What's So Special About "Bojack Horseman?"
Updated: Oct 14, 2021
If you're an active person on the internet there's a good chance you've heard of the Netflix animated series: Bojack Horseman. Created in 2014 by Raphael Bob-Waksberg, the show has gained a reputation for being one of the most successful animated programs of all time. But what exactly makes this show about a depressed horse so groundbreaking? Well, I'll tell you...
On the surface, Bojack Horseman is about a washed-up sitcom actor from the 90's and his struggle to cope with relationships, addiction, and life as a pseudo celebrity in a world where half the population is human and half is some kind of anthropomorphic animal. If that doesn't sound like something you'd enjoy, you certainly wouldn't be the first. But there is something about Bojack Horseman that keeps millions of people waiting for each new season and that's the show's portrayal of mental illness.
For decades, the television industry has tried every possible method in an attempt to accurately portray issues such as depression and anxiety on screen but as somsone who has suffered both of those conditions, no show has stuck with me as much as Bojack Horseman. Despite the ridiculous concepts and character designs that exists throughout the show, there's a strange honesty that the writers and actors bring to life. If you've had the misfortune of having anxiety or depression, it can feel like the show is talking directly to you. Despite all of the hilarious jokes, well-written characters and good plot progression, the portrayal of depression is what makes Bojack Horseman one of my favorite shows of all time.
When it comes to showing depression and anxiety on screen, the writers of Bojack Horseman do not take the usual approach. There isn't an abundance of sad music with a black and white filter to convey a character's inner struggle, it is much more complicated. The show is able to portray these conditions through multiple characters that are very different but both have a similar struggle. Throughout the series they have to deal with the contrasting burdens of one being too successful too early and one not being successful enough much too late. The lives of both characters are plagued with the worry of both wasted potential and toxic positivity of their peers and LA environment. I've never witnessed a program where a character showcases the physical effects of antidepresents but Diane's rapid weight gain on Prozac was a surprisingly heartwarming touch. You can tell the writers have done their research and know what they're talking about.
As someone who was diagnosed with depression about half a year ago, there is a lot I can relate to when it comes to the show's titular character...which isn't something I enjoy in the slightest. Bojack Horseman is a stubborn, manipulative, touch-starved, selfish, and completely unwilling to accept help or take accountability. Many of these traits are things that mentally ill people like myself have had to experience and overcome. Characters such as the overly optimistic Mr. Peanutbutter remind me of every stuck up persson, spreading toxic positivity and telling me to "just be happy." It's that kind of writing in Bojack Horseman that not only makes me feel entertained, but seen.
Episodes like "Stupid Piece of Sh*t" and "The View From Halfway Down" offer an incredibly realistic glimpse into the mind of someone with both depression and anxiety as they process things fr0m mortality to just waking up in the morning. When you're struggling with suicidal ideation, thoughts of death and a possible afterlife never truly leave your brain and I thought this show handled the topic in an amazing yet terrifying way.
Bojack Horseman is also a show that is very adept at portraying familial issues as well as mental health ones, such as Princess Carolyn's failure to conceive as well as Bojack's heartbreaking relationships with his parents. Normally cartoon families don't show that kind of complication, even shows with dysfunctional ones like Rick and Morty camp it up and its hard to put yourself in the characters' shoes. That's not the case with Bojack Horseman. Pretty much any personal challenge you can think of has been portrayed on the show in a realistic way and satisfying way.
If you're someone who has gone through issues like anxiety and depression like I have, I really can't recommend Bojack Horseman enough. It feels so good to be accurately represented on screen as someone with an illness that is so often butchered by the hands of TV writers. If you like the show, Raphael Bob-Waksberg and Lisa Hanawalt have another similar animated series called Tuca & Bertie on Netflix.
In conclusion: watch Bojack Horseman and don't eat honeydew.