I started to watch Bojack Horseman like a month ago because I wanted to enjoy something ‘light’ and not to heavy on the plot. Oh, how beautifully wrong I was. Not only the show singlehandedly managed to suprise me with each and every single episode, but it also achieved to kept me in a constant state of awestruck wonder with its round characters and well-thought arcs.
Yes, Bojack Horseman is an animated tv show, but it’s certainly not a light-handed one. It is constructed like a sitcom, but actually is so much more. Bojack is an antropomorphized horse who also happens to be a drunk television star from the 90s that is looking for the actual meaning of his life in a odd version of Hollywood where antropomorphized animals and humans live together. Talk about high-concept tv shows, right?
What’s really interesting of this show is not only its ability to tackle important, issues with some dark sense of humor, like abortion, the star system or the rape culture, but his utter and deep understanding of Otherness and how society’s constantly looking to inflict pain and punish the Other.
But before I can carry on , I would like to take a little break to explain what Otherness is. This idea is central to sociological analyses of how majority and minority identities are constructed. Otherness is the state of being different from the common and very shared social identity. So, The Other would always be considered as the other one that is not me or, in society’s case, us.
Thus, Bojack Horseman‘s world excels at trying to understand the Other in form of their main characters. Its narrative is constantly making them an example of Otherness with each situation they have to live. They are the outcasts of the diverse world, The Others of their reality.
Bojack’s careful character depiction of a depressed individual functions as a representation of The Other of sane people, The Other of us. In a society were people are labeled under the dichotomy of sane/insane person, The Other are always the ones that suffer a mental illness and are constantly punished and judged upon on something they can’t control.
Bojack tries to be happy, but he doesn’t know how. First, he is sure that, in order to achieve it, he needs to act on a movie that portrays the life on one of his personal heroes: Secretariat; but when he actually does that, he feels the same. The next logical step on his plan is to win an Oscar to be happy, and when he is (mistakenly) nominated, he feels the same, again. Depression, as Bojack will learn, is not something you can turn on and off as you wish.
He is portrayed as broken person, one that is constantly screwing people over in order to find his own happiness. That kind of person that prefers to ignore the fact that depression is a real issue, and is rapidly taking over his life, with alcholo and drugs. The one that make all this decisions because of his Otherness.
And is because his understanding of how Otherness works within the limits of society that he places his friend Diane as The Other on his relationship, because she’s not like him, because she thinks differently, and because she considers herself as a feminist, and that is too much for him to handle.
In Bojack Horseman’s world, Diane’s character functions like the perfect depiction of The Other of men. She is that kind of person that can not and would not accept neither the rape culture surrounding her nor men’s failed attempts to decide over women’s bodies, even if everybody is standing against her. Including Bojack Horseman.
Princess Carolyn, Bojack’s cat agent, and Mr. Peanutbutter, Diane’s dog husband who’s also an actor, on the other hand, are the perfect example of an Otherness dichotomy, not only because their animal races are typically pitted against each other by society, but because their flaws as characters are labeled as weakness by the society. The former cares too much about other people and the latter is the epitome of carelessness.
Not only Otherness help us to understand the profound level of discrimination we create over our relationships and the hurtful stereotypes we put on each other when we recognize our differences, it also help us to understand ourselves by seeing us reflected on The Other. That’s something that this TV show taught me.
Bojack’s Horseman ability to create and develop great stories for a bunch of pretty round and full-fleshed characters is just one of its many skills, but to create a sense of understanding of Otherness with them, is just the perfect cherry on top to partner up with this ‘light’ animated TV show.