if Diane “wasn’t a complete bitch,” and I completely disagree. There’s an expectation from one of the parties in a relationship (pretty much always the woman, if it’s a straight couple) to agree to every demand and put aside their needs for the sake of the relationship. But that’s the fallacy - a relationship with extreme and unequal compromise cannot be healthy. Everyone has their own needs from a relationship, and to ignore or suppress the needs of the other shows that it’s already failed.
Mr Peanutbutter and Diane love each other. But Mr Peanutbutter is a man that always wants to make people like them, but doesn’t quite know how - nor is he willing to understand. Diane wants a cozy relationship that makes her feel better about herself, but she can’t take grand sweeping romantic gestures, and she’s unwilling to fundamentally change herself.
And if you’re in a relationship that only has love going for it, frankly, it’s best if you leave.
But it’s still sucks to have to do so, and it sucks to have to see Diane and Mr Peanutbutter, probably the healthiest couple in the show (which says a lot about how twisted BoJack Horseman as a show can be) ultimately having no other recourse in view.