Bojack Horseman is a star-studded representation of what Hollywood as an industry feels like. With the show being an animated one, the creators had the opportunity to really play around with sets and make them as quirky as possible. Although the show is filled with unrealistic characters like talking animals living alongside humans, it does revolve around adult themes. Besides the longest-lasting theme of struggle in dramedies, the show encompasses a plethora of other motifs which can’t be left unseen.
A few of these themes include depression, loneliness, drug abuse, self-harm, and child abuse, among several unmentioned. Makes you wonder why they chose to personify them in an alternate world full of animal people where Bojack is a fading celebrity.
The plot begins slap-bang in the middle of the lost hero trying to gain his fame back. The thought of him not being ‘important’ anymore is something he could not deal with. As the plot continues, we see how he pairs up with Diane Nguyen as a ghostwriter for his autobiography. Diane ends up becoming probably the only person that saw through him. Not because Bojack considered her his friend but because she was the first person he opened up completely. Whilst Nguyen continued to be in denial of her love for him, Bojack treated their interactions almost like therapy.
Why though? Why should we listen to a talking alcoholic and selfish Horse? For starters, it is commonly called one of the most well-written characters and TV shows in history. A world full of talking animals being raw and very real reactions. Although viewers were rather put off by the first half of its pilot season, it worked out pretty well didn’t it? The biggest problem people had was about comedy being too dark to handle.
The show’s lighthearted animation portrays the darkest parts of reality. Focusing on the disillusionment that comes when you look beneath the surface. Let’s begin this article with the one-of-a-kind theme song that will set the tone right for you!
At the very pit of the show, we see the idea of ‘existential nihilism’ questioning the very meaning of our existence. Just like the typical trappings of ‘Hollywoo’ cover up the reality, the way Mr Peanutbutter meaninglessly asks Horseman how he is doing and immediately walks away. Or the way the production only cares about money, Bojack is our ‘anti-hero’ who reveals the rather narcissistic side of the industry living on that nothing matters.
So let’s break down each character to know more about which part of the society it represents
Characters of Bojack Horseman
Bojack Horseman (Will Arnett) represents each self-absorbed individual who has the tendency to victimise himself. It is not his fault, though. Like any other ‘anti-hero’, Bojack is narcissistic yet manages to reach out to his viewers where one actually feels bad for him. As the show keeps travelling between timelines, we see how he was ill-treated by his parents. His dad abandons him, and his mother is nothing less than a stone-cold individual stuck in resolving her own issues.
He constantly reaches out to feel less lonely but soon realises he feels lonely even amongst others. Bojack dives into the pool of drugs, alcohol, and parties to avoid being with himself and his loneliness.
Like the animal choice of his character, a labrador, Mr Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins) is constantly energetic and cheerful. Much like the many people we interact with in our daily lives who seem to stop at nothing. His crazy altruism affects people around him as he believes he helps to lift people’s moods.
Here we see a character trying to define his own value by how people perceive him. Much like Bojack, but a more unicorn version of him. Ultimately, he meets his demons too.
An ambitious character has climbed the stairs from being the daughter of a maid to establishing her own agency and management company. For most of the show, we see Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris) being in love with Bojack. To someone who will probably never learn to love her back.
She overworks herself and blames all of her work. Despite loving her career and being proud of herself, she realises what was taken from her during those years. It is a commentary on how hard a female smart and tenacious character needs to work in the industry to gain the same status as other male candidates in her company. But yes, we thrive in her sexual and ambitious confidence!
Todd, played by Aaron Paul, is a homeless person who Bojack let crash in his place. Although Bojack portrayed he despised him throughout most of the show, we realise otherwise. How he ends up being one of the very few real friends Bojack has ever had. And a part of the decision to let him stay in his house was an attempt by Bojack not to live alone.
Besides being Bojack’s companion in life, Todd is seen to be gifted with a plethora of skills. These sometimes included understanding Japanese to having musical talents along with entrepreneurial knowledge. The man’s got it all. Each episode has a mini Todd misadventure going on in the background. You have to love the guy, for all he has to offer is nothing but honesty, kindness, and love.
Diane Nguyen, played by Alison Brie, is one of the more dominant characters in the show. She finds meaning in all aspects of her life. Be it work, relationships, or friendships. She comes off as a shy nerdy third-wave feminist but is never too shy to stand up against injustice.
Bojack gets attached to her, not only because of her passion for her work. But also for the sheer fact that Diane never felt the need to lie to him. She was always honest, no matter how that made Bojack feel. Although they could never really form a proper romantic relationship, the duo have been there for each other throughout the years in ways unexplained. An example of a pure form of friendship filled with disagreements, yet never losing hope and love for each other.
Sarah Lynn was portrayed by the voice of Kristen Schaal. She portrays the most tragic part of the story. Vibrant life is full of hope and love that fell into the darker sides of fame. As a character, she appears to be selfish and reckless. Self-centred and rather bratty. In one of the episodes, she ends up stabbing herself to gain attention.
Everything she does as an adult is a call for help. As a child actor, Sarah Lynn has been groomed to dedicate her life to her followers. A part for which Bojack is also responsible. She constantly feels everyone wants her to gain fame. In another episode, we see her open up to her mother about being an architect, but her mother quickly shakes the idea of that off. There are hidden hints throughout the series on how she has suffered silently and eventually gives into her grief on a path just to feel something.
These character analyses are mere scratches on the surface of what these characters symbolise and have been through. Each of them has its own story, backdrop, context, and development that will take yards of texts to cover. But that is for another article. For now, dive into this world of audiovisual awe and let the ground beneath your feet be swept off.
But for now, tune into Netflix to watch Bojack Horseman and get into the nitty-gritty of the meaning of existence. Watch the trailer now!