As the beloved Bojack Horseman show ends, two big and passionate fans of the show discuss and debate an important point of the show. Since Bojack Horseman aired up to its end, the audience wrestled with the one existential question about the shows’ protagonist: Is Bojack Horseman good or bad as a person? Nashmia Adnan and Noor Usman Rafi tackle the question that is on most of our minds.
The complexity of Bojack Horseman
Nashmia: So, what do you think of our main man, Bojack Horseman?
Noor: Bojack Horseman is inherently a very complex person. And to understand him would also take someone complex enough. Bojack is toxic and he comes off as mean and uncaring because he can’t express his true feelings or face his own emotions. As a person, he’s probably not the best guy you could meet. He believes in ‘deep down’ but unfortunately, and in the wise words of Diane, that simply can’t always be enough.
So, as a person, in a completely social context, Bojack isn’t the nicest. There’s much more to him than his outermost layer though.
Nashmia: Yes, at first glance, people may call him a bad person if they want to confine him in a box. He’s an alcoholic and drug addict who continually only looks out for himself. It takes the struggle for him to be selfless, and even that would not be possible without Todd, Diane, Princess Carolyn pushing him to be better. Everything good that he tries to do seems to be a desperate attempt for people to like him. It’s as if he isn’t doing good things for the sake of helping or being good but rather for getting approval and fame.
Bojack’s lust for fame and approval
Noor: So if someone solely does good things for approval and fame, does that mean Bojack really is internally good?
At the end of the day, the world is all about validation and seeking others’ approval. Don’t we all do the same?
Nashmia: Yes, but not everyone does good things for the sake of being selfless. I agree with you because validation is the most craved human emotion. To be honest, no selfless act is actually selfless. Even if you do something to help others, it is going to make you happy. So, you and I, are not that different from Bojack in that regard.
The thing about Bojack is that he still focuses more on what’s good for him and what’s best for him. Only in the last seasons did we see a change, and even then it was because he had no other option left.
Bojack’s childhood shaped him
Noor: I agree with you. But we must think about how Bojack’s childhood had played a part in shaping him into this person? Is this a natural reaction?
Bojack’s parents gave him a childhood and upbringing that no kid in this world deserves. He did not deserve to grow up feeling unloved, abused, rejected and alone. The one reason I always sympathized with Bojack was that I cannot imagine what years of abuse and lack of love can do to a person. Of course, he turned into this broken fragment of a person who does not understand or process natural emotions like love, care, and empathy at times. I’ve always found his pain to be true and I can understand why all his relationships fail. Although we can keep wishing that he’d be a whole person- he’s not. And is that really his fault
Nashmia: Yes I agree with you. I think that is it quite normal. He never had anyone that he could rely on. A home is a place that is supposed to be of love and comfort. For him, it was cold and uninviting. His mother and father looked at him as if he was a burden. But he doesn’t always stay with them. He finds good people in his life. Princess Carolyn became someone who revived his career when it was at the lowest point and was there to motivate him. Todd and Diane were always there to give Bojack a wake-up call and call him out on his problematic behavior. All of his friends, even Mr. Peanutbutter, were there to support him and encourage him to do the right thing.
At the age of 40, a shitty childhood is not an excuse for problematic and pompous behavior. Especially when we see him finally realizing his mistakes and striving to be good. He keeps on relapsing because he simply gives up on himself. Herb Kazzaz showed him how to be good and be confident in himself, the best friend he ever could have. But he ends up betraying Herb and doesn’t take a stand for him when the executive producers kick Herb out from ‘Horsin Around’.
Bojack’s Eternal Brokenness
Noor: I suppose it isn’t his fault. But the truth is that Bojack Horseman is eternally broken. And his attempts to mend himself and his way seem halfhearted and bleak at best. At a point in his life when he has the ability to see things clearly and do the right thing- he just does not try to do enough. And we can see that till the very end of the show. Because he ends up ruining all the progress he makes. Every single time.
Nashmia: Precisely. The show’s portrayal of mental health and suicide is actually an accurate one as it shows how it can lead to problematic behavior. That ultimately means that it was Bojack’s responsibility to take better care of his mental health.
Sarah Lynn | An irredeemable mistake?
Nashmia: Speaking of ruining all the progress, what was the breaking point for Bojack? Was it Sarah Lynn?
Noor: As a Bojack Horseman fan and sympathizer, I always cared for him deeply even though he’s literally just a fictional character. I remember I would find excuses for him every time he went on his way to screw things up again. But the one moment I still can not shake off, and the one thing I fail to understand or come to terms with is what he did to Sarah Lynn. I’m not referring to giving her heroine or sleeping with her. We can say ‘that’ was all consensual. But those SEVENTEEN minutes when Bojack left her in the planetarium, unconscious- when he could have called the hospital. He was only looking out for himself at that moment. And it disappoints me to realize that this was his one truly selfish act over the years. And sadly, this one has no excuses.
Nashmia: Yes, her death could have been prevented had he been thinking about her rather his own self. He was an addict himself and he knew that Sarah was vulnerable to be addicted to drugs again. As a mature adult, he should have known that them hanging out together is not a good thing.
Is Bojack a predator?
Nashmia: Especially considering the fact that he slept with her when they were on a bender? Have we forgotten that at one point Sarah Lynn played his daughter on Horsin’ Around?
She looked at him as a father figure.
In one of the episodes, we also see a flashback of Sarah Lynn asking for Bojack’s help and he doesn’t help her. The fame ruins Sarah’s life and childhood which leads to drugs and alcohol. Bojack could have done something to stop that from happening, he could have mentored her to be better.
Instead, he ignored her on Horsin’ Around the set, then years later, sleeps with her! He simply gives into his desires with no regard for how it may affect someone else.
Noor: So, do you conclude that Bojack Horseman was a sexual predator? He was accused of using his power over vulnerable women throughout the years, in the final interview in Season 6.
That interview took it too far, in my opinion. No, Bojack was not a sexual predator and labeling him as that was simply unfair. All those women he slept with; they did so consensually. And practically no one ever accused him of using his ‘power’ as the interviewer called it. If we think about the Penny situation, he was aware that it was not appropriate and he kept refusing her, too.
Nashmia: Yes, he did the right thing when it comes to Penny. I agree with you. But Gina, his girlfriend when he was shooting ‘Philbert’ was assaulted by him when he was out of his drugged up on pills. He knew he needed help as he was going through bouts of anxiety and depression but he chose to rely on pills rather than get professional help. As a result, he hurt someone he actually had a healthy relationship with, Gina. So, that does qualify as a predator if we stick to the official definition.
Noor: Yeah, that makes sense. It was an assault, albeit not of a sexual nature.
Good Friend or not
Noor: So we kind of agree that the one person Bojack Horseman was completely unfair to was Sarah Lynn. What about his friends? Was he ever nice to someone? Or… no one at all?
On the surface, Bojack was unfair to many people in his life. And there’s no denying that. But due to his flawed childhood and consequentially complex personality, he just was not expressive enough. Rather, he denied his own emotions because he never got a chance to learn how to love others.
So it seemed like he always took Todds’ unconditional love for granted or didn’t appreciate him enough. But he loved him back, and it was expressed slowly but surely.
Bojack did try to make amends every time he realized he was wrong. But was luck ever on his side? Take Herb Kazzaz for example. It was simply too late.
Similarly, Diane was always there for him and she carried all of his emotional labor. But in many ways, Bojack was there for her too. There was a reason Diane got attached to him, too. He would talk to her, listen to her, and encourage her every time he could.
And as for Princess Carolyn, he simply didn’t love her back. And no one can force that.
I also have to mention his half-sister Hollyhock. She was the one person Bojack had truly and selflessly cared for. The one he wanted to be better for. But in the end, he had to lose her too. His past always made its way back to his present.
Remember Wanda? He was so into her and tried his best to make the relationship work. But he just wasn’t the luckiest with relationships, was he?
Nashmia: He tried to be nice to friends I think. You’re right, but he took Todd for granted and never showed any gratitude to many things Todd did for him.
Yes, he was there for Diane but in my opinion, it wasn’t a two-sided friendship because Diane was always there to pull Bojack out of a dark hole he built himself even when it was mentally grueling for Diane. Diane had to leave him in order to find peace in her life, that tells you something I believe.
He expected Princess Carolyn to do everything for him, to save his career and be the perfect friend. He didn’t even think about what she wanted, he didn’t even care as a friend, the way he needed to.
Noor: Oh, yeah if I think about it, you may be right. I just remembered the time when he invited Princess Carolyn to his place in urgency? Only to ask her to grab him a beer from his fridge. Ouch.
Nashmia: Exactly! Just one of the examples of him being a bad friend.
Did Bojack get what he deserved?
Noor: So despite what he did to the people in his life, all his actions came back to him and he had to face the consequences. What do you think Bojack deserved? Was the ending enough as ‘karma’ for everything he did? Or did he deserve better or worse?
Nashmia: Well, some extreme thinking may lead to some people saying that he deserved worse. But for someone who’s watched the show and Bojack sympathizer myself, I think him going to jail was enough.
Noor: Yes, I don’t think he deserved any worse than this. How much worse could it get for him? He lost his half-sister Hollyhock, the last shred of his family and hope. He lost all his friends who finally realized they were done with his issues. Moreover, he lost his career, real fame, and respect. And he served jail-time. On top of that, he has a mountain of regrets to remember forever. And how can we forget his sad childhood?
I think Bojack has suffered immensely and will continue to do so. He did not deserve ‘more’ worse than this. This is exactly what he had coming and is enough.
What does the future hold for Bojack
Nashmia: Now that we have established he got the punishment he deserved. What do you think he would be like in the future? Now with all of his support system gone, Diane, Todd and Princess Carolyn living their own separate lives, he isn’t a priority anymore. Do you think he will try to be better or is there no hope?
Noor: As I said before, Bojack Horsemans’ damage and brokenness are eternal. While I sympathize with him and see his depression for what is… I just cannot sugarcoat his future even in my imagination. I think Bojack is, well, he’s Bojack. And that’s how he’ll always be. And believe it or not, that’s the one character we grew to love with all his flaws. Because we saw a person beneath it all. And he’s still in there.
Nashmia: Yes, a true fan of the show, I wholeheartedly agree. You phrased it perfectly. The complexity of Bojack is what makes Bojack Bojack. That is why we all loved the show, because of how we ourselves are complex as well. We’re not good or bad. Some days we’re good, some days we’re not. That’s why it resonated with you and me, the relatability of Bojack. We saw a broken man looking for validation and purpose and that is something we all feel on most of the days in this world, even if we can get really good at hiding it.
I do personally hope that in the future, (which exists in our minds), he’s striving to be better each day.