Written By: Eric Banks
Art By: Alyssa Luongo
What’s the best show of all time? While the answer to this question may vary from person to person, there are certainly some shows that will pop up more than once. Vince Gilligan’s epic tragedy Breaking Bad certainly comes to mind, as does David Milch’s shakespearean western Deadwood, and I’m sure plenty of people still consider the first seven seasons of Game of Thrones to be the pinnacle of television entertainment. Those are all good choices, but for me personally, the best show ever put on television would have to be Raphel Bob-Wakesberg’s talking animal cartoon, Bojack Horseman. Very few pieces of art in any creative medium have had the emotional effect on me that Bojack did, as this show wasn’t just a silly comedy, it was a profound exploration of the human experience. And with Bojack having ended last month, I wanted to take the time to reflect on what an incredible gift this show truly was.
Bojack Horseman is about Bojack Horseman (who is brilliantly voiced by Will Arnet), a washed up celebrity from the 90s who drowns his misery in alcohol and self destructive behavior. The story follows Bojack’s various attempts to find happiness in his life, many of which end tragically. However; Bojack Horseman is about more than just Bojack himself, as the show also focuses on the important people in his life. Some of these characters include Bojack’s workaholic agent Princess Caroyln, his childlike television rival Mr. Peanutbutter, and his friend Todd, who can only be described as…Todd. There’s also Diane, a neurotic writer who has a very complicated, yet undeniably important relationship with Bojack. Much like Bojack, all of these characters are attempting to find happiness or a sense of meaning in their life, all while having to deal with the superficial nature of celebrity culture.
Part of what makes Bojack Horseman a masterpiece is it’s willingness to deal with harsh issues such as alcoholism, drug addiction, and depression. The series has never been afraid to show the hardships of living with these afflictions, yet Bojack still manages to have a unique sense of humor that keeps the show from becoming too depressing. That being said, Bojack Horseman is not the first piece of creative media that has blended wacky comedy with serious commentary, as there have been plenty of tv shows and movies that have received acclaim for combining humor with heartbreak. So what makes Bojack stand-out? Well in my opinion, Bojack’s sense of realism is what made so many people connect with the show. The great irony of Bojack Horseman is that it takes place in a world full of talking animals and silly puns, yet has a keen understanding of human emotion. Bojack himself is an extremely flawed protagonist, as he proves time and time again that he is a toxic influence to those around him. And while Bojack wants to change and become a better person, the writers never forget that he needs to be punished for his misdeeds. All of Bojack’s fuck ups have real, ever lasting consqunces, none of which can be solved by a meer apology. The writers know that living with depression and addiction is extremely difficult, but they also know that Bojack can’t use his own personal demons as an excuse to hurt the people he loves, and that he must be held accountable for his actions.
After reading all of that, it would be understandable if you thought that Bojack Horseman was a bleak show. Yet while certain episodes of Bojack are emotionally eviscerating to say the least, the show itself is actually hopeful. The beauty of Bojack Horseman lies in its optimism, as almost all of the characters in this show do end up becoming better people by the series finale. The show suggests that we need to believe in something if we want to improve, as everyone who experienced change in Bojack shared the belief that life is worth living. Even Bojack himself shows he has the capacity for change, and he can actually behave like a good person when he drops his pessimistic form of nihilism. And because the show is willing to show the harsh realities of life, it makes this aura of hope feel earnest. The road to happiness is complex and difficult to navigate, but it’s not impossible to traverse. We may not be able to heal the relationships we break, but we can learn from our mistakes and try to become better people, so long as we remember that life is worth living. That is the message of Bojack Horseman. That’s why this show spoke to so many people, because it had the guts to suggest that we can grow as people without sugarcoating how difficult the process of self improvement can be.