Bojack Horseman Review: A Comic Presentation Of Modern Life And Mental Health
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Finishing the show BoJack Horseman proved to be a difficult affair for me. I wanted to watch it again for writing this review, but I couldn't make myself sit through it one more time. I do not mean it's a bad show, rather it's an unbridled portrayal of living in today's world and the tragedy of chasing dead-end goals in this broken system and the problems that come with doing so.
BoJack Horseman is a show about a humanoid horse and a band of cross-species characters, who find success in Hollywood. BoJack stars in a popular 90s sitcom Horsin' Around, directed by his closest friend. It's about a life BoJack can't even dream of, even though it's a mediocre, albeit happy, life. Nevertheless, he gets captivated by it and can't let go.
In contrast to the family man he portrays in his show, who is kind, caring, and emotionally mature, he is a rude, toxic, and lonely horse in real life. He suffers from substance abuse and alcoholism, which stems from childhood trauma he never wants to address. He also has a Machiavellian ego complex wherein he views others only as objects of furthering his pleasure and comfort and then discards them.
It is an accurate depiction of the stars and celebrities we, as a society, follow in today's world. Be it BoJack Horseman, Mr. Peanutbutter, or Sarah Lynn, they are perfect figures on screen but failed, miserable, and extremely toxic personalities off-screen. They don't know anything about life, family, or morality. Yet people swarm around them, expecting them to set an example and emulate their life choices.
Don’t we do the same thing with our stars and celebrities? It raises the very important question of why we feel obliged to follow these broken, dysfunctional people and live our lives according to them. All around the world, celebrities dictate what we wear, what to eat, how to love, and which political factions to follow. What authority do they have to virtue signal about our choices? And why do we, as a society, often ignore the fact that they may not be the best people, nor do they have the best interest in their minds when they tell us how to live our lives?
The Broken Goal Setting Of The Modern World
Modern society is after fame and wealth, and it doesn't matter how we attain them. The Hollywood industry is the ticket to the ultimate American dream; fame and fortune overnight, and then a steep ascent to the level where you become invincible. But the consequence of it is poor personality, development, egotism, substance abuse, inability to cope with failure or with success, isolation, loneliness, depression, and in many cases, suicide or death. All these problems are well illustrated in this series.
It offers a uniquely crafted comic depiction of modern misery. BoJack Horseman, a horse coming from a dysfunctional family, achieves fame in Hollywood and uses it to make up for the attention, love, and happiness he didn’t receive as a child. Soon, he becomes an addict who is lazy, mean, and has a toxic influence on all around him.
Sarah Lynn is his co-star who enters the Hollywoob industry as a child. She can’t cope with the fact that her early fame took away a happy childhood. She dives into substance abuse and reckless behavior to deal with the loneliness and lack of self-esteem she suffers.
These characters feed off each other to worsen the toxic conditions of everyone involved.
Intrusive Self-Obsessive Behavior
Another important thing in this series is the preoccupation of every character with their mental perception, thought, and belief system. That is despite the repeated external feedback that they are wrong. Be it BoJack with his terrible self-esteem issues and self-hatred stemming from childhood issues, Diane's perception of the world as being hostile to her, or Princess Caroline's dysfunctional codependency and workaholism.
The characters seem to be so engrossed and bewitched by their absurd mental patterns that they make the same mistakes repeatedly, with no introspection or forethought. It's so disappointing to watch that over and over again throughout the show. It's almost as if BoJack Horseman is incorrigible in his nature that his toxicity is inevitable. He can't help but harm others, and there is no hope for him to change.
I wanted to see change or self-growth in this show or a good, well-rounded individual, and I found neither. Mr. Peanutbutter and Todd are the closest things you will get to healthy, balanced personalities. But they are also deeply flawed and often severely dysfunctional.
Then, the show made me wonder: isn't it how the world really is today? The reality is that unattainable childhood expectations, bad parenting, and a broken goal-setting system have truly damaged the social and cultural fabric of societies, and that is shown in the series in great depth and conviction.
Bad Behavior Doesn't Stem From A Bad Childhood
This point is best explained by Todd.
In a scene where BoJack tries to pin this bad behavior on work pressure, failed relationships, or alcoholism, Todd says this:
No, no BoJack, just stop. You are all the things that are wrong with you: it's not the alcohol or the drugs or any of the shitty things that happened to you in your career or when you were a kid. It's you.
When we see BoJack's backstory, we tend to think that he is like this because of his hard childhood. Whenever we talk about bad or toxic people, we tend to look back and say their childhood traumas made them behave that way. This can't be further from the truth. If anything, it is the need to be in control and the lack of responsibility that makes people toxic.
It is important to make that distinction. When we watch BoJack Horseman, we may feel sorry for him constantly despite the harm he does, but he can change at any moment if he chooses to be a better person.
It may require some soul-searching, courage, and effort despite repeated failures but real change is possible. We are built that way.
Change Is Possible
It is terrible when the characters repeat the same mistakes and get hurt every single time. Throughout the show, we see that no one is capable of improving their condition, especially by taking an initiative to change. But change is easy, and at many times, a natural thing. We can heal, grow, and better ourselves at any point in our lives.
It's never too soon or never too late. The only thing that matters is a will to change, to learn new things, and the capacity to know that we can be wrong and lacking in experiences sometimes. And of course, the open-mindedness to acquire those new experiences.
Now, let's hear from you! What do you think about BoJack Horseman? Let me know in the comments section!