BoJack Horseman: The Unfunny Comedy and Cruel Void in Life
BoJack Horseman is an Netflix’s original animated comedy, which just aired its 2nd season, created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg. It’s about a washed-up TV star, BoJack Horseman (voiced by Will Arnett), whose 90s sitcom, Horsin’ Around, was a huge hit, is now living in Los Angeles with his freeloading roommate Todd (voiced by Aaron Paul). Under pressure from his agent and ex-girlfriend, Princess Caroline (voiced by Amy Sedaris), BoJack decides to publish an autobiography ghostwritten by his frenemy, Mr.Peanutbutter’s (voiced by Paul F. Tompkins) girlfriend, Diane Nguyen (voiced by Alison Brie).
This is a rather slow-warming show. Just like so many other Netflix’s originals, it’s meant for binge-watching. Many jokes and plots will be paid off later in the story. Although it’s an animated series, it’s just the same as any drama. It doesn’t have extremely mindblowing drawing. Animation only allows creators to make a more absurd world and freer jokes, like the penguin publisher, Quentin Tarantino is a spider in the show (foot fetish, get it?) and there is literally an elephant in the room who never forgets.
The voice acting cast is literally star-studded. Not only it got Will Arnett, Aaron Paul and Alison Brie, but also Olivia Wilde, J.K. Simmons, Lisa Kudrow, Stanley Tucci, Patton Oswalt, and Kritsten Schaal (Mabel from Gravity Falls). Cameos includes Paul McCartney, Daniel Radcliffe, Naomi Watts, Joel McHale, Yvette Nicole Brown, Ken Cheong (HELL YEAH, COMMUNITY REUNION!)
But what makes BoJack Horseman stand out is its characters and story. More specifically, it’s a depressing comedy. None of the characters is likable, they’re all stupid and selfish. BoJack even has serious ethical issues, addicting to alcohol, drugs and sex. However, all their problems are fiercely real. It makes you care about the characters and resonate with them. I cried at every season not because of being touched, but being hit.
BoJack seems to be arrogant and selfish, but deep down, he’s lonely and hollow. He has a tragic childhood. He is eager to be loved, but afraid people wouldn’t love him when they truly know him. He’s afraid to face and admit his own faults and vulnerability. Princess Caroling is killing at work, but failing in love. Todd is young and care-free, but know nothing about his future. Diane is smart and independent. She can see through all of her friends’ problems, but fail to manage her own relationship with Mr.Peanutbutter and her own life.
In fact, they’re all standing in the crossroad, having no idea where to go next. BoJack is looking for happiness, but without resolving his struggling past, he always ends up in alcohol, drugs, past glory as well as his imagined “could have been” in Maine. Todd wants to make a great career, which always fails or go sour. Diane thinks she can make a difference in the world, but eventually finds out she isn’t as special as she thinks. All their pursuits in love, happiness, success, at the end were in vain. Just like what Mr.Peanutbutter said,
“The universe is a cruel, uncaring void. The key to being happy isn’t a search for meaning. It’s to just keep yourself busy with unimportant nonsense, and eventually, you’ll be dead.”
In Season 1, I always found Mr.Peanutbutter annoying with his blind optimism and passion. He copied BoJack’s success, stole his achievement and married Diane! Slowly, I realized Mr.Peanutbutter is actually the most Zen dog in the show. He understands the meaning of void in life, but he is never obsessed with all his struggles. He chose to live at the moment and go with the flow. Being unemployed, he goes out and looks for opportunities. Being a star to a salesman, he becomes the top salesman. Knowing his best friend kissed his finace, he accepts the fact and forgives. His wife wanting to leave town, he tries his best to keep her, but eventually lets go and gives her unlimited support. Accidentally revealing his wife’s lie, he gently resolves the awkwardness and wins her back.
In Season 2, BoJack said he envied what Mr.Peanutbutter gained effortlessly, while he had to hard earn all his likes and love. Mr.Peanutbutter replied,“You’re a millionaire movie star with a girlfriend who loves you, acting in your dream movie. What more do you want? What else could the universe possibly owe you?!” As an audience, we all understand BoJack’s flaws and the reason behind. At the same time, Mr.Peanutbutter also unveiled the truth that sometimes we all caught up in our past and forgot what we had now. Not that his optimistic and passionate blonde Labrador doesn’t understand the pain in life, he simply chose a easier way to live.
As a whole, Season 1 showed the life of BoJack and his friends, revolving around the void in life and the distance in interpersonal relationships. BoJack is exactly the perfect container of both themes. The show radiates an overall depressing tone and never gives a concrete answer of whether he is a good person. However, despite Season 2 is still depressing at its core, it’s a little bit brighter than the previous season. BoJack is still irresponsible as hell, but seems to grow up a bit, while others all seem to develop into a good shape. I especially like the same pattern both seasons follow. Storylines progress and accumulate in the first 10 episodes, the 11th episode takes all the emotions to the next level and fully explode, while the finale leaves a temporary full stop for all the characters.
Life is like the Myth of Sisyphus, a never-ending cycle of suffering. If the main question in Season 1 is, “What is the meaning of life if it’s eventually a void?”, which BoJack also asked a similar question in Season 2,
Season 2 has given us its own model answer:
“It gets easier. Every day, it gets a little easier, but you have to do it everyday. That’s the hard part.”
All wounds caused in 2 seasons are healed by these wise words, although just like the broken ash vase, it’s just barely sustaining.