Talia Cutler ’27
I know freshman boys seethe at this title, crushing their Red Bull cans and punching a wall at the very thought. “Who doesn’t love ‘Bojack Horseman’?” This question is a loaded one. “Bojack Horseman,” under lighter and slightly absurd storylines, explores Hollywoo(d)s troubling history of what happens to washed-up stars at the end of their heyday. The titular character fumbles through relationships with a myriad of women, substances and self-harm. Working in the entertainment industry as a child, I was offered a unique perspective into the lives of these adults who spent their years chasing roles after long careers that should have been surrendered a decade ago. What I’ve seen? It’s gross. It’s deeply disturbing. It’s like a 30-year-long car accident played in a loop, mirrored over 100 times in different chromes. The alcoholism, the withdrawal from those around them, the self-destructive behavior and abusive patterns; It’s not a trifling concept, it is all too real.
The show uses satire to display these effects I’ve mentioned to a horrifically accurate degree. I fear, though, that the satire allows the show and its message to get misunderstood time and time again, usually by impressionable teen boys as they try to find characters in media to identify with. Through the lens that the show has created for its main character, it’s too easy for young, naive consumers to misinterpret themes and use the protagonist’s terrible actions as an excuse or even an example for their own: “God, I wish I was famous!” “I’m so misunderstood, people can’t seem to grasp how special I am!” “He’s so unattached to everything, that’s so edgy and cool and literally me!”
Frankly, I find this adolescent nihilism not only exhausting but something that would make Nietzsche turn in his grave. It would prove his statement that nihilism would be “the great danger to mankind.” By putting Bojack on a pedestal, his awful behavior is mimicked by pimply teenage boys with haircuts almost as awkward as their personalities. People who absorb philosophy through television are grossly in need of a lesson in media literacy. Protagonists are not inherently good. Complexity is not always interesting. You shouldn’t aspire to be depressed. To be fair, Bojack isn’t the only offender; it’s a trend of all sick men that act as role models through media for teenage boys. Tyler Durden, The Joker, Patrick Bateman and Walter White, to name a few. This “tortured artist” trope is corrupting its original purpose and instead lends itself to a pipeline of unacceptable behavior from young men.
“Bojack Horseman” itself is a fantastic show. It is refreshing to watch a character that I saw so many times throughout my childhood portrayed realistically and in a way that does not beg the audience for sympathy. It is when this gets misconstrued and these characters become unworthy idols that the resentment begins to build. You are not Bojack. You should not WANT to be Bojack. And if you’re going to adopt a personal philosophy, do so through research and not a foundation of Will Arnett’s filmography. Instead, try Jason Bateman.