Mr. Peanutbutter is the poster child for what The Wrap recently called “the show must go on” actors of Hollywood. We don’t see him spiral out of control like BoJack or wrestle with finding creative inspiration and the toll that takes as Diane (Alison Brie) did. He serves the spotlight without qualms. While we sadly won’t see a 2022 BoJack Horseman episode critiquing The Wrap’s take, Mr. Peanutbutter’s storyline is a great way to unpack how flawed and harmful this idea of a “grin-and-bear-it” approach is.
The article argues that too many actors are taking mental health breaks – framing mental illness as something to work through/use for “performances,” regardless of how it affects stars’ health. Ironically, this approach treats actors like they’re circus animals, failing to realize that the “show must go on” showbiz adage was P.T. Barnum’s heartless response after an 1889’s circus train crashed six cars, killing his animals. If that’s what’s missing from Hollywood, let it be gone. Let it be forgotten.
There are nihilistic cracks in Mr. Peanutbutter’s “keep smiling” demeanor that highlight the wear-and-tear fame has had on him. After all, he once told Diane: “The universe is a cruel, uncaring void. 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.” That moment showcases how Mr. Peanutbutter is aware of his busy life as a coping method.
He knows that his schemes to build his own Disneyland, run for governmental office, or portray a character based on a birthday card are outlandish ways to distract him from a dark realization: his life doesn’t have any meaning for him. He has built a life of appealing to others and hasn’t had the time to please himself. It’s hard not to wonder what would have happened if Mr. Peanutbutter never left the Labrador Peninsula, a place where he could have played as much ball as he wanted without worrying about whether or not he was relevant.
Mr. Peanutbutter’s self-awareness exists in fleeting moments because he’s deeply uncomfortable with thinking sad or troubling thoughts. When he does open up the tightly sealed compartmentalized parts of his brain, he reveals how lonely he feels. By season 6 of BoJack Horseman, Mr. Peanutbutter has had three ex-wives and an ex-fiance. He compares his love life to a Christopher Nolan movie, questioning, “Is my problem with women any movie directed by Christopher Nolan? Because, yes, women are involved, but it’s never really about the women. It’s about me.”
Whereas BoJack cannot stop self-reflecting, Mr. Peanutbutter chooses to run from it. One of the core issues during his marriage to Diane was his denial. When things become complicated in their marriage, Mr. Peanutbutter dials up the optimism and leans away from having difficult conversations: his positivity infuriates Diane, as she feels guilty that it’s so much harder for her to be happy than him. But he fails to admit how it’s so much harder for him to reflect on things like regret or loss. As Tompkins once told GQ, “So often they have these breakthroughs and it seems like they’re on the same page, and then before too long, it unravels again. You’re also rooting for it because Mr. Peanutbutter is a positive guy who’s in pain.”