Life Lessons From Bojack Horseman

I’ve watched Bojack Horseman on Netflix through to the end. I’m now rewatching it. Why? Because it is brilliant. It is real and raw and doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff even though to many, it may be written off as “just a cartoon”.

So, here’s what I’ve learned about life from Bojack Horseman (the show, not the character)…

You are what you do

Diane says this line in the show and it really resonated with me. I believe that yes, we are what we do. There is no deep down. You are not a good person deep down if all you do is hurt people, right? The way she put it seemed depressing to Bojack, but if all we are is the things we do, then isn’t that comforting in a way? It means we just need to do things, and we can change who we are.

I’m a writer because I actively write.

I’m a nice person because I’m kind, helpful, and empathic on a regular basis.

This means that we aren’t what we look like, where we were born, how we were raised, or what we like and dislike. Instead, we are what we do. And that can be anything. And that’s kind of comforting.


The Overthinker needs to be grounded

I identify a lot with Diane’s character, as a writer and overthinker. She is with Mr. Peanutbutter and their relationship works because he’s laidback, silly, and trusting. He doesn’t think too much, he just does what feels good.

Diane needs someone like that to balance her out. To get her out of her head, stop overthinking, and get grounded. He helps her to think more clearly and go with the flow. Contrast to this, and without Mr. Peanutbutter, Diane becomes paralysed by indecision. She thinks herself into misery.

And this is definitely something I’ve felt for myself.

Bojack and Diane help one another, but they’re also bad for one another because they feed into each other’s bleak ideals and overthinking/anxious minds. They need the other characters, their friends, to keep them from losing it altogether.

So, I’ve learned to value the people in my life who help me to think a little less.


Freedom isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Money and fame can grant a lot of people a lifestyle that many of us want. Why? Because it grants freedom. Freedom to do whatever the hell you want with little consequence or struggle. But Bojack shows the downside to this.

Bojack is miserable because he is so free. He is free to sit on the couch all day. Free to blow his money. Free to take drugs, drink too much, and be bad to people because he’s famous and he gets away with it.

The show touches on the argument of Radical Freedom suggested by Jean-Paul Satre. This is the concept that we are all born free. We exist first and then it is our choices that make us who we are. And we are free to make those choices. We are “condemned to be free,” says Satre. We all have a choice; we are all free to act. Satre says that when we say we have no choice, we are lying to ourselves.

Bojack loves to blame others, run from the truth, drown his sorrows, and just say, “I’m a bad guy” as if that fixes it. He is a demonstration of what Radical Freedom can do to someone who is, by all respects, totally free to act as he wishes. And so, freedom can lead to our downfall.


No excuses

As Todd says to Bojack, you can’t just keep doing bad things and apologising and then carry on doing bad things. You can’t blame your past, your parents, or anything else. You just have to be better. I loved this line. “Just be better.

I think a lot of us look all around for excuses and blame to place elsewhere. Do we go through tough times and unfair things in life? Hell yeah. But does that mean we get to blame the world and remain in shitty circumstances? No.

If we really want to change or to be good or to do better, then we must make that happen for ourselves regardless of our circumstance or what has happened. Back to my previous point, we must make that choice and we are all free to do so.


Life can be ugly

This is obvious, but Bojack is one of the few shows out there that dares to ask and explore the big questions, concepts, and issues in our world and our lives.

What happens to the child actress who never got to live her own life?

What if you can never be happy or satisfied?

The happiest day of your life, always has the days after, so what then?

What do you do if you’ve peaked and there’s no higher to go?

And the characters make mistakes. Not annoying ones, but real ones. Ones we can relate to, like putting your career ahead of starting a family; not knowing what to do with your life and so the years pass by and you’ve done nothing; sabotaging yourself and those around you out of fear; and focusing so much on the external because you are afraid to face what’s inside.

The show gets dark. Real dark. But it dares to go so deep that I love it. I’m a realist. I’m a writer. I love exploring identity, choices, and behaviour, and so this show is perfect for that.

Plus, it doesn’t shy away from showing the realities of mental illness (depression, anxiety, addiction) and it does it well, for the most part.

There’s so much that I love about this show that you can expect more content on it, but for now, I’ve chosen to just ease you into it with this cheery(ish) one.

Thanks for reading!

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