Lessons learned from BoJack Horseman

I really, really like this show. I binge-watched the whole 4 seasons on Netflix (the second time around) as the first time I tried to watch them I just couldn’t go into it. I was like “Whaaaaat? A show about a horse in a world where cats were agents? Somebody must have been high when they filmed this

But then I saw Wisecrack’s take on Bojack and something clicked. Existential Nihilism. Nothing matters. We are just specks of dust in this world and everything we do is pointless. According to the theory, each individual is an isolated being born into the universe, barred from knowing “why”, yet compelled to invent meaning (wiki)

Except it isn’t.

So here’s what I learned from the show:

This is the story of BoJack Horseman, an ex-superstar, millionaire actor who retired after being in a 90’s sitcom about a dad raising three adoptive children.

Hollywood’s a real pretty town that’s smack on top of all that black tar. By the time you realize you’re sinking, it’s too late.
Wait, is this a science lesson?
No, BoJack, it’s a metaphor.
Ugh, that’s worse.

Now that he’s in his 40’s, he’s dating around, getting drunk, throwing party after party and not really knowing where his life is heading to.

I have wasted so many dinners on you, BoJack Horseman. I don’t know how you can expect anyone else to love you when you so clearly hate yourself.

Loving yourself allows you to love others. In all his life, BoJack was stunted at 20 years of age, never grew up and never learned to love – or felt love – as his mother never gave him any love whatsoever.

This book is my one shot at preserving my legacy. I’m a joke, and if this book isn’t good, I’m gonna be a joke forever.
Everyone thinks that I’m just this washed-up hack, but actually…
Oh, God, actually, what if they’re right?
I can’t breathe.

We are all faced with the question: what will come after us? What will we leave behind? What is it all for? BoJack is afraid that he hasn’t become yet. He’s not himself as he sees himself but as others see him.

Most people don’t even get to do The Brady Bunch version of the thing they want to do with their lives.
You’re actually in a really good position now, because you can pretty much do anything you want.
You’re responsible for your own happiness, you know?
– Good Lord, that’s depressing.
– No, it’s not.
I’m responsible for my own happiness? I can’t even be responsible for my own breakfast.

This is an echo of our fear to take responsibility for ourselves. If we are the holders and keepers of our own happiness, the reason why we’re unhappy must be our fault too, right? What if we’re not qualified for it? What if we want somebody or something else to be responsible for our happiness? Isn’t this why people get married?

Maybe because you’re skinny and maybe ’cause you’re pretty, you’re used to getting away with things, but I want you to know that your actions have an effect on others, and I hate you, and you are a horrible person, and you not understanding that you’re a horrible person doesn’t make you less of a horrible person.

Some people have it way too easy, no? I bet you know at least one person in your life who just got stuff handed to them. Who did not have to work as hard as you, sweat as much as you, break a bone, pull a muscle, lift a finger to do something you have done with a lot of effort. I know one.

Also, I’m alone, so alone, so, so alone.

Loneliness is a human condition. We’re all alone – even in a crowd of people. We’re by ourselves. And fame can be a filler of that hole, and adoration can be a filler too – but the thing that should fill us is other people’s love. And our love. But what if you’re empty? Take this quote from “Secretariat” and see how it applies to BoJack. He’s a horse, so he’s running. But he’s not running towards something, he’s running away from something. Big difference.

Can I ask you a question?
When you’re out there on that there racetrack, what are you running from?
– You want to know the truth? Nothing.
– Everyone’s running from something, sugar.
– No, I’m running from nothing. I’m terrified of nothing. People come up to me, they want my autograph, they want my picture. They think they recognize something in me, and I want to be that person they think I am, but I’m not.
They see a greatness in me, and they mistake it for goodness, but I… I know there’s nothing there. As fast as I run, I can’t get way from that.

Also, I am not deeply ambivalent about a seemingly mandated celebration of our military by a nation that claims to value peace telling our children that violence is never the answer while refusing to hold our own government to the same standard.

Violence is never an answer. Put a dot on that “i”

Sarah Lynn

America needs to know that I’m not that little girl anymore. I’m a grown up, sophisticated woman now, and I have sex, and I do sexy things. People like sex, okay, and since I’m sexy right now, they like me.
Are you at all worried that audiences will grow bored and abandon you for the next sexy thing?
Are you kidding? I’m Sarah freaking Lynn. I’m gonna be sexy forever!
Pop star and child actress, Sarah Lynn, celebrates her 30th birthday this month, raising the question, “does anyone care about Sarah Lynn anymore?”
After all, she is 30

I loved the Sarah Lynn episode. It reminded me of Britney Spears and Hannah Montana, and the Mickey Mouse club – and all of those child stars who failed to grow up in Hollywood and tried to get attention from the media and get out of mediocrity by sexualizing their bodies in an attempt to escape their image as innocent children and appear grown-up. Even if they didn’t know what grown up was. Emotionally stunted, living most of their lives on the set, without proper friends or family to help them out. And it all goes wrong. Remember the Olsen Twins? Remember “The Parent Trap” Lindsey? They were slowly forgotten by the time they turned 30 and weren’t cute anymore.

What do you… What do you think about Sarah Lynn?
Oh, I don’t really think about her all that much. I mean, obviously, I’m a fan of her early work which both satirized and celebrated youth culture’s obsession with sex, but I do wonder as a third-wave feminist if it’s even possible for women to reclaim their sexuality in this deeply entrenched patriarchal society,
or if claiming to do so is just a lie we tell ourselves so we can more comfortably cater to the male gaze.
– Uh, what?
– But you know, on the other hand, I worry that conversations like this one often dismiss her as a mere puppet of the industry…

The fact that BoJacks sleeps with her, a vulnerable young adult – is a dick move. She had daddy issues and substance abuse problems and BoJack – he just needed someone to love and confused his on-screen love for his daughter with closeness feelings for the actress who played his on-screen daughter.
He even feels he does not have to be the responsible adult here because it was society who mucked up.

Everything is society’s fault, and we as individuals never need to take responsibility for anything?
Yeah. I like that. I didn’t do anything wrong because I can’t do anything wrong because we’re all just products of our environment, bouncing around like marbles in the game of Hungry Hungry Hippos that is our random and cruel universe.

The Zoe and the Zeldas

There are two sides to every coin. The yin and the yang. The light and the darkness. The Zoe and the Zeldas.

Mr. Peanutbutter is nice to me! He’s kind and he’s generous and he’s loyal.
You know what your problem is? You’re trying to be a Zelda but you’re so obviously a Zoe.
Don’t label me. You don’t know who I am. You can live your happy Zelda life in this happy Zelda town and pretend you’re a happy Zelda, but I know you, and this isn’t you.
People don’t change, Diane, not really. Mr. Peanutbutter’s a Zelda. He’s happy and he’s carefree and he’s loving, but you and me, we’re Zoes. We’re Zoes, Diane. We’re cynical and we’re sad and we’re mean. There’s a darkness inside you, and you can bury it deep in burritos as big as your head, but someday soon, that darkness is gonna come out, and when it does, I want you to call me.

Which one are you?

A Zoe vs a Zelda confession

zoe Zelda
I’m really sorry about before. I know the D was overkill, so I got you something more personal.
Aww.
I know I sometimes get carried away, but it’s because I love you so much. You’re a catch, Diane, and I think you know how much I love catch.
We’re very different, but I think we bring out the best in each other.
It’s like you’re chocolate and I’m…
– Peanutbutter?
– What? Now see?
That was so much better than what I was gonna say.
I was gonna say carrots.
Diane, I’ve got an important question to ask.
No cameras, no big spectacle.
Just me and you.
Will you do the honor… Of becoming Mrs. Peanutbutter?
Hey. It’s, um, me.
Look, uh, things got a bit weird earlier, so I… I want to make sure that we’re still on for tomorrow to talk about the time I sneezed on Marisa Tomei.
I also wanted to just, um, let you know how much I appreciate you working on this book with me.
And I’m sorry if I’ve been difficult in any way during this process.
You know, it’s… It’s really hard to have somebody, I don’t know, know you, I guess.
And you do, uh, know me, Diane.
And I know I’m not the perfect guy.
I actually kind of hate myself a lot of the time. But when… When I’m with you, I, uh, don’t hate myself.
I like being around you, and I don’t know if I ever told you that in so many words, so I’m telling you.
Call me back.This was BoJack, by the way. Horseman, obviously.

About closure

There are some talks here and there about the importance of finishing things off.

Closure is a made up thing by Steven Spielberg to sell movie tickets. It, like true love and the Munich Olympics, doesn’t exist in the real world.
The only thing to do now is just to keep living forward.
Yeah, but every time I come back here they…
So don’t come back here. What’s great about Los Angeles is nobody cares about where you’re from or who you are.
It’s a superficial town where you can worry about stupid shit like keeping your pool clean, and what artisanal nuts to put on your salad.

The advice sounds duff at first but then I thought about it. By losing yourself in a big world, your problems become small. Living among people who don’t know who you are and don’t care about you will take your mind away from grief. Grief is something private and through the anonymity of a big city, you can bear it alone and it will pass and diminish until it’ll feel like it was never there. And small concerns will take its place and items with no substance will become of importance. There’s the nihilism!

There’s no closure when his friend dies of cancer – but there is some when his ashes get put on the mantelpiece of an orphanage who carries his (misspelled) name. There is some closure when his mom gets put into a home. There is definitely some closure after Sarah Lynn’s demise.

When somebody else writes about you

Diane wrote a book about BoJack. Not a series of funny anecdotes that most biographies that came out these days are like, but a true character depiction, warts and all.

Where’s the all? I come off like a total asshole.
You come off as complex and deeply troubled but ultimately sympathetic. You might be too close to see that.
There’s an entire chapter about me eating apple fritters.
You did go through that fritter phase.
Is this book how you see me?
That day we ran errands together, I thought that we had a really good time, but you just wrote about how I cried because the dry cleaner took my head shot down.
You were very emotional.
They didn’t even replace me with anyone. Now it’s just a faded spot where my face used to be.
This will actually do wonders for your career. Trust me.

If someone were to write a book about you, what would they put in it? I know there would definitely be a chapter in mine of how I mistreated an Old Golf and thought it would be like a landrover in the mud. Pics Here. And another chapter on how nice it is to travel to different places of the Earth 🙂
But when it comes to an autobiography, we don’t want to share our bad moments. Our sad moments. Our shaving our hair off like Britney. We want to read about inspiring people. Or appear inspiring to others. Apparently the rule does not apply to celebrities.

Why do you love Secretariat? Because he was awesome? No, because he was flawed.
BoJack, when people find out that someone like you, who seems larger than life, is actually just as wounded and vulnerable as they are,
it makes them feel less lonely.
No! Maybe that’s what flawed, sad fatties want from other celebrities, but for BoJack Horseman, they want a heroic horse-stud who is awesome and who can save them from their flawed, sad, fatty lives.

The book was not just a way to show other people who he was but also a way to see how Diane really saw him. A third party-observer, non-compromising, judging as a viewer and not a participant. But the picture painted at the end has just flaws and no redeeming qualities – and this coming from a friend is no good thing. I’ve always had the opinion that if a person cannot be there for you in a good way, they should not be there at all.

You’re obviously a better writer than I am, and I don’t actually even really care what the world thinks about me anymore. I just hated reading that book because I hated feeling like that’s how you saw me. Because I guess you know me better than anybody, and if you think that… Um, I guess my question is, do you…

Do you think it’s too late for me? I mean, am I just doomed to be the person that I am? The… The person in that book? It’s not too late for me, is it? It’s… It’s not too late… Diane, I need you to tell me that it’s not too late. I… I need you to tell me that I’m a good person. I know that I can be selfish and narcissistic and self-destructive, but underneath all that, deep down, I’m a good person, and I need you to tell me that I’m good, Diane.
Tell me, please, Diane.
Tell me that I’m good.

This nearly broke my heart. We are always looking for our friend’s approval and unconditional acceptance. We need to feel that we are love and admired and worthy of the other person. BoJack is really, really, really suffering right now. He just needs to hear one word of praise, of acceptance – to raise his spirit and shoo away that dark cloud. Were you ever in the dark pits of despair to have a kind word lift you out?

The Past

Can you learn from your past mistakes? Season 4 is filled with the life of BoJack’s grandparents life and the early life of his mother. His mother had a brother who died in the war and as it happens in the 50’s, women’t weren’t allowed to talk about their emotions or stand out in any way. This is why when the mother goes out on a binge and takes the daughter with her and then has an accident, she is shouting with all her might what was wrong with her and it was no more than a cry for help.

I want to dance. I want to fly! [sobbing] Don’t make me go back to that quiet house, please.
Say, I got a swell idea. Why don’t you drive?
But I don’t know how.
Why, it’s only as easy as finding a hobo in a barrel of beans. It’ll be grand. Everything will be just grand.
Faster. I want to feel alive again.
I’d do anything to feel alive.

After the accident:
-Is Mother okay?
-She is now. She just let her womanly emotions get the better of her, that’s all. Nothing a little operation couldn’t fix.
– Operation?
– What’s broken in the heart can never be repaired, but the brain, well, we have all sorts of science for the brain. She’s a brand new woman now,and she’d like to meet you very much.

So the cycle of not loving your children starts here. And because she wasn’t loved, BoJack wasn’t loved either. So BoJack did not know how to love or what love was.
So when this possible daughter turned up, something new started to happen inside BoJack. He was still an ass but he was mending. He found out that he had someone to take care of, the senile mother and the teenage daughter.

Love does things to a person, terrible things.

So when Beatrice puts slimming powder in Hollyhoaks coffee, BoJack decides it’s time to have her committed into permanent care. He was fuming, angry demanding the crappiest room and then he did something that made me cry. Yes. I’ll add this show to the freaking list of shows that made me cry. His mother has a moment of lucidity in her dementia and BoJack shows a side of him that wasn’t filled with spite for all the years he wasn’t shown any affection, but instead he gives his mother something of a happy ending to a long life well lived:

-Where are we, BoJack?
-I just told you.
– I don’t understand. Where… Where am I?
– You’re… in Michigan.
– Michigan?
– Yeah.
– At the lake house.
– I am?
– It’s a– It’s a warm summer night, and the fireflies are dancing in the sky. And your whole family is here. And they’re telling you that everything is gonna be all right. Yes. That’s right. What else? The crickets are– are chirping, and the lake is still, and the night is full of stars.
– I can see it. It’s so clear. What are we doing here, BoJack?
– We’re sitting on the back porch, and we’re listening to your brother play the piano, and we’re eating ice cream. Vanilla ice cream.
– Yes. That’s right.
– Oh, it’s all so marvelous.
– Can you taste the ice cream, Mom?
– Oh, BoJack. It’s so… delicious.

What now?

The last lesson is actually the pitch they made to a massive web company to produce a movie.
[Princess Carolyn] I got into this business because I love stories. They comfort us, they inspire us, they create a context for how we experience the world.
But also, you have to be careful, because if you spend a lot of time with stories, you start to believe that life is just stories, and it’s not.
Life is life, and that’s so sad, because there’s so little time and… what are we doing with it?

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