BoJack Horseman’s fans would agree that “the person who taught them to be in the world the most is a horse,” as Netflix wrote when launching the popular TV show. Indeed, its main character, BoJack Horseman, is an animal, but his story is a human journey.
The world around BoJack
In 2014 Raphael Bob-Waksberg and the cartoonist Lisa Hanawalt created BoJack Horseman. It’s the first adult animation series produced by Netflix. It tells of the life of a group of talking and anthropomorphized animals. The main character is BoJack, a human horse, star of a sentimental 90’s family sitcom: Horsin’ Around.
The central premise is based on the already-mentioned concept of anthropomorphization, centered around the attribution of human characteristics, emotions and actions to non-human entities, such as animals. It derives from the Greek words anthropos and morphe, human & form, and is a common human trait, often used in humor.
BoJack faces existential crises due to the fact that he is chasing a reputation that no longer exists. He’s an alcoholic, self-destructive, and over the course of the six seasons. He manages to disrupt all his relationships with the people and or animals who care about him.
Other main characters gravitate around BoJack, whose voice is dubbed by Will Arnett, evoking the pain of the protagonist. Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris), his agent, always loud and swift; Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins), his colleague and a kind of nemesis, full of optimism in contrast with the distrustful nature of BoJack; Diane Nguyen (Alison Brie), depressed writer, and friend; the extravagant Todd Chavez dubbed by Aaron Paul, who finds himself living on BoJack’s couch. Not so much different from his character in Breaking Bad!
The viewers meet many other characters over the six seasons. One of them is Hollyhock, BoJack’s sister-in-law She became a recurring character in the fourth season. There’s a notorious conversation between them, that reportedly broke everybody’s heart.
Hollywood without D
It is easy to guess in which city our characters live, but the Los Angeles Times decided to drive the most curious fans in a tour around The City of Angels.
During the first season episode Our A-Story is a “D” Story, BoJack steals the letter ‘D’ from the famous “Hollywood” sign on the hills above Los Angeles. One morning, still hungover, he finds the letter in the pool of his villa. That’s a symbol for the state of life of a former celebrity: surrounded by memories of fame and looking for a new purpose. Although there’s something more, there’s a life in between.
Nihilism is a constant. The unjustifiability of the existence terrifies BoJack. He takes refuge in the reassuring but fictitious world of drugs, alcohol, and making wrong choices. All the characters are victims of their own fears; of the strong inability to accept happiness, of their almost self-destructive tendencies.
The need to be distracted to escape the harsh truths of existence – which Blaise Pascal had theorized – and other similar themes like Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialism, and the absurdity of Camus, can also be found in the series. To this extent, BoJack resembles the main character of Rick and Morty, but differently. Instead of succumbing and self-destruction, Rick lives without rules and justifies everything with a denial of himself.
The creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg is very open about the inspirations behind BoJack Horseman. The Newsroom for the cynical jokes, The Simpsons for its mix of tragedy and humor, and Daria for showing that smart people are not always right.