Preview: Never had I ever anticipated that an animated show about a horse-man would make me weep the way it did. Don’t be fooled, this one isn’t for kids in the least.
Whats it about?
Bojack Horseman, an animated adult comedy-drama series is a Netflix Original that first premiered back in 2014 and terminated its sixth and final season in January 2020. Meet the show’s titular character, Bojack, who’s a humanoid horse riddled with a chronic alcohol problem, disconcerting self-loathing, and a blunder in personal relationships. He is known best for his 90s sitcom Horsin’ Around where he played the adoptive father of three kids. We follow the story of Bojack across six seasons, as he grapples with life and his tarnished relationships. (edit: I must admit it was quite challenging to write this review – mostly because there is SO much to say, and so much more I could discuss, but I hope this manages to do at least some justice to it)
From an aerial view, the series is rife with satirical wisecracks on the Hollywood industry, and on life as we know it. One manifestation of the same is Bojack himself, who’s underlying depression lies obscure under the garb of his fame and self-deprecating humor. It’s extremely fascinating though, how his self-deprecation is coupled simultaneously with crippling narcissism.
The story begins with Bojack, a former sitcom celebrity who attempts to make a comeback after almost a decade, while also struggling with his fair share of predicaments. With the help of his feline assistant (whom he also dates briefly), Princess Carolyn, and his human sidekick roommate, Todd (whom he derides at surface level, but also could not survive without) – he tries to find his way back into Hollywood while also being incredibly self-damaging along the way. The series has highlighted a diverse number of relevant real-life problems, but the ones that stand out the most are addiction, depression, and the inundating amount of pressure and toxicity that surrounds the seemingly glamourous Hollywood industry. It questions the extent of accountability that celebrities and influential people take for their problematic actions (Exhibit A: the MeToo movement, also dealt with in the show).
While the first few seasons establish Bojack and his several misdeeds, we get to see the road to his almost-recovery in rehab, his struggle for redemption and acceptance, and the wide-reaching, unanticipated implications of his past behavior. Mental illness and addiction often seem like roads that never end, and when you finally manage to overcome it and look behind, all you see is the damage you caused to the ones you loved. This then sprouts the question of whether everyone is deserving of redemption and forgiveness. While Bojack’s friends may have ‘forgiven’ him, they also learn the importance of drawing boundaries; it’s a page out of the book of life. Bojack Horseman ends leaves us with a wistful yearning to know where he goes from there- where does he go after his return from rehab, after trying to win people back into his life. The answer is left rather ambiguous – much like in real life.
We also see snippets of Bojack’s childhood in flashbacks – his stern, astute father and his derisive, insatiable mother who both contributed to Bojack’s difficult childhood. His damaged self-belief is invariably attributed to his mother’s conviction that he is a failure. The series has an overwhelming amount of history associated with the protagonist, all that contributed to his series of damaging behavior in some capacity.
We meet Diane in Season 1, a nerdy ghost-writer Bojack hires for his very first memoir. She’s uptight, frank and quite judgmental – and is seen giving Bojack hard truth pills to swallow on multiple occasions. But she eventually graduates to becoming an inseparable part of his life. (The last episode of the entire series is had me the most gutted)
Mr. PeanutButter, the jaunty dog-man is Bojack’s self-proclaimed best friend. Out of all the characters, he may seem almost perfect. He’s cheerful, empathetic, and optimistic, and loyal- much like a Labrador in reality. But his bright and jaunty exterior also shows bouts of dark interiors. It took me a long time to realize that contrary to what it may seem like, Mr. PeanutButter was probably just as much in need of help as Bojack was.
Princess Carolyn is the dedicated, ambitious, and hardworking manager and Bojack’s ex-girlfriend, who works at a PR firm. She tries her best to balance work and personal life but seems to be wrestling. She comes around to being perhaps the most endearing character in the show. Todd Chavez is Bojack’s imposing roommate who wants the best for those around him. He’s well-meaning but things often become disastrous when he puts his mind to something. He is also asexual – a concept dealt with quite thoughtfully in the show.
This is the kind of show that will make you feel like you had your guts ripped out. Don’t get me wrong, it still has some fantastic satirical, witty comedy. But it also gets morose before you know it.