Warning: This article contains a few minor spoilers
Being the binge queen I am, I decided to rewatch the show, BoJack Horseman, this summer. Apparently, the first time I watched it; my brain seemed to have left a lot out. BoJack Horseman is probably, in my opinion, the most underrated show. Its depth, complexity and character development are just impressive. Every character in the show is unique and complex in their own way. So, I thought I would take the time to dive deeper into the show’s main character, BoJack Horseman’s, mind and philosophy.
For those who have not watched the show — well, you should watch it. It’s a great show, and it’s available on Netflix. The show is an American adult sitcom that revolves around the life of the actor BoJack Horseman after his hit show Horsing Around. It captures the emotional, and psychological journey BoJack goes through as he struggles to succeed as an actor and to find purpose and joy in his own life.
Before we start, it is important to understand the philosophy surrounding BoJack, which is Existential nihilism. Existentialism and nihilism were first coined by Blaise Pascal and Friedrich Nietzsche, respectively. Nihilism is the concept that there is no such thing as a god or a superior being, there is no purpose to our existence. This goes hand in hand with existentialism: our existence does not have a soul purpose. Our future is not pre-determined. As individuals, we are free to make whatever decisions we want and take our life in whichever direction we wish without any “consequence of an afterlife.” But this freedom both the philosophers call a curse and the source of our misery.
BoJack views his world as just that there is no purpose to his existence, and he is free to do whatever he wants. He desperately looks for a purpose in life because even when he accomplishes the one thing he always wanted. He still did not find the sense of accomplishment he wished to feel. In Pascal’s words, “the only thing that consoles us for our miseries is a diversion.” And BoJack simply follows this rule of distraction, numbing his endless sense of void with crazy ‘benders’. But in the process of numbing himself, BoJack intentionally and unintentionally hurts a lot of peoples. His actions continue to haunt him throughout the show as he makes even more mistakes in the process of learning to be an ideally good person.
Pretty much from the start of the show, it is clear that BoJack has depression. This only becomes more evident in the Season 4 episode titled Stupid Piece of Sh*t. The episode switched perspective and shows a regular day in the mind of BoJack, which for the most part of the show, is rarely indicated because of how uneventful his regular days are.
His depression roots from a few different things, the first one being the philosophy he lives under, as mentioned above. The second reason is his family. We don’t really know much about his family and childhood till episode 11 of the 1st season, Downer Ending, when we get a glimpse of his childhood as he trips over every drug he could get his hands on. From the episode, we know that his mom and dad were both stuck living a life they did not like and had traumatic pasts of their own. His mom chooses to blame the young and growing BoJack for the disastrous life that she lives. BoJack’s entire childhood comprised of being told he wasn’t good enough, worth for nothing and just a burden to other’s existence. Downer Ending also gives us a glimpse of what he wishes for the most: to be loved by everyone and to be happy.
Which leads me to the next rooting cause: his career. BoJack hoped that by becoming an actor, he can make people love him, and that would finally make him happy. But after his hit show horsing around, BoJack struggles to land an excellent role to develop his career. In the process of waiting for the right part, BoJack is haunted by his mother’s words, that he is not good enough. To hide his insecurities, the mechanism he chose was a bad attitude and narcissism. He was a complete jerk to everyone, which only made it harder for him to find roles.
The final cause of his depression is the choices he made in life. While he tries to hide his emotions behind the idea that ‘nothing matters’, it is still inevitable for him to feel guilty about his past mistakes. He was dealt some bad cards; however, not all of his actions were unavoidable. He made some terrible choices that even he underneath it all knew was wrong.
These characteristics of his life haunt him throughout the show, convincing him of the lack of self-worth pushing him further down to the point where he completely gives in to his alcohol and drug addictions, despite his best efforts. We all know this character; we see a BoJack on social media all the time. He is a classic representation of Hollywood fame gone wrong. The show presents us with the other side of the story, the mind of depression. Even though BoJack’s actions were not in any way justified, it is hard to not sympathize with him and hope for him to have a good ending.