Improbable Connections: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy vs. Bojack Horseman
Mr. Peannutbutter and Zaphod Beeblebrox in the same room? What’s this? A crossover episode?
I know people don’t usually think of Bojack Horseman when discussing The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but I’m no person (or am I? Sometimes I’m almost sure I’m a bot).
If you stop to think about it, there are more similarities between those two stories than you may have previously realized. I’m here to draw your attention to a few of them. Most strikingly to the eerie resemblance of Hitchhiker’s persona Zaphod Beeblebrox – the worst-dressed sentient being in the known universe, the one hoppy frood, the once President of Galaxy – and Bojack’s favorite yellow labrador Mr. Peanutbutter.
Zaphod and Mr. Peanutbutter are almost the same characters! You know, except for the number of limbs in their bodies.
I’m not sure if there’ll be any, but I’ll issue the warning anyway: SPOILERS ahead for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Bojack Horseman.
Are they about nihilism?
Perhaps the easiest way to compare both stories is regarding their nihilistic themes. The quest for meaning, the answer to the ultimate question of life, is at the core of BJ Horseman and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Although their approach to this search differs, the pointlessness of the hunt is a constant.
Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy relies on absurdism to explore the helpless sense of emptiness when one loses the ground – when one literally loses the ground. Earth was demolished to make space for an intergalactic highway. Our main character, Arthur Dent, survived the explosion because of his alien friend.
Dent was unwillingly swept into an adventure and eventually learns that Earth was a supercomputer created to answer the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. The answer Earth computed, by the way, was a random “42” – a number forever engraved in pop culture, the inspiration for many tattoos.
On the other hand, Bojack Horseman deals with a more existentialist nihilism. In the case of the titular character, he struggles to find a purpose when everything he does feels senseless. The rejection of objective truth – the lack of universality about what happiness is and how to achieve it – seems to be the final answer of the show created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg.
Each character in BJ Horseman has their history, ambitions, and problems, all searching for the same thing. And in the end, the lesson is that there isn’t a single equation that works for everyone. We can’t simply follow other people’s steps to success when we have other issues, personalities, and dysfunctionalities to deal with. The path to happiness, the show suggests, is sensible to boundary conditions.
The easy recipe, “It gets easier. You just have to do it every day,” did not work for Bojack.
Zaphod vs. Mr. Peanutbutter
Now it’s time to make use of our Infinity Improbability Drive. On the whole of the internet, it would be improbable to find a comparison between Zaphod Beeblebrox and Mr. Peanutbutter. However, we are luckily in possession of the Heart of Gold. So let’s do this.
“Clever, imaginative, irresponsible, untrustworthy, extrovert, nothing you couldn’t have guessed.” That’s the result of the screening test Zaphod Beeblebrox ran on himself at the Heart of Gold’s medical bay, but it could very well be a description of our favorite fictitious yellow labrador Mr. Peanutbutter.
There are some coincidences in their lives. While the latter ran for Governor (and almost won), Beeblebrox was actually elected the President of the Galaxy, a position with no power whatsoever. Zaphod left with Tricia MacMillan, the woman Arthur Dent was fancying. Mr. PB married Diane Nguyen, the woman Bojack Horseman had his eyes on.
Personality and parallel events aside, their inherent luck was what led me to compare both characters. Their crazy ideas always seem to work! In the case of Zaphod, his incredible achievements are connected with the Infinity Improbability Drive, and he’s the one in charge of the crazy decisions. Mr. Peanutbutter, on the other hand, seems to have a really good fortune and personal drive to make his unusual ideas work.
The case of Mr. Peanutbutter is one good example of the non-universality theme the Bojack Horseman show has. For Mr. PB, “The key to being happy isn’t a search for meaning. It’s to just keep yourself busy with unimportant nonsense, and eventually, you’ll be dead.” And it works wonders for him. In his quest to distract himself with unimportant stuff, he comes up with the most out-of-the-box plans. And they are all put to action, even if short-lived. Everything always works for Mr. Peanutbutter! And this makes Bojack very resentful.
Despite the similarities, Zaphod and Mr. PB have their differences. In particular, Zaphod’s extra head and arm come to mind. But also, Mr. PB does not seem to have an ego as big as the foreman galaxy’s president, nor dress as badly. But the similarities are what stuck with me.
One day I’ll compare Bojack and Marvin, but their similarities are not as strong as those between Zaphod and Mr. PB.
Was this post made so I could talk about Bojack Horseman in a blog dedicated to science fiction? Maybe (the blog is called Sci-fi Connections for a reason). But it is true that the show kept popping up in my mind while listening to Stephen Fry’s narration of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. And it surprised me as well because I would have imagined that if I were to compare the book to a show, it would be Rick & Morty. Yet, I could not avoid thinking of Bojack.
That’s it for today, folks.
Do you see any other connection between those stories? Do you think I’m stretching too far to find one? Do you have a 42 tattoo? Let me know in the comments.
See you next post,
Carla Ra is a scientist by day, sci-fi writer by night.
You can check out her anthology ARTIFICIAL REBELLION here.