BoJack Horseman: A Hollywood Horror Story?

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From the MeToo movement, and celebrity racism, it’s clear that the creators of BoJack Horseman aren’t afraid to represent the darker sides of the entertainment industry, and the burdens that come with being part of it. But does BoJack represent a more cynical view of the celebrity world, or does it provide informative lessons about the dangers of fame?

One thing that’s incredibly noticeable as you delve into the animated comedy of BoJack Horseman, is the substantial use of dark comedy. If you’re not familiar, BoJack is a washed-up semi-retired TV star living in Hollywood. Searching for a purpose in this world of celebrity stars and fame, he abuses his body and mind with alcohol consumption, drugs, and self-loathing. If we weren’t distracted by the fact that BoJack is an anthropomorphic horse, surrounded by puns and visual gags about the merging of human and animal behaviour, the series would probably far too depressing to be enjoyable. But at the same time, this dark satire on celebrity life is what makes BoJack distinctive from anything else we’ve seen before.

BoJack is constantly looking for reassurance that he’s not just ‘that horse from Horsin’ Around.’ He needs reassurance from not only the public, but everyone around him. And every time he fails in his venture to become a dignified actor, his self-loathing becomes a little more prominent. It’s clear that a lot of his issues are rooted in his dark past, however being propelled into fame hasn’t done him any favours. Any time we see BoJack finding the smallest amount of happiness, it always leads to self-sabotage when the industry tells him he’s not good enough, which not only brings him down, but everyone else around him. So, what does this tell us about celebrity lifestyle? On the face of it, it’s largely cynical. No doubt BoJack’s deep-rooted issues wouldn’t come to light so much if he were living an ‘ordinary life.’ Being in the limelight seems to give BoJack a purpose, when it’s going well, however he depends on this validation from others far too much.However, is this an issue that BoJack faces because of the industry, or just his personal demons? Other side characters, take Mr Peanutbutter, live in the same world as BoJack, taking fame in their stride. Presumably this is because of his sickeningly positive outlook on life, but nonetheless, fame is also portrayed as having a positive impact on one’s life. Mr Peanutbutter has a large circle of friends, and a lavish lifestyle most of us would be jealous of. And this comes from his can-do attitude and strong work ethic.

I think the message of BoJack is somewhat cynical, and somewhat informative. Looking for reassurance from others is not a healthy mind-set, but it’s something we’re all guilty of (even if only mildly.) And having every move and work projecting you further into the limelight makes you very vulnerable to being scrutinised and double down on this reassurance. However, the celebrity lifestyle is something that most of us seem to strive for. Growing up, I have distinctive memories of wanting to be part of that world, and even now it seems as if it would be an escape from my every day, mundane reality. However, I don’t think that this everyday lifestyle is all that bad, and I think this is the message creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg wanted to put across. The celebrity lifestyle isn’t as glamorous as we all make it out to be and can heighten the demons that we already have. It can obviously also be a celebration of what we’re capable of, but you have to be a very specific person to be cut out of that life. Fame can be a dangerous drug with an endless cycle of seeking appreciation and validation, and in time this can do more harm than good for us. And this is what it’s done for BoJack, who I think unfortunately would’ve been a lot more comfortable with himself if he lead a very different, quieter life. So, I don’t think that BoJack Horseman is overly cynical, but it’s definitely a warning. More than anything, I think it’s a message that tells us we should be grateful for leading lives where we’re not constantly in the limelight. We can deal with our demons in our own way, and seek validation from only those who matter the most, and this is something that we should be thankful for.

All five seasons of BoJack Horseman are available to stream on Netflix now. A sixth season is in production.

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