Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers.
Bojack Horseman isn’t just another comedy like South Park or Family Guy. In fact, it is nothing like those in the least.
The characters of Bojack Horseman make the show feel all too real. Like us, they are flawed and their experiences throughout the series are astoundingly relatable. (Sure, some of them are anthropomorphic animals, but still.) At one point or another, you see yourself in these characters and you realize this isn’t just another TV show. These are very accurate depictions of life itself.
The cartoon aspect may be misleading, in the sense that typically you watch a cartoon for laughs. However, Bojack Horseman is a rather dark comedy that will have you busting up one moment and heartbroken the next.
When watching Bojack Horseman for the first time, you may feel unsure of it. Yes, it’s funny, but it doesn’t seem very original. Then about halfway into season one, it does a complete 180 degree, and suddenly, you find yourself relating to an anthropomorphic horse. You think, “Damn, this show just got real.”
Bojack is a self-loathing, washed up actor best known for his role in a 90s sitcom called Horsin’ Around. After the show ends, Bojack realizes that the show may have been the peak of his acting career. Now Bojack is stuck in a sort of limbo. He wants to make something of himself, but at the same time, he is unable to let go of his past.
What really makes this show great is how well-written the characters are. Bojack may be the main protagonist, but his story would certainly be dull without digging into the lives of those closest to him. It is through his relationships that we see the true Bojack Horseman.
Diane Nguyen, a human, is hired to be Bojack’s ghostwriter for his memoir in season one. At first, Bojack is opposed to having Diane follow him around and pester him about his past, but eventually agrees to tell her his life story, “warts and all.”
What makes Diane a vital character in the series is her ability to connect with and understand Bojack. She is the only character Bojack seems willing to open up to.
Here’s a spoiler, though: despite their deep emotional connection, Bojack and Diane do not get together. Bojack does try to win her heart and sabotage her relationship with Mr. Peanutbutter, a golden retriever, but he ultimately fails. You may wonder why that is, considering that she understands Bojack more than she does her own husband. Then, you get to season two and realize that they are both equally broken.
Diane may not have the self-destructive tendencies Bojack does, but she is very much like Bojack in the sense that she is often misunderstood and unhappy. While she does enjoy Bojack’s company, she is careful to not let herself get caught up in his problems, knowing that if she does, he’ll only drag her down.
Diane is having problems in her marriage, and while it isn’t Bojack’s fault, she sees her friendship with him as a gateway to a downward spiral. She even admits this to Bojack at some point in the series. “You know, I think we’re alike in a lot of ways,” says Diane. “Sometimes, that’s great, but it also means that we can bring out the worst in each other.”
While Diane works to steer clear of Bojack’s storm, Princess Carolyn, a pink cat, who is Bojack’s ex-girlfriend and agent, tries to stop it.
For twenty-three years, Princess Carolyn has put up with Bojack’s crap. Of all the characters in the show, she has been by Bojack’s side the longest.
While other agents would have dropped Bojack in a heartbeat, Princess Carolyn continues to try and pull strings for him despite his lack of appreciation, even after she dumped him. She does this partly because she loves him but also because she can’t help herself.
Princess Carolyn is the type who puts others’ needs before her own. When Diane asks her why she does this, Princess Carolyn simply replies, “Because my life is a mess right now and I compulsively take care of others when I don’t know how to take care of myself.” On some level, many of us can probably relate to this way of thinking.
Then, there is Todd Chavez. Todd is a human slacker who has been sleeping on Bojack’s couch for a few years. Bojack often prides himself for taking Todd in and supporting him financially, but really Bojack isn’t a good friend to Todd.
Todd is a sort of punching bag for Bojack. Whenever he’s feeling crappy about himself — which is the majority of the time — Bojack will hurl insults at Todd. Todd, however, doesn’t take Bojack’s insults to heart and often refers to Bojack as his best friend. Like Princess Carolyn, Todd believes that underneath it all, Bojack has a good heart.
Even though it may not seem like it, Bojack does care about Todd, in his own twisted way. He likes that Todd doesn’t take his insults to heart and is always willing to forgive him. That is, until season three.
In season three, we see a different side to Todd; one that is fed up with being lied to and mistreated. As much as he wants to believe Bojack is a good person and will make a change for the better, he begins to question their friendship.
Bojack Horseman tackles topics, like artists’ struggles with their identity in an industry driven by profit, abortion, sexuality, addiction and especially depression.
TV Junkie calls the show “the best representation of depression in social media.” On the surface he comes off as a jerk, but when you break it down and try to understand him, you’ll find that his characteristics correlate with symptoms of depression. He is constantly sad, irritated, guilty and has had suicidal thoughts throughout the series. He has even tried killing himself before.
Bojack’s depression prevents him from believing that his friendships are genuine and that there are people who care about him, and more importantly, it doesn’t allow him to see the good in himself. Still, that doesn’t excuse his actions.
Regardless of his mental illness, Bojack knows that he needs help, but he refuses to get it. Why? Well, for one, he doesn’t want to admit it because he sees it as a weakness. He also seems to like to use his sadness as an excuse for the things that he does, and at some point, Todd calls him out on this by saying, “You can’t keep doing [crappy] things and feel bad about yourself like that makes it better. YOU NEED TO BE BETTER.”
Depression is a complex mental illness to understand. On the one hand, you want to be sympathetic to those who have it, but on the other, just because someone has depression doesn’t mean that they should not be held accountable for their actions. As Todd said, just because Bojack is depressed doesn’t mean he can use his sadness as an excuse for hurting others.
What ultimately makes Bojack Horseman a show worth watching is its honesty. It’s honest in the way that it portrays the human experience. Bojack Horseman may be labeled as a comedy, but really, it is an emotional rollercoaster. Yes, for the most part it is hilarious, but it’s not an upbeat kind of happy.
This show has a twisted and dark sense of humor. It still is hilarious. Just not in the way that one would expect it to be.