By Tejaswi Subramanian
For the longest time, I wondered why people hated on the ‘happily ever afters’ that feature in fairytales. To me, they seemed like the perfect thing to aspire for—one day, I will be cozy, happy, fit, supported by a perfectly loving atmosphere, living in a comfortable bungalow, with a garden, a partner who adores me, and there will be dogs, cats, sparrows that sing with me during bathtime, and blue jays that will help me dry my laundry. Now that I find myself regularly ‘adulting’ and battling bouts of ecological grief from living in what has more than once been referred to as a ‘dying city’, I see their point. Besides, when someone like me who doesn’t watch TV shows and does not usually have a subscription to Netflix or Amazon Prime, professes their love for Bojack Horseman, it is safe to say that I have switched sides.
I found this comment somewhere on Reddit: ‘Bojack… a person nobody wants to be, yet nearly everyone can relate to.’ Bojack, a self-loathing, but fairly erudite character, who speaks against Navy Seals’ entitlement to glorification in every aspect of public life, a character that blunders through his social life, but hopes to be seen as a good person deep down, who is promiscuous but is desperate for connection and stability in his relationships, who hates his echo chambers but finds himself so ensconced in it… it is obvious why nobody might identify with Bojack outright, but everybody watches the show with a deep sense of understanding. To me, Bojack spells a shift in the narrative that I seemed to have grown up with on TV—laugh tracks, responsible adults, trite stereotypes, quickly resolved issues. In retrospect, these didn’t have much of a narrative, and were stretched out advertisements for the ‘perfect life’ at best! People probably tried to live ‘perfect lives’ vicariously through these shows, where the high school crush eventually became your one-and-only sweetheart, your father apologized to you for losing his cool at dinner before he tucked you into bed, and you never had to cut off a friend.
In Bojack’s show, all the other characters are equally relatable—the asexual Todd, a quintessential millennial who is figuring out work and life while surfing Bojack’s couch; the sunny Mr. Peanutbutter, who is unable to access his dark side; the broody Diana, who is desperate to be content without realising the strengths of her precocious outlook on life; and Princess Caroline, who is absolutely brilliant and inspiring in the way she juggles her career ambitions, deep need to nurture, and the judgment that comes with being a woman who does both (‘catty, were you going to say catty?’ she implores Bojack in one conversation—something women at the helm of their teams at work could probably relate to, when described as bossy, aggressive, you name it).
There’s also the gut-wrenching flashbacks and tryst with late-stage mental illnesses which left me haunted. I lost my doting paternal grandparents to dementia at a young age, a loss I didn’t recover from until a decade later, and a disease I did not understand until even after. The case of incomprehensible delusions that dart across the time-space continuum in a scenario created by one’s own mind is both scary and soothing at the same time. While a TV show from an earlier era might have touched upon forgetfulness as an issue related to aging, and ended with a peaceful death after which the children were assured that they were loved, the Bojack show delves deep into unresolved issues that rise up in adulthood, and how filial love is hardly as straightforward as it is stereotyped to be.
I discovered the Bojack Horseman show during a time of depression, great anxiety and a sense of disconnect from everything and everybody around me. It was a time when I felt disillusioned and nobody could understand the cloud of gloom that hung over me every single moment. Watching this show helped me get back on my feet and reclaim ownership of my life and identity. I didn’t need to resolve every relationship that had withered. I didn’t have to have anything ‘figured out’ because there is no such thing. It is fine to follow your heart while staying pragmatic, because sometimes that is the way out of misery, not to push yourself harder at a dead-end.
Bojack Horseman, a show with a narrative that has truly come of age. Here’s to hoping that other popular shows and mainstream forms of entertainment follow suit.
Tejaswi Subramanian is a senior sub editor at Qrius.
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