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BoJack Horseman is his own strictest critic

Few viewers tune in to the Netflix animation series BoJack Horseman in 2014 could have anticipated how the series would evolve over the course of its six seasons to date. What started as a play full of celebrities and the media circus, in a world full of anthropomorphic animals, soon presented a nuanced view of mental illness and the cycles of trauma. Raphael Bob-Waksberg, a series-maker, soon turned this critical eye to his own observed shortcomings.

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From the beginning, BoJack Horseman was always introspective and inclined to examine the behavior of his characters. But as the series progressed, the research became much more intense. Bob-Waksberg eventually focused the show on researching his own cultural impact, and even questioned his desire to evaluate himself. The sixth season, launched on Netflix on October 25, continues this criticism pattern, while the protagonist of the series, the depressed former sitcom star BoJack Horseman (Will Arnett) begins his own journey to recovery, questioning his behavioral patterns and trauma sites visit again. More than any fan or commentator, the show is in the first place as his hardest critic.

BoJack longs for a life as simple as that in his previous hit sitcom Horsin & # 39; Around, where every conflict was resolved in one episode, so that everything could be reset. From the beginning, the series made it clear that this fantasy was incompatible with reality and that BoJack's refusal to deal with his problems would only make matters worse. Although Bob-Waksberg wanted to undermine the expectations of the viewer, this subversion quickly became routine. A BoJack date from a woman even emphasizes this trend by asking him to do that BoJack thing where you do nothing and everyone laughs at you but at the same time tells you, because you say that all things are not a polite society. "

For the first few seasons, the show has its cake and eats it too. Bob-Waksberg mines BoJack HorsemanThe sitcom status for all his absurd comedy, such as BoJack & # 39; s best friend Todd (Aaron Paul) who ends up in a & # 39; two-date-to-the-prom & # 39; situation with rival prison gangs. At other times the show emphasizes that life rarely fits into this structure, such as when the former friend of BoJack and Horsin & # 39; Around maker Herb (Stanley Tucci) rejects BoJack & sincere apology even on his deathbed. The series brings sitcom tropics and structure to mock them, but also to seriously reflect the damaged psyche of BoJack.


Photo: Netflix

But from the second season, writers became increasingly aware of their complicity in the sitcom-reset fantasy, and they worked harder to prevent their stories from stagnating. The show began to take BoJack's bad behavior to dark corners with plots where he is caught with a friend's 17-year-old daughter and a reckless drug-driven bender with Sarah Lynn (Kristen Schaal), a former Horsin & # 39; Around child actress who had become clean and sober. In episode 4 of season 4, & # 39; The Old Sugarman Place & # 39 ;, he destroys his parental home in an effort to advance & # 39; & # 39; and return to Los Angeles. This powerful return to the status quo also reflected BoJack's cycle of delusions and rights, as well as his inability to break free from the swamp of depression.

It is not easy to tackle thorny subjects such as trauma, privileges, mental illness, bullying and substance abuse, especially if they have to be weighed against puns and crazy antics. ("Viva Toddfoolery!") The writers often use comedy to provide catharsis in the midst of tension or tragedy, with Todd in a Prince and the Pauper caper in the same episode in which feminist writer Diane (Alison Brie) is confronted with the consequences of sexual misconduct. But the creative team ultimately cornered themselves by invoking the incompatibility between real life and the sitcom structure, since they had set up a scenario in which they needed sitcom structure to tell their stories.

By the third season, the episodic cycles of the toxic, harmful behavior of BoJack ran the risk of becoming repetitive and predictable. But the writers acknowledged the problem, with Todd shouting BoJack in episode 3 of the season "It & # 39; s You": "You can't keep doing bad things and then feel bad about yourself as if it makes up – you must be better! "


Photo: Netflix

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This is not only Todd who withdraws to a friend who is only too happy to be forgiven. It is the writers who investigate the impact of their show. It is one thing to derive comedy from BoJack's misanthropy, but letting it go undisputed is a dangerous precedent. Instead of avoiding the question, the creative team struggled with their goal as the series progressed. When BoJack plays grim anti-hero detective Philbert in season 5, Diane wonders if such ultra-dark characters have a negative influence on the viewer. In line with this, she implies the role of BoJack within it BoJack Horseman, and its effect on the Netflix viewers.

In the penultimate episode of season 1, BoJack asks Diane if he is a good person, and she answers with overwhelming silence. Although she later tries to explain that no one is really good or bad, and that & # 39; all you are are only the things you do & # 39 ;, he is still trying to get rid of the guilt he feels. Following his poisonous mantra, "There is always more show," and taking some damaging advice that he should "keep moving forward no matter what", BoJack avoids confronting his problems and insists he won't change. He sees Philbert – whom he and Diane have both brought to the screen – as a role model and responds to Diane's fear that Philbert "allows stupid bastards to rationalize their own terrible behavior."

BoJack explains in season 5 episode "Head in the Clouds" that Philbert learns: "We are all terrible, so we are all right." Diane, who is already struggling with her share in creating the show, is shocked by this interpretation and points out that normalizing and rationalizing harmful behavior is dangerous. During this conversation, the show reaches one of the darkest and most critical points by raising BoJack's relationship with Sarah Lynn. She saw him as a father figure, even in her adult life as a pop star, but that became complicated when their relationship later became sexual.


Photo: Netflix

"I am the one who suffered the most because of BoJack Horseman's actions," he argues. Diane raises his undeniable negative effect on Sarah Lynn as proof that he is wrong. "That has been very difficult for you, the main character in this story," she says sarcastically. In one of the most merciless scenes, the writers reflect on their choice to empathize with a character like BoJack. They also seem to moan how they initially played BoJack's sexual encounter with Sarah Lynn as a gag, and demand the cultural norms that they strengthened.

Diane is also not free of criticism. She is often the moral arbitrator of the show and the voice of reason, but she subjects herself to a strict check, which represents the impulse of the show to endlessly dissect his characters. Diane suggests that we should ask & # 39; more from ourselves and the people in our lives & # 39; but she has told us that she must also find ways to forgive herself and other people. BoJack Horseman constantly strives for that balance.

Part of Diane & # 39; s self-examination can be inspired by the controversy surrounding her casting. Diane is Vietnamese-American, but she is played by white actress Alison Brie. After a fan brought up the problem on Twitter, Bob-Waksberg confessed he had "soured at the idea of" color blind "casting as an excuse not to pay attention." He later gave one candid interview with Slate where he & # 39; huge debt & # 39; expressed about the casting and said that his & # 39; understanding of (his) own responsibility & # 39; was changed. The same humble and honest view of guilt and responsibility underlies much of the show, especially in the later seasons. It is striking that season 6 takes the time to answer a fan speculation about Todd's ethnic identity, a Caucasian character with a Latinx surname, as if no stone is left untouched.

The newly released first half of season 6 takes BoJack into a rehabilitation process, in a recovery process that is not just about addiction, but about questioning the reality of forgiveness and personal change. Even the new opening titles see him pass passages from the past that still threaten his future. Frequent abandonment of the show brings BoJack together, seeing himself as a "stupid piece of shit," and Diane, seeing himself as a "rudderless waste bin." They both do their best to forgive each other because they cannot reach out to themselves with the same courtesy.


Photo: Netflix

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BoJack Horseman often examines questions of forgiveness, both between people and between stars and their fans. We may find it easier to forgive BoJack's mistakes than Hank Hippopopalous's (Philip Baker Hall) non-repentant misogyny in "Hank After Dark", but the series has long outgrown simple ideas about heroes and villains. Secondary characters such as Mr. Peanut Butter and Princess Carolyn – who initially served as counterpoints for BoJack's pessimism and immature, respectively – become very poor characters in themselves. Meanwhile, disgusting antagonists such as Vanessa Gekko and Rutabaga Rabitowitz were revealed as the protagonists of their own stories.

As the show approaches its final, it is still investigating that question BoJack asks Diane in season 1: is he a good person in his heart, or is it too late for him? The sixth season shows that change is possible for BoJack, as he begins to make amends for the things he has done, faces addiction and tries to forgive himself. The self-examination that has taken place both in the story and in the writing room has shown a maturity that can address such broad and complicated problems. Instead of offering simple platitudes, the series brings its characters together through empathy rather than sympathy and honesty over blind trust. Has let his own hardest critic BoJack Horseman evolve and be the best version of itself.

The first half of BoJack Horseman season 6 launched on Netflix on October 25, 2019. The second half arrives on January 31, 2020.