How I Found Representation in a Show With a Cartoon Horse

In the new season of BoJack Horseman, a main character, Todd, has come out as asexual. This portrayal fills a necessary gap in ace media coverage and representation. Josie Hilton explores below what Todd's identity means to her and to our understanding of the asexual community!

Note: This article contains Bojack Horseman spoilers for seasons 3 and 4

In 2014, the world was hit with the Netflix Original program BoJack Horseman. The show follows the life of Bojack, a washed up anthropomorphic horse who starred in a popular 90s sitcom, as he deals with the craziness of Hollywood and his personal dramas. It’s a wonderful show that’s funny and surprisingly thoughtful, dealing with hard topics such as depression and anxiety, strained parental relationships, and how hard it is to let others help you. However, the main character, BoJack, is not the focus of this article. Instead, I want to talk about BoJack’s best friend, Todd Chavez.

The logo of the show,  BoJack Horseman

The logo of the show, BoJack Horseman

By the end of the third season, Todd Chavez reconnected with an old high school friend, Emily. They enjoy spending time with each other but during the last few episodes, it’s clear that Emily wants to further her relationship with Todd, specifically wanting to have sex. Todd, on the other hand, avoids these situations and eventually stops talking to Emily because of all of the confusing emotions between the two.

In the final episode, Todd and Emily meet in a diner and talk about what has been happening between them. During this conversation, Emily suggests to Todd that he might be asexual, considering that he liked her but didn’t want a physical relationship. At the time, Todd doesn’t feel the label fits him and instead says that rather being straight or gay, he thinks he’s "nothing" as far as sexuality goes. Many people approach sexuality as a binary: straight or gay. Todd leaned on the binary because that’s all he had to work with at first, even if he knew it didn’t fit him.  When you don’t have the right words to describe yourself, the complex concept that is sexuality becomes even more confusing.

The first few episodes of season four don’t focus very heavily on Todd. But in episode 3, “Hooray! Todd Episode!,” Todd sits down with BoJack and admits that he’s asexual. This coming out moment is seen as a weight off his shoulders and the writers already put in some good ace jokes (because we love our puns). And at the very end of the episode, Todd is seen going to an Asexual Meet Up, demonstrating the first instance of the shortened version of asexual–ace –being used in the show.

Aaron Paul, the actor who brings Todd's animated character to life, as photographed by Gary Skidmore

Aaron Paul, the actor who brings Todd's animated character to life, as photographed by Gary Skidmore

The next few episodes focus more on BoJack (he is the main character after all), so it’s not until episode six that we come back to Todd’s sexuality. He is at another Asexual Meet Up and has a discussion with other aces where they explain that while some people are both asexual and aromantic (Yay! Aromantic representation as well!), others want romantic relationships and even marriages. While that may seem like a pretty uneventful conversation, this is a huge deal. It explains to both Todd and the viewers that lots of aces want a variety of things out of a relationship, sans sex. Some aces want hand holding and long walks on the beach; others want someone to start a life or a family with. Others still want someone who will hold them when they’re sad or celebrate accomplishments with them.

By explaining these nuances and variety across ace people, the show corrects the misguided notion that aces are “emotionless robots,” “less human,” or “immature children” that want nothing to do with love or relationships. For people who are ace, questioning or have never heard of asexuality, this is a great first impression. During this conversation, Todd also uses ace instead of asexual, which is my term of choice. I usually refer to myself as ace and then have to clarify, as many people aren’t familiar with the lingo.

If you haven’t watched the show and are looking for some refreshing ace representation, I would encourage you to do so. Though I will warn you, the show deals with difficult and potentially upsetting topics like alcohol and drug abuse, abortion, and toxic family situations. The show’s not perfect and not suited for everybody, but it is still a good watch. Honestly, the show’s decision to portray Todd as explicitly asexual is what finally motivated me to watch it. I’d had it queued in my Netflix list for a long time, but there was always something I wanted to watch more, so I never got around to it.  Now that I’ve finished all four seasons, I’ve really enjoyed the whole thing. There’s even an exciting cliff-hanger about Todd’s love life. Plus it’s been renewed for a fifth season! Todd will be able to go on more wacky adventures, come up with more creative business adventures, and hopefully, explore his budding relationship with Yolanda.