Cartoons can be bleak. As adults, we still chase that same joyful escape from the real world with the familiarity of cartoons. In an age where cartoons have taken a turn from being imaginative to more realistic, we strive to make even the darkest realities funny as a way to cope. Bojack Horseman brings something else to that dark reality: emotional struggle. The struggle we all dismiss when engaging in fantasy such as watching cartoons or lying to co-workers at the bar that, “everything is going great,” even when it’s not. The story about a washed-up, ’90s sitcom star pulled at our heartstrings in season one, which aired on Netflix in 2014. One year later, we return to find Bojack in seasons two going through the familiar motions of trying to date, reviving his dead career, pushing away his friends, regretting life decisions and finally being taken seriously enough to land his dream role of playing Secretariat. The tagline for season two, “Don’t look back, you’re not going that way,” symbolizes Bojack’s constant struggle to feel happiness.
It seems too far and few in-between that we find cartoon characters who have realistic lives like the rest of us; they fell in love with someone who didn’t love them back or they felt betrayed as as a child by their neglectful parents just as Bojack did. The rawness of Bojack Horseman, a alcoholic, narcissistic horse-child with a bad attitude, has it better than most people as a former TV star and especially so as an upcoming dramatic actor with a best-selling novel. Yet, like the gleaming stars we know to envy, their lives are like any other behind the scenes: somewhat depressing. It’s the lighthearted quips in the darkness of season two of Bojack Horseman that should bring audiences to laugh and maybe cry as the helm of characters navigate through Bojack’s actions once again.
The show blends in familiar slapstick situation comedy like Mr. Peanutbutter hosting his own wacky game show, Todd being mistaken for the dictator of war-torn Cordovia and Vincent Adultman revealing he actually is just two stacked children under a long trench coat. Yet, with season two, we see these characters develop more as they try to get their self-worth in check. Bojack and the gang look for validation of their lives from others in season one, whereas in season two it’s the other way around. Coupled with the crazy antics only cartoon characters can get into, Bojack Horseman continues to make people laugh.
In episode three, “Still Broken,” the cast of Horsin’ Around are at Herb Kazazz’s funeral, Bojack’s former best friend and creator of the show. It’s an excerpt from a speech by Henry Winkler that summarizes the show perfectly by being able to bring laughter into the worst situations:
“In his last days, Herb’s cancer had gone into remission; he was full of hope. But on the drive home from the hospital, his brakes gave out. He crashed into a truck full of peanuts. He survived the crash, but he was allergic to peanuts. He died instantly. Let us now read his final tweets:
I’m gonna live forever #cancerfree #invincible #tweetingwhiledriving
Oh no, I think I’m gonna hit that truck #hopefullyitisntfullofpeanuts
The way the all-star cast (Amy Sedaris, Will Arnett, Alison Brie, Paul F. Tompkins, Aaron Paul and Kristen Schaal) take real-life situations like death, rejection, betrayal, brokenheartedness and failure while trying to be the best versions of themselves shows how struggle can define us. It can work out for the best, it can be the worst thing that has ever happened to you; but you can get through it. Or in Herb’s case, at least enough for a tweet.