Bojack Horseman — No Horse Puns, I Promise
Let me just start off by saying that this show changed my life.
By that, I don’t mean that it actually changed me as a person or even really made any observable impact on anything I do, but that’s exactly what Bojack Horseman is about.
Bojack Horseman is perhaps one of the most real shows you will ever watch. It’s a strange comment to make about a show with a cast mostly made up of a menagerie (ha) of wacky anthropomorphic critters hailing from every branch in the animal kingdom, but it deals with complex issues like lack of fulfillment, substance abuse, and marital problems without perpetrating the problem television is always guilty of — solving them.
Hear me out.
Hollywood has a long history of clumsily attempting to “tackle the real issues.” Shows like Glee and Grey’s Anatomy have a poor track record with mental illness, every romcom’s kooky plot ends in a quick fix to the couple’s relationship issues, and you can’t solve human trafficking by punching a bunch of guys in the throat. And to be fair to those works, it’s not their fault — literary history is based on this formula of showing the audience a problem then presenting a solution. That’s what, in a lot of people’s minds, what a story is supposed to be, and to some degree what life should be. But that’s just it. It isn’t.
Bojack Horseman (voiced by Will Arnett of Arrested Development fame) starts the series as an alcoholic has-been bachelor desperate for attention to the point of literally ejaculating to his own VHS collection. His stoner housemate, Todd Chavez (Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad), is a directionless slacker who takes an untold amount of abuse and can’t even navigate a hotel floor by himself. Their friends Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris), Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins), and Diane Nguyen (Alison Brie) are also similarly troubled, and their efforts to entirely avoid their problems at the cost of their own dignity and self-respect form the majority of the series’ plot points. Try as they might, people don’t really change in Bojack Horseman. Their circumstances might, and different characters may cycle through, but at the end of the night Bojack is floating alone in his big pool in his big house, because his problems aren’t caused by simple misunderstandings or a maniacal antagonist. That’s why I appreciate Bojack Horseman. It doesn’t lie.
That’s not to say Bojack Horseman is a sad show. In stumbling through their various crises, the protagonists often come out the other side with some valuable insight — even if they promptly drown it out and try to forget about it forever. But these lessons — that life gets better but requires you to work at it, that the connections we make between people are the most valuable things we have, that our decisions have the power to empower but also demean us.. these are the nuggets of wisdom we have to suffer through some serious shit to fully understand and appreciate, and they are the unsympathetic, no-nonsense truths that cut away the bullshit and give us the ability to live our lives. They may not actually change our behavior, but they let us understand it, and for some of us? That’s exactly everything we need.
That’s theater. It allows you to think you’re in control, but the whole idea of control is a myth. The universe is a wild beast. You can’t tame it. All you can do is try to live inside it.
Bottom line, if you want to watch a show with irreverent abortion humor, characters like “Quentin Tarantula,” “A Ryan Seacrest Type,” and J.D. Salinger, and an experience that makes you go, “huh,” watch Bojack Horseman.
Season 3 is available now on Netflix, as is Will Arnett’s newest project Chip.