Mental Health in Media: Bojack Horseman

Bojack Horseman​ is an extremely popular animated series created by Netflix, which ran from 2014 to 2020. Though having recently come to its conclusion, ​Bojack Horseman​ has amazed audiences, rising to number 8 in IMDb’s ranking of animated shows.

Along with believable characters, comedic moments, and fascinating dialogue, ​Bojack Horseman​ offers something that most television shows don’t, an accurate portrayal of mental illness.

Through the show’s 6 seasons, the viewer is thrust into the life of Bojack Horseman, a former actor who is now unsure of his meaning in life. The show depicts his less than ideal childhood as well as his current struggles with addiction and relationships. Through realistic internal dialogue, and a series of actions and consequences, the viewer is able to understand the mental state of this title character.

Though Bojack isn’t the only character in this show that displays symptoms of depression.

One thing this show accomplishes is it’s demonstration of how any person, no matter age, level of accomplishment, or external appearance, can suffer from this disease. While the audience expects this from Bojack, due to his traumatic childhood and sense of alienation, it can be surprising when multiple other characters also suffer from similar symptoms.

By expanding the discussion of mental illness to include many diverse characters, the viewer is able to examine the multitude of causes and symptoms for mental illness. We are able to see the affects of everything from addiction and trauma to relationships and career stress. This means that a majority of people will be able to relate to at least one character throughout the series, appealing to several different audiences.

There is no “cure” for depression. You can’t just roll over and decide to be happy. It takes work, and lots of it, and sometimes it doesn’t end very well. ​Bojack Horseman​ does not shy away from upsetting conclusions, demonstrating situations of both success and failure in overcoming depression.

However, many characters are able to overcome their mental illness over the course of the show, possibly offering the viewer hope and comfort. But above all else, the show examines the inner workings of the unconscious mind generated by a variety of causes in order to demonstrate the complexity of depression.