So here we are, the last episode of the last season of Netflix original animated series “BoJack Horseman” is behind us. I am not a fan of binge watching and health problems related to it, so this post is written with some delay.
This series is basically an animated fable for adults where humans are living together with anthropomorphic animals in the same world. The anti-hero of the story is BoJack Horsman, an horse man who is an actor in Hollywoo(d), California. His career is virtually finished, he himself is wash-out former star of the corny 1990’s TV sitcom “Horsing Around”. His CV is not very long anyway, because that was his only acting role, apart from humble beginnings in stand-up comedy. So the only thing left for him is just to live alone in mansion living off royalties of his doubtful acting gig and filling the void i his life with alcohol, drugs and casual sex. And time to time he ruining someone’s else life, intentionally or unintentionally, due to his awful, narcissistic and sociopathic behaviour.
The following series’ seasons are a chronicle of a very bumpy and long journey of BoJack into self discovery and escape from vicious cycle of addiction and self-destruction. The road taken is full of embarrassments, scandals and disappointments, because old habits don’t give up easily.
BoJack tries to improve himself, and fix things, but usually he is back to square one, damaging himself and other people even more. Like in the og of story arcs where he tries to play a more ambitious role in bio-pic of his childhood idol, but lack of professionalism and persistence, addictions and destructive approach to other people (especially women) ruins everything, all over again and again.
The topic of the series is a question of how much of responsibility of personal problems weights on person itself and how much on society (that is, family, workplace environment etc.) where she or he lives.
BoJack has clearly issues with cold-hearted mother and issues with unfaithful alcoholic father, who wasted his life pursuing unfulfilled writing career. His own acting career is unhealthy in every possible meaning of this word, because of stress, drugs, alcohol (and lots of these…), casual sex and superficial love.
This kind of life, under constant tabloid media coverage, is stripping him from privacy and encourage constant lying about oneself. Every scandal, real, or overblown, is quickly covered up with layer after layer of bullshit, more lies and PR tricks under the cameras and Twitter hashtags.
I would be big mistake to limit interpretation of these series only to satirizing the bland and superficial world of celebrities. The various story arcs and background characters are pointing out to fact that creators had made a mockery out of omnipresent bullshit that is saturating modern Western societies.
For brevity I made a short list of bullshit that is being satirized here:
- shitty underpaid jobs, like office assistants or Uber drivers, that would be automated anyway in near future
- shitty culture, that is superficial regurgitation of same things all over again, and is a vehicle for ego of narcissistic creators
- shitty media, that are distracting us with celebrity bullshit and internet buzz
- shitty politics, based on post-truth, that does not bring positive change to our lives
In short, it is about how much our modern life is saturated with lies and bullshit.
It is best shown by (mis)adventures of Diane Nguyen, a shadow writer who writes for celebrities, and later works as mediaworker in pop-faux-feminist internet outlet, is a hard working, educated and intelligent woman, that unfortunately has some family issues and gets depressed after being unable to reconcile hers system of values and professional ambitions with widespread bullshit that is obscuring corruption, scandals and injustices.
Another character present in BoJack’s life is Todd Chavez, a random young guy who is living in BoJack apartment since one of his many alcohol-soaked parties, who is a detached from reality and delusional NEET, that thinks that he is able to start a career as Silicon Valley’s startup manager (which he eventually does in chain of events too bizarre to describe here) or director in the show business. In worst case scenario his endeavours ends in grotesque failure, in best case no one gets hurt.
The pink-haired cat-lady Princess Caroline is BoJacks agent and an ageing businesswomen, who is desperately looking for something that would fulfill her life and patch the void made by widespread cynicism and burnout caused by constant baby-sitting of BoJack and rescuing him from sticky (both figuratively and metaphorically) situations.
The most grotesque close associate of BoJack is Mr. Peanutbutters, a labrador-man who works as a much more successful and better managed actor and who lives in make-believe world mixing fiction with reality, and is compulsively acting out comedy routines on the mere sight of cameras in the least appropriate moments. But still he gets elected as governor of California, beating more qualified to position candidate by using his experience in show-business, populistic ideas (like building an absurdist bridge from California to Hawaii) and some dark PR.
Is this series political? Yes and no. Sure we have a story arch featuring Peanutbutters taking part in state election, where he dons Donald Trumpesque hat. And there are topical allusions to corruption, racism, sexism and sexual harassment cases in real life Hollywood (like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Crosby affairs), but these are not the main focus of the series’ story arcs.
In my opinion this series is all about satirizing the postmodern condition of contemporary man, who is supposed to tell the world his own individualistic narrative, and that condition is dominating in a world that is free of big narratives and thus the objective truth. But real life is not a TV series that ends with rolling credits after which everyone is going back to his life. Narratives are always a fiction, manipulation and bullshit, that gets smashed by confrontation with hard reality of life, death and power structure in the society.
And furthermore there are powerful people who are using narratives, that is set of lies, to further cement their power and social status.
And here comes the important realisation for the audience, that can relate to the series protagonists. How many times we tried to change something in our life’s but all effort was in vain? How many times we realised that our dreams are impossible to fullfill? How often were were angry because of some injustice in this world, only to realise afterwards that no one cares?
And what are we supposed to do, after watching these series?