‘Bojack Horseman’ is hilarious, introspective and absolutely worth watching

March 26, 2023 — by Divya Vadlakonda
Courtesy of Netflix
Bojack navigates his life as a washed up ‘90s sitcom star.
The satirical show explores themes such as self esteem, sexuality and mental illness.

Editor’s note: This article contains spoilers for “Bojack Horseman.”

When I started “Bojack Horseman” last summer, I did not know what to expect from an anthropomorphic horse and his group of friends. I assumed that the show would follow the classic mold of an animated comedy, with its fair share of absurd situations and one liners. But after watching it, the show completely subverted my expectations, even changing the way I think about animated shows in general.

The show revolves around a former ‘90s TV show star, Bojack Horseman, who tries to make a comeback to his former stardom. Through its six seasons, the show expands on Bojack’s struggles with addictions and depression, while simultaneously giving viewers insight into the lives of other characters of the ensemble cast — Mr. Peanut Butter, Diane Nguyen, Todd Chavez and Princess Carolyn — who all have their fair share of wants, needs and fears.

The show’s six seasons are filled with running jokes that never fail to make me laugh. Whether it’s Mr. Peanut Butter yelling “Erica!” across the room at public gatherings every chance he gets, the cameos of Esteemed Actress Margo Martindale or the “Hollywoo” sign — the “D” was stolen by Bojack — the show’s running gags never get old.

However, what sets the show apart from others is the tone that it sets. The first few episodes are lighthearted, but the storyline takes a turn when the viewer is left with not a punchline, but a pit in their stomach. The episodes draw their humor from darker themes and issues such as mental illness, addiction, depression, self-esteem and sexuality.

In exploring these themes, I was mystified by the authenticity and complexity of the relationships Bojack creates with the other characters. For example, while Bojack’s relationship with Diane encounters a brief prospect of romance in the first season, they later become best friends. They experience the best and the worst in each other, resulting in a toxic and enabling dynamic. Though Diane and Bojack have a long, codependent connection, the show ends with Diane moving to Texas with her new husband, severing her relationship with Bojack forever.

This is one of the instances that sets the show apart. The end of Bojack and Diane’s relationship hurt. Where other shows may force their characters to come to some wholesome understanding, the show’s writers are not afraid to face the reality that some relationships in life should end — for a chance at a brighter future for both parties. 

Yet, through the show’s many dark themes and conflicts, it also depicts a common goal for every character on the show— a constant pursuit of happiness. Princess Carolyn hopes to achieve happiness through dedicating herself to her work, Bojack seeks happiness through substances and Diane aims to find happiness through meaningful relationships and experiences. This relatable theme for me, so clearly depicted through the five characters in such diverse ways, makes the characters all the more fleshed out and realistic. 

I have always thought about cartoon shows as surface level episodes with jokes every 30 seconds. Most follow the same mold of some variation of a dysfunctional family who get themselves into typical shenanigans.

However, the show completely changed all expectations I had of a typical animated show and sitcom structure. It proves that animated shows have the capacity to be nuanced and the ability to reach an audience at a deeper level. The comedic aspects of the show are matched only by their ability to connect with an audience in a unique and impactful way that not many shows can.

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