Netflix has managed to gain a reputation for quality original content. Stranger Things brought back 80s nostalgia for people who weren’t even alive in the decade and the Marvel adaptations dominate social media upon their launch. But there’s one show which doesn’t make the splash it deserves to, one which is consistent and considered, absurd yet crushingly real.
BoJack Horseman has four seasons available to stream and, honestly, it’s a waste of your Netflix subscription not to do so. With a main character that’s a horse, it is able to represent both nobody and everybody. Here we have a show where race is not an issue and class is inconsequential. Crucially, however, the issues faced by the characters are something anyone can relate to or at least understand on a basic level.
Depression, neglect and dementia are common problems in modern society. While we may not have personal experience, it is highly likely we know someone who is struggling with their own mind or the damage inflicted upon a loved one. But our negative emotions are inconvenient, uncomfortable and an inappropriate topic of conversation. We do not like to admit the flaws which floor us for fear of annoying someone else or not being understood. But ignoring problems does not make them go away and that is something BoJack reminds us of repeatedly throughout its run. The beauty is how it reminds us. There are other shows which show us trauma and how a character can be completely torn down by their own psyche but here we have something which dares to hide the tragedy in comedy.
BoJack’s absurdity may be precisely what allows it to confront such traumatic subject matter. The fact it’s a cartoon certainly helps, both for what the creators are able to achieve visually and the temporary detachment from reality it allows viewers who are being presented with very real problems. In the recent fourth season, the show was able to take us into the mind of someone suffering from dementia in a way that felt realistic for its own world and traumatic at the moment viewers realised they were seeing humanity reflected by talking animals.
The Hollywood setting may be off-putting, but it works in its favour. By giving the main character wealth and, on the surface, everything he could want, it brings reality to depression. We sometimes believe that depression goes away once you have money and success and that only people beaten down by life can experience mental problems properly, but a feeling of emptiness and not living the life you should can and does affect anyone.
It’s a risky one to binge, as it can take an emotional toll after a while. You laugh at the jokes, temporarily taken out of the misery but by the end of each episode are back to realising exactly what you watched, then finding yourself resigned to staring distantly and contemplating your entire life. That’s what life is. One long stretch to tragedy, with light moments along the way to comfort us in the dark.
Sometimes you need the absurd to remind you of reality.