Bojack Horseman, the Netflix funded series following a talking horse called Bojack: a star of the 90’s sitcom Horsin’ Around, (a stereotypical 90’s sitcom about a character who is out of his depth, usually involving sassy children and an upbeat/catchy theme-tune) who’s now a semi-washed-up has-been reliant on alcohol and a post-millennial-cynicism to get him through the day. If someone was to pitch this idea to you, you would probably begin to ask a whole-host of questions in terms of audience and profitability (not that that is what should matter). The characters of Bojack Horseman are mostly animals, who can talk and do all the things humans do except with their stereotypical animalistic traits left intact. Which is a reasonably entertaining juxtaposition on its own. However the comedic nature, which is very gallows-esque and dark isn’t what I want to concentrate on.
This show is somehow, and I don’t mean to sound patronizing it’s just the kind of show one wouldn’t think to be, well, an utterly sincere and crushingly realistic look into what it is to be human (quite ironically) and have dreams and aspirations, and ultimately have them not necessarily crushed, but realised, the realisation that after ‘all-that’ you’re still kind of missing something and that you are perhaps lonely despite your best efforts to convince yourself otherwise via popularity, material or success. And there’s certain overriding themes of the everyday morality we all worry about (Am I a good person? Am I just pretending to be? What is a good person?) Existentialism and the-search-for-meaning.
I believe this articulation of genuine reality (Note: not hyper-realistic 90’s mainstream realism, nor kitchen-sink realism, nor bourgeois analytical realism) is only made possible via the shows context, as an absurd cartoon that markets itself as wacky and hip and clearly on the lighter side of things, yet throughout its episodes one begins to see a seeping of reality as it is in everyday life. That like all programs we’re given the tools, as the viewer to assess the characters from above and beyond, we’re not in their first-person view of things and we can assess them separately, analysing all aspects of their reality. Something to do with the fact Bojack Horseman is a cartoon lulls the viewer into a false sense of security into what it is they’re putting themselves forward for.
Many readers by this point may realise that the juxtaposition between this realism, this irony and this absurdity will inevitably gravitate towards angst, cynicism and grad-schoolish-self-awareness. Yet Bojack manages to avoid all this and stay on a path of sincerity, which leads the viewer only to really assess their own life and end up relating to these characters more. I’m not saying Bojack Horseman is some meta-modern masterpiece or that it doesn’t tackle these issues with a certain irksome-coolness which is most likely needed for marketability’s sake, what I am saying however is that Bojack sticks to its principles of not really giving you conclusions in their modernist theatrical sense, in fact the idea of conclusions and ‘endings’ in a recurrent theme throughout. A Meta look at what it is within modern entertainment that can cause damage to us and isn’t particularly healthy, especially in terms of emotional conclusions, in that Bojack never offers you much solace, you just learn a little bit about yourself and how you interpreted certain aspects of the narrative just as the characters did.
Perhaps there’s something even, dare I say it, offensive about Bojack’s style of storytelling (And no, I do not mean offensive in the whiney-SJW “I am offended!” way), what I mean is there’s something so sincere and human about the way in which Bojack is written that you feel a little duped by the fact it’s a cartoon about a talking horse and his feline girlfriend. And that you feel a little aggravated that for the first time in a long time the entertainment you’ve come to love as a sort of anaesthetic for reality has finally become self-aware and turned on you in a rather unsuspecting way, but you can’t stop watching, because it’s kind of revealing and quite lovely, and you eventually give into its absurdity and in a way its absurd relevance in terms of entertainment vs sincerity vs pleasing the viewer.
Perhaps it’s poignant that these extremely well-written and emotionally/realistically articulate characters are two-dimensional, perhaps what’s sad is that it’s easier for me to accept a cartoon talking horse’s emotions over a multitude of real-life actors, perhaps that’s what makes it easier, the reality is there plain to see and is not masked by a certain superficial makeup like the one that is addressed by Bojack Horseman.