Assistant Curator Jim Fishwick pays tribute to BoJack Horseman, a surprisingly deep character study of a curmudgeonly sitcom horse with a heart of copper.
BoJack Horseman is set in a world where some people are animals. It features a never-ending stream of visual and verbal puns, running gags (Vincent Adultman might be the greatest ever running gag on tv), impeccable A-List cameos and laser-sharp pop-culture references. And if this was all that it was, it would probably still be one of my favourite shows.
As it happens, BoJack Horseman runs deep. Really deep. The show bluntly tackles addiction, depression, trauma, grief, toxic relationships. It gives us a protagonist who in real life would be deeply unlikeable, then asks us if we’re siding with him because he’s the main character of a TV show, or because of the circumstances of his upbringing, or because we see his potential to become a better person.
Me: I like the funny horse cartoon— please be nice to patrick (@ruff_bluffs) September 10, 2017
Bojack: you inherit your parents' trauma but you will never fully understand it
Me: haha the cops a cat
In a way, BoJack Horseman is a story about the narrative structures we place on our lives; if we can reach x or y circumstance, then the credits will roll and we’ll be happy forever. But this show keeps pulling away that end point. Being a good person (or animal), despite whatever’s happened to you, is something we have to perpetually work at. And, as a jogging baboon notes at the end of season 2, it gets easier, but you gotta do it every day.
As Aaron Paul’s character Todd bluntly tells BoJack, "You can't keep doing shitty things and then feel bad about yourself like that makes it okay. You need to be better ... You are all the things that are wrong with you."
Did I mention the thing about people being animals?
Finally, as a recommendation: the first half of season 1 is a little slow. Feel free to start at episode 6, or dive straight in at the start of season 2.
You can watch BoJack Horseman on Netflix.
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