(Warning: This analysis contains spoilers!)
BoJack Horseman is one of the outstanding animated series on Netflix. We have all seen shows that have mixed drama and comedy, but BoJack Horseman is made of an unprecedented blend. The show offers screwball humour with a dark twist. The Netflix original revolves around a washed-up celebrity who was the lead in a 90s sitcom called Horsin’ Around. Throughout the show, BoJack tries to make a comeback in the entertainment industry. It follows the trials and tribulations of him and his friends. The show has been considered a masterpiece (even if it is a “cartoon”). What makes BoJack Horseman so special are the characters and how they developed over time.
Our protagonist, BoJack Horseman, deals with many things. His internal dilemma is him trying to become a “good person”. Whether he archives this or not is debated throughout the show by himself and others. BoJack is not considered a typical main character, he is flawed and many people don’t like him at first glance. He selfishly demands validation, only wants himself to succeed, is outspoken and has no filter: which makes him the perfect lead. Bojack is flawed, damaged, and knows he has nothing else to lose. This shows viewers that the protagonist does not have the perfect stereotypical Hollywood actor lifestyle, since he has a desire to be better and can’t do it.
As previously stated, BoJack’s main battle is him trying to become a better person. He wants others to tell him that he is good a person or that he can become one. He especially wants this type of validation from Diane, his ghostwriter, because deep down Bojack believes and knows he can’t improve.
We can trace all this need for validation back to his childhood. His father, a scorned writer, and his mother, an heiress of a sugar company, always resented him and made sure he knew that. His father resented Bojack because he was not planning and thought that because of Bojack he could not become a well-known writer. His mother, on the other hand, said that Bojack “ruined her”, and that her life would be much greater without him. Both of his parents had no respect for him due to him becoming an actor.
As a result of all of this, Bojack always felt belittled and took this trauma to his adult life. He constantly tried to get everyone’s approval, and could not move on if someone did not approve of something he did. He wants to feel better, he needs to feel better but doesn’t have the tools to do so.
Bojack, as I stated before, deals with substance abuse, and his history with alcohol arose when he was a child. Both of his parents were alcoholics which caused his first time drinking to be with them. The experience he had with his parents made him swear to himself that he would not become like them. He was able to fulfill his promise during his first couple of years in Hollywoo, but soon after, peer pressure got to him and he started drinking. He later began to do drugs and as seen many times throughout the show, Bojack also mixed various pills with his drink to numb his physical and mental pain. Bojack knew that all he was doing was wrong, but he thought that since he was a celebrity no one would stop him or tell him he was wrong.
In my opinion, I think Bojack's biggest internal conflict is that he lived in the past. He watches the sitcom to try and relive his memories and states various times that the time he was in Horsin’ Around was the best time of his life, this is because Bojack was considered one of the best actors at the time and had the constant validation he so greatly desires from not only his friends but the public.
2. Diane Nguyen
As Bojack’s depression is evident and clear, Diane is the second character who struggles with her mental health throughout the start and end of the show. Diane is a writer, and during the show, she’s seen writing for big websites and ghostwriting autobiographies. Diane expressed very early on that she felt her life had no true meaning and she wasn’t content with it. She knew that she enjoyed writing and expressing her opinion, but did not know how she could use her voice.
She piled all of her feelings into her work and started making a name for herself. But even with her success, she still felt dissatisfied with her life. She kept getting worse and started seeking help. At one point in the show, she was going to therapy weekly and left feeling terrible. Only in the last seasons did Diane turn to prescribed medication and was visibly improving.
Like BoJack, most of her issues were a result of her childhood. Her family was very unsupportive of her and this made her life miserable. On top of this unfair treatment, Diane was heavily bullied throughout school, with people calling her uncool or nerdy. This shaped the way she viewed herself when she became an adult and caused her to be very insecure, seeking validation from society to prove she wasn’t a nerd anymore.
3. Princess Carolyn
Princess Carolyn is the best character in BoJack Horseman and you can not tell me otherwise. She’s resourceful and dependable to all the other characters, always putting their needs before hers. She is always finding the best opportunities for the people she loves and honestly, we all need someone like her in our lives.
Princess Carolyn is an agent in “Hollywood” and throughout the show, we can see her desire for success not only for herself but for her clients. She started working in the industry, being an agent assistant for 14 years. Her boss, Marv Sbabori, constantly laughed at her when she would mention her dream of becoming an agent herself. At the time, agents were considered a male occupation, and not many women were agents.
Eventually, she got the opportunity to become an agent and started feeling like she would make it. But over the years, her desires changed and she wanted to have a family. But, for her, having a family was very difficult due to her suffering from infertility and miscarriages throughout her life. She tries multiple times to have a baby, but each attempt is met with failure.
She associates having a baby with self-worth and her womanhood, and not being able to get pregnant feels as she has failed herself.
Princess Carolyn decided that she wanted to adopt as a single parent. After months, she finally is able to adopt and she thinks she will be completely satisfied. However, she doesn’t feel like that.
She starts to struggle with her career, mother duties, and personal life. She has a hard time balancing everything because she knows that her child needs her full attention and her job is extremely demanding, but she doesn’t want to ask anyone for help. She later starts to question her worth as a woman because she sees other women in her field having successful family and work life, and she can’t seem to find the formula for this.
Ultimately, she struggles to find happiness and purpose in her life. She thought that having a baby would bring her this happiness. Now she doesn’t know what will bring her happiness and if she will ever feel satisfied with herself.
4. Todd Chavez
Todd Chavez is definitely the outlier within the cast. He was kicked out by his parents at the age of 18 and ended up moving in with BoJack after a party, and he never left. His parents kicked him out after he dropped out of high school and he stayed at their house playing video games.
Due to his relationship with his parents, Todd always had a stem to succeed. Throughout the six seasons of the show, we see him numerous times making up wacky projects and schemes to try to make money and a name for himself. As he matures throughout each season, we see him trying to make a name for himself. Todd does not rely on education, but on good luck and entrepreneurial tendencies.
In addition to trying to make a name for himself, Todd also struggles with his sexuality. We see Todd not being physically attracted to any of his love interests in the show. He starts thinking that he might like guys and not be attracted to girls, but he realized he’s not attracted to both men and women. Todd happens to be an asexual who is a romantic. This means that they seek a romantic relationship but not a sexual one. This is difficult for Todd because most asexuals are aromatic, and he struggles to find love.
Coming out helps him understand himself more, but he isn’t truly successful until he secures a job, finds an apartment, and he wants his mother’s approval and her apology.
5. Mr. Peautnutbutter
Mr. Peautnutbutter has considered the most optimistic character faces his own personal dilemmas. Like most characters, Mr. Peautnutbetter has a normal upbringing and he has had a successful and relevant career. But, Mr. Peautnutbutter has had several failing marriages and relationships.
He tells Todd that due to all his wives leaving him, he developed abandonment issues. He stated that he is scared of committing because once he commits, his love interest always leaves him. This new fear made Mr. Peautnutbutter scared of not expressing his love to his wives, so throughout the show, he does huge love gestures to show his love to them. But, we can see that this doesn’t work with his third wife, Diane.
Diane was attracted to the opposite, she was often overwhelmed about his love gestures and told him this, however, Mr. Peautnutbutter only listened to his decisions and his own advice. He doesn’t take other peoples feeling for granted. This behavior leads him to have another divorce.
Due to his divorce from Diane, his third wife, he noticed that he might be the problem in all his relationships. He comes to the conclusion that we usually date and marry women that are younger than him, and when they change and grow up, he doesn’t. He stays the same, causing his wives to become irritated with him and ultimately divorce.