Cartoon Style: Dressing up to the funnies with Bojack Horseman

suit needs more flasks

By Chrislande Dorcilus

I don’t have cable, so netflix is a constant source of entertainment for me, and combined with the fact that my live-in boyfriend is an aspiring animator, I had no choice but to watch Bojack Horseman when it came out in 2014. I’m the kind of woman-child that watches a whole season of American Dad when I am regenerating from a mild depression just because the characters are paper and their problems are in 2D. So, I instantly fell in love with the talking horse from “Horsin’ Around” and his cohort of eccentric characters from the infamous Hollywoo.

My most favorite thing about the show is the fashion. During her REDDIT AMA Lisa Hanawalt, Bojack Horseman’s character designer, exclaimed,I love drawing crazy animals and weird clothes.” And boy is she great at it! Characters are dressed based on both their personality and geography. There wardrobes are also time and period specific when necessary. You’re probably wondering why that matters. Fashion is important part of rendering a believable imaginary world where women play an active social and political role. As a series that star women comics like Lisa Kudrow and Amy Sedaris (Princess Caroline), Show’s creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg wanted to move away from comedy’s focus on masculinity and maleness to showcase female characters being/doing funny things i.e this lady croc in crocs.

croc in crocs

As fashion is an important part of women’s personal and professional lives, it is important for shows, movies, and even animations to portray not only how they bring us together, but how they divide us. What Sextina Aquafina, the pop star dolphin, can wear on stage is very different than what Princess Caroline, the middle aged talent agent, can pull off–in both the context of the show and society at large.


This image is a scene from a funeral. Look at the two female characters. See how their outfit denote their age and personal sensibilities, and notice how that contrast with the drab suits worn by the male characters. It speaks volumes about gender, and self expression. The limits of what constitutes as formality for men are both sobering and sad.


Now, check out Princess Caroline’s funeral appropriate cocktail dress with the wide grid mesh shoulders contrasted with Mr. Peanutbutter’s tuxedo tracksuit. It helps to interrogate the freedoms and power dynamics at play when there exists social situations which some people feel complete comfortable dressing informal and other do not. Can’t you just read their power and place in Hollywoo’s social scene? Look at the detail in Henry Winkler’s tie. I gag and die for Hanawalt’s subtlety.

Herb's Funeral PC MR PB


Though an animated comedy, Bojack’s story does stand on a very serious foundation that grounds us through important questions about sex, gender, self, friendship, love and even substance abuse. We explore the morality of a deranged horse/man who finds himself in the sticky ambivalence of his fame. This life involves costume changes. From high fashion cocktail events to days spent drinking in Boxers, we become intimate with the character by realizing that they too wear themselves.

Model to Fashion World: “Stop Making Us Look Ratchet”

putnam flowersphoto from Putnam Flowers



Nykhor Paul, a Congolese model and humanitarian, gave the fashion world a stern talking-to over the weekend. She shamed predominantly white fashion houses and makeup artists for one of the more micro-aggressive racist practices common behind the scenes of fashion: not having makeup or hair styling tools that fit black and brown models.

This isn’t the first time that a black model has spoken out about not being fully equipped or supported to do their job. Supermodel Jourdan Dunn has also tweeted comments about how untrained behind the scene staff at fashion shows seem to be when it comes to black skin and hair.

This incident has me dwelling on the nuanced ways that racism affects black women–specially at work. Let’s take modeling as the ultimate example of gendered and racialized labor: women are more likely to get fame and fortune doing it—one of the  few jobs where women can make more than men at all levels of their career. Modeling is also a predominantly white industry.

Nykhor, Jourdan, and other black models make up a very small portion of those being booked in the industry–about 6.8% according to Naomi Campbell. In 2013 this prompted former supermodel Bethann Hardison to pen three letters calling out designers by name for their lack of diversity. Season after season the number of black models has been dwindling. Many in the fashion industry had a hard time pinpointing the problem. The publicist blamed the designer who blamed the casting director who blamed the magazine editors and even still today the buck gets passed around so much that I can’t help but find Hardison’s letter very much relevant. She called it what it was and always will be, “a racist act.”

This form of racism, like all forms of racism, does not cease to function once integration happens. The models that have managed to make it past the policing reality of what it means to be both beautiful and black according to white supremacy, find themselves dealing with another issue: how to be as beautiful as their peers (essentially as good) without the same scaffolding of support available to them.

Imagine getting an office job where everyone had great assistants except for the black coworkers that got sidelined with the incoming interns every quarter. That would be ridiculous wouldn’t it? There’s the hardship of getting the modeling gig–as Nykhor points out black models are few in the fashion industry and then faced with more obstacles of maintaining a gig once booked.

Just as black women in other professional environments have experienced: whether we were ill equipped for specific tasks by an ignorant supervisor, or racist school system. It’s being told to wait for the group and finding that they’d already left–something that’s happened to be throughout my experiences as a black woman, worker, and scholar. The abandonment of both my needs and support by my non-black peers.  It’s all akin to the same feeling of having to represent a group, company, project that never believed in you in the first place. Nykhor cannot do the job of modeling without the art of makeup.  It’s not  fair to her to compete in an environment that is out to make her look “ratchet.” A model with makeup that doesn’t match her skin tone looks idiotic. The long arm of eurocentric beauty standards are accidentally making you look idiotic on purpose. It’s complicated.

Even to those of us that aren’t models and whom are feminist, makeup holds great currency. There are feminist pockets of the internet where talking about contouring and brow pencils is all the rage. Making the self is liberating. Making the self in images that make us feel confident and human is even more liberating. When your job is to represent what it means to be a woman and what it means to be human, finding out that you can’t because of a system that goes out of it’s way to erase your subjectivity and your human needs must be infinitely demoralizing.

At this point, it’s not the makeup companies per se. The higher end brands know that customers of all colors participate in societies impossibly blemish free beauty standards. Nykhor names them in her post – Mac, Makeup Forever, Iman Cosmetics, Covergirl,  Black Opal –  are all companies that cater to the diversity of black skin, all to varying degrees. Don’t applaud the make up industry yet: there are brands like Neutrogena, Physicians Formula, and Almay which, through their actions say, “Black women need not apply.” Racism is a complicated game of economics. And it’s even more in the world where we are told that those of us who are most successful are the ones that can sell a self. Rants like Nykhors ask us to think about how black women have to compete in the world of work and self composing. The quagmire of fighting beauty standards in a world where we can’t even have any.