"Bojack Horseman" character Diane Nguyen in the episode "The Dog Days Are Over" (Image courtesy of "Bojack Horseman")
San Marino High School

Opinion: Diane Nguyen of ‘Bojack Horseman’ is 2018’s best animated character

2018 was a historic year for a multitude of reasons but its most distinguishing feature was its showcase of women. From Beychella to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Congress’ youngest elected female), the boundaries which speciously defined a female’s opportunity and worth were constantly pushed. Even in entertainment, women have evolved to become dynamic characters with depth rather than the static, one-dimensional portrayal of femme-fatale or ingenue archetypes. The examples are in abundance, but the dichotomous evolution of Diane Nguyen in the latest season of “Bojack Horseman” is a paragon of this phenomenon.

The previous seasons of “Bojack Horseman” predominately focused on its eponymous protagonist and his struggle to cope with sobriety and childhood trauma, but the spotlight broadens on season five as supporting characters like Todd and Princess Carolyn receive their dues with center-stage episodes. Diane Nguyen is no exception; while a tumultuous marriage kept Diane in the audience’s periphery during seasons 3 and 4, she becomes the focal point now as she struggles to cope with the aftermath of her divorce from Mr. Peanutbutter. His Hollywood charisma doesn’t help either, Diane’s pain merely stockpiling when Mr. Peanutbutter — in a dinner with the former to discuss divorce papers — unabashedly flirts with their waitress Pickles.

It becomes near impossible to not have some ounce of remorse for Diane’s wrench-stricken life, inundated with hardship after hardship. So you cheer her on as she scavenges for happiness in Vietnam, her parents’ homeland. You hope, like she, that traveling halfway around the world — some 8,000 miles — changes her, but to no avail. She finds alienation instead of home, an estrangement that second-generation immigrants can fall victim to due to the mystique time and distance creates.

When her marriage becomes legally interred though, the tides finally turn in Diane’s favor. With her straight blue hair trimmed into a pixie cut, she evolves from a moping divorcée into a strong-willed screenwriter for the new TV series “Philbert,” starring Bojack as the lead. Of course, this dynamism is recalled in other modern characters, such as Dr. Miranda Bailey (“Grey’s Anatomy”) or even the series’ own Princess Carolyn. But what makes Diane Nguyen exemplary of 2018 feminism, of #metoo and Christine Blasey Ford, is her unmitigated moral compass. She is no longer defined by society’s expectation for Asian women to be meek and exploited; there is an undeniable resilience and self-righteousness to her words, a bite so sharp you can’t help but feel sorry for Bojack Horseman when Diane confronts him about his lascivious past.

Viewers can be quick to call Diane insensitive or callous for creating an irreversible spectacle of Bojack’s personal life to create a TV script, but the scene was necessary to restoring the amicable relationship between Diane and Bojack while providing the raw, dark content that plays in stark contrast with season six’s final moments: Diane, driving with the sun in her eyes, after dropping Bojack off at rehab out of respect and friendship. Because people can be paradoxical. We can be joyous and somber, savage and civil, lustful and platonic. And that’s why “Bojack Horseman” has garnered critical consensus; the characters surmount the limitations of two-dimensional animation and truly come to life.

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