“BoJack Horseman,” the acclaimed, animated tragicomedy created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg, tells the story of an anthropomorphic horse named BoJack, a washed-up celebrity star of the ‘90s sitcom “Horsing Around” who plans to return to the spotlight but constantly sabotages his chances, largely due to his struggles with depression and addiction.
One day, Todd Chavez, a friendly, aloof slacker, needs a place to crash for the night after a party at BoJack’s and soon finds himself a permanent resident. Despite the sarcasm and disdain that BoJack shoots Todd’s way, it’s obvious that the two have formed quite an unconventional, lasting friendship.
Since its premiere, “BoJack Horseman” has steadfastly defied comedic norms, explored raw and groundbreaking themes like granting equal autonomy to both animals and humans, showcased the seriousness of depression, addiction and detrimental illnesses, and even championed an asexual character — Todd Chavez — in a realistic and genuine way.
Asexual Characters on TV
Before diving into Todd’s asexual identity, it’s essential to look at the portrayal of asexual characters across all television series. As Hornet noted, there is a “sadly short list of asexual TV characters.” Among this short list, Hornet acknowledged Gerald Tippett from “Shortland Street,” Raphael Santiago from “Shadowhunters,” Evan Waxman from “High Maintenance,” Valentina Dunacci from “Sirens,” Lord Varys from “Game of Thrones,” Rose Nylund from “The Golden Girls,” The Tick from “The Tick” and Todd Chavez from “BoJack Horseman.” Of all of these asexual characters, Hornet affirmed that “Todd’s character is one of best takes on being ace (common shorthand for asexual) we’ve seen on TV.”
Exploring Todd’s Asexuality
Although there are subtle hints of Todd’s asexuality throughout the first three seasons of the show, such as Todd brushing off his high school friend Emily’s advances, we aren’t fully cued into Todd’s asexuality until the final episode of Season 3, “That Went Well.” Todd opens up to Emily after she asks him what his deal is/if he’s into her/if he’s gay, telling her: “I’m not gay … I mean, I don’t think I am … but I don’t think I’m straight either. I don’t know what I am. I think I might be nothing.”
This scene is an incredibly realistic depiction of what it’s like to grapple with asexuality in today’s world, as it echoes society’s expectation that there are two binary sides to sexuality: straight and not straight. In modern society, asexuality is rarely talked about or represented in the media. Todd, in turn, isn’t sure what he is, and isn’t yet able to attach the term “asexual” to his sexual orientation because society, in many ways, fails to give asexuals the representation they deserve. A clear example of this phenomenon can be seen with the abbreviation LGBTQ+, which has only recently evolved to LGBTQIA+ to include intersex and asexual individuals.
Another notable characteristic of this scene is how Emily reacts with acceptance and without judgment to Todd’s response and the way that the show carries on normally after Todd’s emotional admission. As Nico W. stated in his article titled “BoJack Horseman Delivers the Asexual Representation We Need,” in one moment, Todd is pouring his heart out, and in the next, viewers are placed in the middle of a typical Todd caper where he accidentally tips the waitress his newfound $8 million. The continued existence of this characteristic Todd trait suggests that his situation isn’t odd, startling or meant to exploit a hot-button topic for ratings — it was merely another episode.
In Season 4, Episode 3, Todd finally has a word to describe his sexual orientation, and in a monumental, raw scene, he comes out to BoJack: “It was s—– what you did with Emily… but um… I think I’m asexual… I’m sure you think that’s weird.” BoJack, in typical BoJack fashion, responds with “Are you kidding? That’s amazing,” and then makes a joke about how Todd will never catch a strain of herpes.
Todd, though, brushes it off in typical Todd fashion, allowing the relief of finally saying he’s asexual out loud to sink in. BoJack then makes another asexual joke in relation to their friendship and Todd responds boldly, telling him that he’s “not really at a place yet where I want to joke about it, but it feels good to talk about it.”
This scene is striking and a perfect blend of casual and monumental, as well as a defining moment for one of the only shows in the 21st century to champion an asexual main character with a coming-out scene.
Navigating the Asexual Landscape
Later in Season 4, Episode 10, “lovin that cali lifestyle!!,” the show introduces another fellow asexual character, Yolanda Buenaventura, as Todd’s business agent for clown dentistry. In the Season 4 finale, “What Time Is It Right Now,” Yolanda asks Todd on a date, and Todd feels comfortable enough to let her know that he is asexual. It just so happens that Yolanda herself is ace and that her identity is the exact reason she is asking him out. This situation helps explore the intricacies of finding a partner when asexual.
The asexual conversation continues into Season 5, where in the first episode, Todd and Yolanda go on a double date with Emily and her latest fireman boyfriend. Inspired by Emily’s recent success in creating a dating app that exclusively matches various firemen with her, Todd comes up with an idea for an asexual dating app.
The dinner conversation then shifts into the distinctions between asexuality and aromanticism, as Todd thinks through the logistics of the app. He decides that there could be certain “profile preferences,” where one could be “a.) Romantic or b.) Aromantic, while also being a.) Sexual or b.) Asexual.” Todd continues his thought process by highlighting the rarity of asexual romantics: “Even within the one percent of the world that’s asexual, there’s an even smaller percentage that is still looking for romantic companionship.”
This hilarious scene touches on the intricacies within the asexual identity. In other words, there isn’t one set asexual identity — asexuals can be romantic or aromantic. This fact often gets glossed over or fails to be brought into the limelight at all. “BoJack Horseman,” though, commits to representing asexuality in a real and genuine manner.
Todd Chavez grapples with finding his footing in a society that acts like asexuality doesn’t exist while also discovering that looking for love isn’t as simple as just finding someone who shares your asexual identity. The show’s depiction of Todd’s journey to realizing his asexual identity as well as his navigating through society and finding love while ace is spot-on, with snippets of adult humor weaved throughout in typical “BoJack Horseman” fashion.
In sum, even with Todd’s quirks and idiosyncrasies, “BoJack Horseman” accurately portrays real dilemmas that asexuals deal with on a day-to-day basis. Despite his aloofness and slacker-tendencies, Todd is sure of his asexuality and serves as an important asexual champion in television.