CULTURE

Invisible Illness in Pop Culture: What Do Jameela Jamil and Jake Paul Have in Common?

She's a strident activist and he's a piece of YouTube trash, but they both point out how far our culture still needs to go in terms of understanding health.

In true crime, there's a mythical notion of the "perfect victim" (young, beautiful, often female, with no criminal history of her own).

How closely one fits this arbitrary model is sadly correlated with how much public attention and sympathy a victim will receive. Similarly, there's a strange cultural expectation that sufferers of chronic illness need to be the "perfect sick person" (graceful, quiet, grateful) in order to be believed. Recent celebrity backlashes underscore the misconception that crippling chronic illnesses are rarer than they actually are and that they exist in isolation (in reality, many conditions come with co-morbid, or simultaneous, illnesses). From Jake Paul claiming that anxiety is all in the mind to actress Jameela Jamil being accused of having Munchausen's Syndrome, the reality of "invisible illnesses"–conditions that don't necessarily cause visible disabilities– is still wildly misunderstood and misrepresented in the media.

For years Jamil has been an outspoken activist for mental health, LGBTQIA+ inclusivity, body acceptance, and female empowerment. That's included open criticism of toxic diet culture on Instagram and Twitter and launching her movement I Weigh, a "rebellion against shame" that highlights people's accomplishments and worth beyond their physical appearance.

But in February, a writer named Tracie Morrissey took to Instagram with an extensive collection of screenshots of Jamil's interviews dating back over 10 years. She pointed out what she perceived to be discrepancies throughout Jamil's accounts of her health struggles, accusing her of purposefully lying about or causing her own illnesses for attention (Munchausen's Syndrome). Aside from being born partially deaf, Jamil's been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a genetic connective tissue disorder, and the condition can weaken various joints, organs, and whole body systems.

In response, Jamil pointed out how insidious stigmas about disabilities lead to accusations that individuals are faking their illnesses. She posted on Instagram, "I have had to fight like a f-cking dog this week against false accusations, people framing my words, and deliberately taking them out of context, trying to discredit my entire integrity, and going after disabled members of my family. And for what? To stop me from being an activist against eating disorders? To stop me from de stigmatizing conversations about mental health, suicides, sexual consent, abortions, women's rights, trans rights?"

She continued, "I've been in this business 11 years and am a smart woman. I wouldn't lie in print or on camera knowing how permanent the internet is. Especially knowing how much our media loves to portray women as liars and hysterics." She concluded, "At least we've started a huge mainstream conversation about invisible illness/chronic illness and the mockery and disbelief that comes with what is already a near impossible existence. So something good always comes of a shit storm. Big love for the messages of support and similar stories of gaslighting you've all faced. I'm so sorry. That's so painful."

Indeed, too many genetic anomalies and illnesses go unheeded by doctors, as the medical community remains uninformed about many established diseases, such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which disproportionately impacts women and takes an average of 10 to 20 years to receive a proper diagnosis. In 2019, the Ehlers-Danlos Society awarded Jamil with the Patient Advocate of the Year. Upon acceptance, Jamil said, "I am sorry it took me so long to speak publicly about my condition. I think I was afraid of being discriminated against, and I think I feel, I felt, discouraged by how little information there is about it publicly, and still how little research is being done around this condition. It's terrifying how many doctors still haven't heard of it, and it's been around for a very long time. So many people have it, and so many more people than we realize as they don't know the symptoms, because the symptoms aren't being discussed en masse."

Part of this problem is, as Jamil pointed out in her Instagram post: Women are still commonly not believed, and their pain is not taken seriously within the medical community. Research consistently shows that women are prescribed less pain medication after surgery, wait longer to receive pain medication during visits to the emergency room, and are far more likely to be told that their pain is "psychosomatic" or due to emotional upset. One survey of 2,400 women found that at least 83% of respondents had experienced gender discrimination from a health care provider. Dr. Fiona Gupta, a neurologist and director of health in neurosurgery at Mount Sinai in New York City, says, "I can't tell you how many women I've seen who have gone to see numerous doctors, only to be told their issues were stress-related or all in their heads. Many of these patients were later diagnosed with serious neurological problems, like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease. They knew something was wrong, but had been discounted and instructed not to trust their own intuition."

James Blake, who's dating Jamil, defended his girlfriend on Twitter: "I'm not gonna stand by and let some total strangers try to push my girlfriend over the edge to what… stop her from helping kids with eating disorders? Stop removing mainstream shame of talking about mental health?" he said, before concluding, "What are any of you even doing? And why are so many of you enjoying this? It's sick to watch, and I don't ever see men treated like this, the way we tear women limb from limb."

The dual challenges of stigma and lack of awareness are only exacerbated when it comes to invisible illnesses, which can range from heart disease, fibromyalgia, diabetes, psychiatric illness, autoimmune disorders, and even cancer. These individuals are often told they "don't look sick," which exemplifies the cultural ignorance that still exists about illness: There is no such thing as "looking sick." People with visible disabilities or who use mobility aids or other visible health care devices are not broadcasting their health condition so they can defend their diagnoses. In the same vein, people whose illnesses don't involve visible impairments aren't invalid in their struggles. Their illnesses go undetected and can be difficult to diagnose due to slow-developing or inconsistent symptoms, their similarity with other more common ailments, and, above all, a dangerous lack of cultural awareness.

For instance, Jake Paul recently invalidated every individual who's struggled with anxiety with the thoughtless (since-deleted) tweet, "Remember anxiety is created by you. Sometimes you gotta let life play out and remind yourself to be happy & that the answers will come. Chill your mind out. Go for a walk. Talk to a friend." In reality, this kind of advice not only minimizes the mental and physical damage caused by anxiety but implies that sufferers are ultimately to blame for their own symptoms. In reality, anxiety disorders affect roughly 15% - 20% of the population and not because those people fail to "remind [themselves] to be happy." The director of research and special projects at the American Psychological Association, Dr. Vaile Wright, clarified, "Anxiety is a combination of physiological and emotional responses typically to stressful things in our life or things that are going on." Specifically, during times of stress the brain releases a hormone called cortisol, among other chemicals, and elevated levels of cortisol over a period of time are proven to negatively affect memory, learning, the immune system, and the heart's ability to function. She added, "You can't avoid anxiety. You can't avoid the triggers that cause it, but you can learn how to cope with it and you can seek out the help that you really need to learn those behaviors."

As an influencer with nearly 20 million YouTube subscribers, Paul's irresponsible remark befits the online reputation of him and his brother, Logan Paul, for having thoughtless, juvenile, and exploitative online presences–with an alarmingly large audience of young people. Both brothers were criticized by mental health professionals in 2019 when YouTuber Shane Dawson created a series on Jake Paul speculating if the creator is a "sociopath," which is an outdated layman's term from pop culture that was never part of scientific criteria. Logan said, "A lot of us, me included, will do some dumb sh—, maybe some stuff that lacks empathy, strictly for views. It gets us views, which gets us subscribers. Our motivating factor is to reach the next, next, next level." He added, "Sociopath is, boiled down, someone who is just more savage than everyone else." No, it's not. Again, "sociopath" is a now-outdated informal term that only carries meaning in pop psychology–and, like all lazy language, it can have damaging consequences.

This is especially true in the age of Instagram, with chronically ill communities and activists using the platform to spread awareness. Writer Caira Conner of NBCNews commented on the discrimination and stigma inherent in accusations that Jamil had Munchausen's Syndrome. She wrote of the challenges of chronic illness from the point of view of someone who's been diagnosed with three autoimmune conditions, among other illnesses. "The sense of culpability that pervades chronic illness can be a gnawing, wicked companion to the illness itself," she wrote. She adds that she's not personally a fan of Jamil's kind of advocacy, because social media, the main medium Jamil uses to spread her message, presents a filtered version of life with a chronic illness. "The helplessness of it all isn't captured," she wrote. "It is a snapshot... deliberately self-flattering and decidedly detached from the context it pretends to highlight."

She added, "The point Jamil makes about illness—the idea that someone can be suffering and yet still be perennially met with suspicion, even outright dismissiveness—is important." Since there is, in reality, a "profound sense of loss and disappointment that accompanies a non-terminal lifelong diagnosis. There is more compassion and empathy to be elicited from viewers when they can clearly see the ravages of a particular condition, when the element of tragedy is irrefutable."

The overarching truth, in Conner's words, is our "need, as a culture, to find a third way, somewhere between the cripplingly binary options of victory or defeat, compassion or denial, cheering or cutting down" to recognize and validate all human life.

CULTURE

Bell Let's Talk and the Corporatization of Mental Health

Bell Let's Talk is important, but it's no substitute for actual year-round support and reform.

Today is the 10th anniversary of Bell Let's Talk, a Canadian initiative designed to inspire conversations about mental health.

Since 2010, the program has committed to donating $100 million to mental health awareness. A great deal of the money is raised on Bell Let's Talk Day, an annual occasion when people are encouraged to share their mental health stories. The campaign encourages people to post messages of support for mental health on social media, and donates five cents for each (as long as they use the hashtag #BellLetsTalk or link to the company in some way).

For many, the day presents a valuable opportunity to reduce stigma by sharing mental health experiences and expressing support.

For others, the day is a classic example of performative activism, a chance for people to express their allyship with the mentally ill for one day without actually doing anything except spreading publicity for a corporation.

For others, it's emblematic of a deeper problem: the corporate world's desire to capitalize on mental health awareness, using it as a way to propagate their brand and to build their PR image while failing to take action on the issues–sometimes even perpetuating the problems.

To its credit, Bell Canada has donated millions of dollars to mental health initiatives, and they have done vital work to encourage conversations about mental illness. But they also receive tax cuts for the work, and rely on the labor of unpaid online users to spread their message.

They've also come under fire from prison justice groups. The company, which provides calling service for people incarcerated in Ontario, has been criticized for making phone bills difficult for prisoners to afford. Under their prison plan, local calls could cost as much as $1 per minute. Calls can also only be routed to landlines, and for some inmates, phone cards can only be refilled on one day of each month. The Canadian government also receives a cut of the profits from the inmates' phone calls,




Ironically, prisons contain disproportionately high levels of mentally ill people, many of whom wind up behind bars because they lack the wealth and resources to find treatment or to challenge arrest. While a program like Bell Let's Talk might be helpful in combating stigma, it won't do anything for a mom who works two jobs, suffers from a chemical imbalance in her brain, and is locked up for a marijuana charge.

Ultimately, people unable to find actual medical treatment or who cannot find a cure-all are more likely to end up behind bars, meaning that the very people Bell promises to help on the Let's Talk Day are likely to wind up paying to make phone calls.

This month, Bell's Prison Phone Contract expires, meaning that the company has a chance to make things right. If Bell really cares about mental health issues, they'll make sure that inmates—who are often disproportionately people of color from lower socioeconomic classes—receive adequate, affordable services.

Still, Bell Let's Talk is, overall, a positive thing, and all the people bravely sharing mental health confessions today deserve love and support. Stopping the stigma around mental illness is a vital first step for any society that wants to address a mental health crisis.

But it's only a tiny part of the solution. Simply talking about mental health is no substitute for professional care, well-balanced medication, the time and resources for self-care, and most importantly, active changes to the systems that created these widespread mental health issues in the first place. Tweeting a hashtag won't heal serotonin imbalances in the brain, and it won't end the environmental disasters, the violence, or the inequality that often underlie and worsen mental health crises.


True and lasting reform will never come from the generosity of corporations or from annual outpourings of generosity. Bell's annual $7 million in donations, while beneficial, puts a band-aid on an issue rather than trying to stop the wound from opening in the first place (and pales in comparison to the corporation's net worth, which is over $2 billion). Like many corporate wellness initiatives, the company valorizes an "end to the stigma" without actually providing affordable services for genuinely mentally ill people or addressing the deeper roots of mental health issues.

This sort of healing will only come from sweeping programs that address the sources of mental health crises—programs that make access to mental health care, a safe planet, and equal opportunity a right for all, regardless of race, socioeconomic class, or Twitter usage.


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Netflix's docuseries The Goop Lab is a show about B.S. self-care trends being branded and sold as "wellness" and close-ups of Gwyneth Paltrow's golden, glowy demon skin.

It's a show about self-optimization and a lot of beautiful, young, slender–but racially diverse (because it's a woke show)–content creators traveling the world and exposing themselves. Sometimes that means literally staring at their vaginas in a mirror as a sex educator tells them they're beautiful, and sometimes that means processing their personal traumas next to their coworkers and under the gaze of a camera crew and Paltrow's calm, waxy smile.

As familiar as we are with the dark side of constant self-optimization–what with the plagues of "millennial burnout" and influencer worship–bogus wellness trends are still working. The wellness industry is a whopping $4.2 trillion feature of our cultural landscape. Overpriced, often culturally appropriated, "all-natural" remedies promise not only to improve our lives but cure our loneliness, depression, anxiety, and existential sense that nothing we do matters. Plus, sometimes it smells like your vagina, like Goop's $75 candle named, yup, "This Candle Smells Like My Vagina."

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In the six short episodes of The Goop Lab, Elise Loehnen, Goop's chief content officer, oversees teams of Goop's editors, project managers, and assistants who "go out in the field" to try alternative medicines and therapies for themselves. In the first episode, "A Healing Trip," Loehnen ingests psilocybin (psychedelic mushrooms) with her employees and later reflects, "This is not a typical workspace experience, although I kind of wonder if it wouldn't be incredibly therapeutic for workspace teams if you felt really safe and wanted to become even more intimate and connected with the people that you spend the majority of your day with."

I'm sorry, what? While there's a growing body of research confirming that psychedelics can have unique therapeutic benefits–when taken in carefully measured doses and within extremely monitored circumstances–there's more than one way to abuse them. Aside from recreational usage, the danger of psychedelics lies in their invasiveness in one's psychology and experience–a bad trip is an incredibly bad trip. In fact, Paltrow and Leohnen interview Mark Haden, executive director of MAPS Canada (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), who identifies the primary difference between traditional talk therapy and psychedelic therapy as, "You get access to somebody's unconscious material." So, yeah, let's do that with co-workers as a bonding experience. As Rachel Charlene Lewis writes for Bitch Media, "Encouraging coworkers not only to do drugs together, but to explore trauma en masse seems like an HR disaster waiting to happen. But in the world (or, rather, the career) of Goop, it's just another day at the office."

Actually, invading consumer psychology in order to bring individuals' traumas to the fore seems to be the integral approach of wellness brands these days. Companies like Goop exploit personal traumas by marketing their products as curative, with The Goop Lab targeting content to showcase how epiphanic and life-changing alternative therapies (and related products–you know, like theirs) can be. Also interviewed in this episode is Jenny, a photo editor, who talks about her personal trauma over her father's suicide and how it impacted her understanding of her own depression. There's Kevin, Paltrow's assistant and a veteran Gooper (yes, that's what Paltrow calls them), who talks about his attachment struggles after growing up with an absentee father. Among genuine testimonies from people who have overcome anxiety, depression, PTSD, and suicide attempts thanks to these alternative therapies (which many people don't have access to due to resources and legal restrictions in their areas), there's an ugly spectatorship to watching Jenny and Kevin sob on a mat on the floor while soft-spoken counselors in white whisper to them softly and rub their backs. Kevin, in particular, is hugged tightly by two male counselors, which Leohnen later calls "very profound" since "they were embracing him in a way that he hadn't been embraced as a child by his own father."

Clearly, the Goopers who volunteered to participate in these experiments are aware of the vulnerability of (potentially) processing their trauma in front of a camera, but the whole show is designed for viewers to spectate and consume their personal trauma as content that ultimately promotes Goop as a brand. And aside from being targeted to those wealthy enough to spend $120 on "healing" wearable stickers, Goop as a brand is patently ridiculous, pseudo-scientific, and even dangerous for public health. With health claims that are repeatedly disproven by alarmed health experts, as well as NASA, studies show that the public has grown increasingly confused about what constitutes a healthy lifestyle.

Timothy Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Alberta, wrote a detailed overview of why the most popular (and lucrative) celebrity-backed health crazes have lodged themselves into our public consciousness. "This decade of celebrity health hogwash should also be considered in the broader context," he warns. "This is the era of misinformation, a time when trust in public institutions is declining and people feel uncertain about what to believe about, well, everything. Celebrity wellness hype contributes to this 'culture of untruth' by both inviting a further erosion of critical thinking and promoting what is popular and aspirational rather than what is true." Between Instagram fitness gurus and absurd celebrity "beauty secrets," we're all surrounded with contradictory pieces of wellness advice. Goop describes their prescribed practices as "out there" or "too scary" for people because they go against basic common sense.

With a throwaway legal disclaimer prefacing each episode (the series is "designed to entertain and inform–not provide medical advice. You should always consult your doctor when it comes to your personal health, or before you start treatment"), The Goop Lab is just cashing in on the trend of exploiting personal trauma for branding and, ultimately, profit. It's appropriate that the credits include Paltrow declaring their end goal as the "optimization of self," in the sense that "we're here one time, one life, how can we really milk the sh*it out of this." This is the next stage of "the age-old marketing language of 'Women, you suck, but this miracle product will fix you,'" only now it's saying, "The world has hurt you over and over again, and this can help heal the damage–for a price."

CULTURE

Twitter as Social Capital: You Are Not a "Personal Brand"

Human beings are not "brands," and the human experience should not be brandable.

Internet writers truly are vultures.

If you've ever wondered why the vast majority of articles on every trending topic seem like clickbaity hot takes, that's because Internet writing is frequently a race to publication. Working as an entertainment writer on the Internet, I spend a good chunk of my day scrolling through Twitter feeds. Trending hashtags are a hotbed for article ideas, and jumping on the right topic at just the right time can land you a top spot on the Google rankings for a popular search term.

But the more time you spend trend-hunting on Twitter, the more you start to notice trends within the trends. For instance, the top comments on almost any political topic tend to belong to the same hundred or so Twitter-verified Blue Check Marks (those being the people on Twitter deemed important enough to receive the coveted symbol next to their name). The same can be said for almost any topical niche. Sometimes these Blue Check Marks are celebrities, but more often than not, they're unfamiliar names. A surprising number of them, I've come to learn, are other writers. Podcasters, too.

When most people see a Blue Check Mark on Twitter, they most likely associate the account with a person of import. This is, of course, by design; Blue Check Marks literally make chosen people stand out from the rest. But after reading through countless Blue Checkmarked tweets, I'm not sure if Blue Check Marks are really people at all. Rather, they're projections of people––curated "Personal Brands" that aren't interested in having conversations, so much as shouting to be the loudest voice with the most likes and retweets. The result is an overall degradation of public discourse, with nuance and genuine attempts at understanding taking a backseat to quippy barbs and platitudes from your favorite personality (who, in reality, likely lives in fear of upsetting their fanbase and damaging their "brand").

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TV

BoJack Horseman, Joe from "You," And Sympathy for Damaged Men

The trailer for the final season of "BoJack Horseman" just dropped. Will BoJack finally receive redemption, and does he deserve it?

This article contains spoilers for Netflix's "You" Season 2 and BoJack Horseman seasons 1-6.

BoJack Horseman has mastered the art of the meta-commentary.

From start to finish, it has revolved around a horse-man who seems to embody everything wicked about celebrity culture. He constantly abuses his position of power, falls prey to countless addictions, and perpetually fails and harms the people around him.

Though the show criticizes and satirizes all the forgiveness that BoJack receives, its writers constantly humanize and sympathize with him, delving into his abusive upbringing and exploring all the reasons why he's unable to love himself and others. BoJack is constantly hitting rock bottom and then is given another chance, and though he inevitably disappoints those who forgive him, he is always the star of the show in the end. It's a loop, but is there a way out?

In the trailer for the show's final season, it appears that BoJack is making yet another effort to redeem himself. This time, it's not through rehab or through traveling to New Mexico—he's tried those before—it's through accepting a teaching position at Wesleyan. He's changed, he insists, sporting newly greyed hair, and he's seeking something real. It's hard not to believe him, even though at this point, we should know better.

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Perhaps part of what makes us want to forgive BoJack is because of the way he speaks. His voice is extremely persuasive, and he sounds level-headed. He speaks like a powerful white dude, which is the demographic that has objectively occupied the majority of positions of power and influence in America, so perhaps that has something to do with why we keep believing what he has to say. When he attempts to persuade people (most frequently women) to forgive him, he is articulate, self-deprecating, and full of vast, limitless, beautiful promises. In other words, he is an expert at the "reconciliation" step on the cycle of abuse.

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BoJack's narration style is reminiscent of another show that relies on the unreliable narrative of another dangerous yet unnervingly persuasive man: Joe Goldberg from You. Though BoJack Horseman is far superior in almost every way to You on a technical level, their central characters bear certain similarities, and not only in terms of the slow, methodical, and almost hypnotic way in which they speak.

Lovable Demons: Parallels Between BoJack Horseman and Joe Goldberg

Just as BoJack moves to Wesleyan in order to escape his life in Los Angeles, the second season of You begins with Joe moving away from New York to LA in order to escape the trail of bloodshed he left behind. Joe from You is far more delusional than BoJack, and far more invested in his idealized self-perception. While BoJack tends to rely on self-awareness and self-deprecation to continue making his repetitive, cyclical mistakes, Joe, on the other hand, is obsessed with the idea that he is "good"—and has a level-headed way of explaining his own violent crimes (and persuading himself that they won't happen again) so effectively that sometimes it's easy to find yourself rooting for him, wishing his relationships will work out, that he'll succeed and heal and grow.

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Joe is also much more violent and psychotic than BoJack, as he actively traps and murders people. However, BoJack technically does have Sarah Lynn's death on his hands (as he was the one who persuaded her to abandon her sobriety). At one point he implied that what happened in New Mexico with 16-year-old Penny was not an isolated incident. In the last season, he nearly killed his girlfriend during a movie scene.

In short, both BoJack and Joe are completely out of control, but they remain convinced that they in some way deserve—and can achieve—absolution from their sins.

Why can't we look away? Perhaps both characters give viewers some sort of subconscious release. BoJack Horseman undoubtedly humanizes BoJack to help the audience feel better about their own bad behavior (as the show's satirical Philbert storyline clearly remarked), while Joe provides a vehicle for a largely female audience to entertain suppressed fantasies.

These two shows are far from the only media to do this; the list of examples goes on and on. Part of what makes these terrible-yet-sympathetic protagonist archetypes so fascinating is that though we should absolutely reject each of these three characters, it's hard to tear our eyes away from them. Instead, it's easy to become invested, especially as the shows delve into the reasons why each of them commit so much evil and treat others so badly.

Curiosity about the sources of evil is only natural, but the reason could be more deeply rooted in our own psychology. According to V. Reneé, "essentially, giving a villain a reason for being evil does two things: It allows the villain to be as evil as it wants without "villain decay," and it gives the villain enough depth to inspire empathy." This trope is also referred to as the "Freudian Excuse," an apt term as so many of these characters have issues that relate to their mothers.

Mother Wounds: The Roles of Women in BoJack Horseman and You

Each character's crimes undoubtedly stem from some form of deep-rooted inadequacy. For Walter White, his homicidal behavior is about his failure to live up to an ideal of masculine success. For BoJack and Joe from You, it has everything to do with their absent mothers.

BoJack Horseman's mother is a ghoulish, looming presence throughout the show's later seasons. She was cruel and cold to BoJack as a child, constantly criticizing him and leading him to find solace in performance because she (and then he) could not tolerate his real self. Joe's mother also left him with a gaping wound—though in her case, she continued to return to abusive relationships and eventually sent Joe to foster care.

In their adult lives, these characters seek solace and healing in their idealized visions of the female characters around them, constantly looking to remedy the damage that their mothers did. Fortunately, the writers of each of these shows slowly shatter their protagonists' visions of these women, creating strong, complex, damaged female characters that act as mirrors for the main characters' flaws. In BoJack Horseman, Diane—arguably one of the best-written characters on TV today—is initially viewed by BoJack as a smart and empathetic potential solution to his problems. Soon enough, it's revealed that Diane, like BoJack, is burdened by wounds of her own; she is unsatisfied, rejects love, and is burdened by nihilism and fears of her own hypocrisy.

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On You, Joe meets his match in Love Quinn. He initially sees her as the embodiment of care, kindness, and empathy, but soon enough it is revealed that she is far more damaged—and more similar to him—than he ever could have dreamed.

Though they are aware of the sins of their respective male counterparts, Diane and Love never come close to cutting off BoJack and Joe. Diane occasionally lashes out at BoJack, but the two remain joined at the hip. Her own low self-esteem and guilt allow her to sympathize with him, and the same goes for Love (though the circumstances are different, and Love winds up being just as insane as Joe, which is a whole other conversation in itself).

But for the most part, these women, like the show's viewers, provide theaters into which the men can broadcast their bullsh*t. That's not to say these women (or we) are inherently wrong, or significantly better than these men. In fact, we might be more similar to them than we think. Many people act wickedly, and most of the time it is because of some reason rooted in childhood or experiences out of their control. But the problem is that not all people are given equal opportunities to achieve redemption.

Bittersweet Sympathy: Race, Violence, and the Empathy Illusion

Even if it is understandable, the type of sympathy that BoJack and Joe receive is rarely, if ever, offered to marginalized people like black men and immigrants, who are often portrayed as monoliths and statistics rather than symptoms of their past and backgrounds. On the other hand, in portrayals of terrorists, young white males are frequently given the same kind of explanations that Joe and BoJack receive. While no neat line can be drawn, it's impossible to address these characters without referring to all the forces that allow them to continue making mistakes while coming out unscathed.

The problem here is not necessarily that we empathize with BoJack and Joe. It's that we empathize with them at the expense of others' lives, and our empathy can distract from other stories that deserve to be told.

Perhaps the point is not that we should suppress every ounce of empathy for BoJack and Joe. Humans need to believe that healing is possible and that forgiveness can be provided if someone actively changes their ways and works to rectify the problems they've created. But too often, some people are allowed to be endlessly forgiven, while others are demonized and written off for slight mishaps due to events outside of their control.

Knowing BoJack, the final season will remark on this in its typically self-aware fashion. It probably won't even offer its titular horse any form of redemption. Instead, it will probably end in shambles, leaving us with more questions than answers.

We'll miss BoJack, but maybe it's time to let him go.

CULTURE

Being Rude to Pete Davidson Will Cost $1 Million in NDA Fees

To be fair, the dude's been through a lot.

Imagine being allowed to impose a $1 million non-disclosure agreement before entering a conversation with someone who might dislike you.

Imagine that NDA giving you the right to destroy their phone if they're mean to you. Imagine how powerful that would make you feel.

Actually, you'd be wrong–you'd just feel like an insecure 26-year-old man who's, admittedly, had a tough year. Between being public about the toll that online bullies took on him after he and Ariana Grande split ("I just want you guys to know. No matter how hard the internet or anyone tries to make me kill myself. I won't"), a public suicide scare shortly afterwards, public struggles with mental illness, chronic autoimmune disease, and the eternal metaphysical quandary of "Is Pete Davidson Ugly-Hot?"–the dude's been through a lot.

This week, attendees at his recent stand-up shows have shared exactly how much they aren't allowed to share about the comedian. Apparently, in November, Davidson started sending NDAs to audience members on the day of his shows, which generally state: "By signing this agreement, you are agreeing not to discuss any details of the show you are about to watch or your experiences at this event." The penalty: "payment of $1 million in damages," plus any other legal fees.

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Of course, attendees can choose not to sign it, but then they aren't allowed into the event; at least they get a full refund. A ticket holder named Stacy Young seemed to be the first to post the full NDA on Facebook. She wrote, "I understood and was willing to consent to the initial request of locking up any phones or cameras brought to the event, but I think this a bit ridiculous and over the top." Young added, "I get that comedians are protective of their jokes and don't want their routines rebroadcast, but it's rather Orwellian to not allow anyone to share an opinion on it. Don't perform for the public if you don't want people to have an opinion about it!"

Realistically, NDAs have become so common in recent years that they're sort of like anti-piracy laws of the early aughts: very threatening in their language but, through the magic of millennials not giving a f*ck, effectively moot. They're really more of a power move. Pete Davidson's power is as follows: "The individual [attendee] shall not give any interviews, offer any opinions or critiques, or otherwise participate by any means or in any form whatsoever (including but not limited to blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, or any other social networking or other websites whether no existing or hereafter created)."

On the bright side: Davidson recently filmed a Netflix special during his Bay Area show. So soon you can watch Davidson perform without mentally calculating how close to $1 million all your Apple products and streaming subscriptions add up to in value. On the downside, if you do plan on attending his show in the foreseeable future–no one wants your hot take on your lame blog, Karen!

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