By Denny Jacob
BoJack Horseman loves pushing the envelope when it comes to uncomfortable content, and everything is fair game: unhappy childhoods, substance abuse, mass shootings, you name it. Netflix’s animated original series, which first aired in 2014, doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the world of politics, either: abortions, gun rights, and the red tape of bureaucracy are all cut open and critiqued frequently. When it comes to Donald Trump and his presidency, the show depicts him through the unlikeliest of characters: a yellow Labrador retriever named Mr. Peanutbutter.
Unlike Trump, there’s a lot to like about Mr. Peanutbutter; the fact that he’s a talking dog only helps. But no dog is perfect, and it’s not long before his narcissism and inability to listen to his wife, Diane Nguyen, are glaringly exposed. In the fourth episode of the second season, “After the Party,” the scene begins with Diane telling Mr. Peanutbutter how perfect her birthday was. Mr. Peanutbutter proceeds to ask if there’s anything else she wants, but she insists there’s nothing. She later unlocks the door to their home to find a surprise party waiting for her; Mr. Peanutbutter insists he thought she’d like it, but Diane counters and says he threw the party because he’d like it, just another way in which he doesn’t listen to her.
This isn’t Mr. Peanutbutter’s first tumultuous marriage; like Trump, he’s currently in his third marriage. Other similarities are sprinkled throughout the first three seasons in both subtle and obvious ways: they’re former TV stars (The Apprentice versus Mr. Peanutbutter’s House) with a penchant for catchphrases (“You’re fired!” versus “Doggy Doggy what now!?”); they have a history of failed business ventures, such as Mr. Peanutbutter’s Halloween store open exclusively in January and Trump’s line of vodka, among others; and both turn to major broadcast networks to ramble and rave as political outsiders (Mr. Peanutbutter appears on “MSNBSea,” a play on MSNBC, while Trump sticks to Fox News).
Eight months into Trump’s presidency, the fourth season starts with Mr. Peanutbutter’s run for Governor of California. Katrina Peanutbutter, his first wife, pushes him to run during an effort to recall the incumbent Governor Chuck Woodchuck Coodchuck-Berkowitz, whose vocal cadence is heavily reminiscent of former President Barack Obama, thanks to Andre Braugher’s voice over. When a reporter asks him for his stance on fracking, Mr. Peanutbutter responds, “I am specifically on the side of the facts, and also on the side of feelings.” The media proceeds to eat it up. Sound familiar?
Mr. Peanutbutter undoubtedly mirrors Trump from start to end, but Nick Adams, a writer on the show who joined in the fourth season, doesn’t see it that way. “The similarities are definitely there, but I think Raphael [Bob-Waksberg]’s intent was always to make him a lovable version of a washed up sitcom star,” said Adams via email. As the show’s creator, “Raphael always leaned toward him not ultimately being the governor. I think that combined with the fact that people still weren’t taking Trump super seriously early on made us not super worried about the comparison,” but conceded some moments needed to be “tweaked or cut because they felt too Trumpian.”
The similarities between the two, politically and generally, are striking in retrospect: a former TV star who incites voters against the status quo, twisting the words of his political opponent, while not taking a definitive stance on a number of issues himself. Mr. Peanutbutter ultimately ends up pulling out of the gubernatorial race, so we’ll never know if his time in office would’ve been clouded with lies and deceit like Trump’s is. But the two differ greatly in one simple way: at the end of the day, Mr. Peanutbutter is a dumb but loveable dog while President Trump is actively spreading hate and dividing the masses.
For better or worse, the two still have some time left on the clock. The award-winning series is set to return for a fifth season, but even the best Netflix shows must end eventually. Much remains to be seen and it’s uncertain which direction the two political outsiders will head in going forward. But as Mr. Peanutbutter likes to say on his game show, Hollywoo Stars and Celebrities: What Do They Know? Do They Know Things?? Let’s Find Out!, let’s find out.