Talking Horses and the Value of Sadness: How BoJack Horseman Covers Vital Emotional Ground
Just when you thought horses couldn't get any better, one comes on the scene to teach us something valuable about our own emotional lives.
I KNEW that ten-year obsession from ages 8-18 would pay off!
BoJack Horseman, the animated talking horse from the Netflix sitcom of the same name, is gaining popularity as a deeply flawed protagonist, the likes of which we're used to seeing in daily life, but that takes us a bit off-guard in colorful, animated, equestrian form.
Bojack overindulges in drugs and alcohol. He courts self-loathing and self-destructive behavior. He's often down on himself and experiences no real resolution for the pitfalls that happen in his life. He's unflinchingly human, and that's just the way his creator, Raphael Bob-Waksberg, wants him to be — and, arguably, why Bojack Horseman has become so incredibly popular. The series just got picked up for a third season, so viewers can watch Bojack navigate through another set of circumstances, happy endings not guaranteed.
Besides being darkly entertaining, though, Bojack Horseman hits another vital note in its viewers' brains: he experiences sadness. Real, permeating sadness, for real, permeating reasons. All framed in a nice narrative format that's engaging to watch, of course, but it can't be denied — Bojack: He's Just Like Us!
And that's essential to see sometimes — the journey of a character through hard times and…well, maybe not entirely back. The year that's more downs than ups. The embarrassing falters that can't be taken back, and the bridges that can't be unburned. It's okay to fail, and it's okay to be sad about it. As simple as it sounds, that can be a radical truth to accept in a society where we are constantly encouraged to find our bliss, happiness, inner peace, and other various buzzwords that ring false up against our everyday experience. But it's okay — Bojack knows. And we feel less alone in the face of his struggle, recognizing the value that sadness and bad times can have in our lives.
"I think to me, I wanted to tell a [story] that I felt was honest, and I think a lot of shows that I see are not honest about sadness," said creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg in an interview with The Verge. "I wanted to talk about it, and how hard it is to not be sad for some people. So I think the best way to do that was a wacky cartoon starring a talking horse. I'm really interested in this idea of the very dark and the very wacky kind of rubbing up against each other. And that contrast to me feels very fresh and interesting. I really like the idea of going to really wacky places but also to really dark places and kind of pushing on both sides of 'What is the spectrum that this show can be?'"
If you haven't seen Bojack Horseman, I encourage you to check him out, and maybe share your thoughts with us in the comments of this post or on Facebook. What is the value of sadness, and in seeing someone struggle with their own low moments?
As Eric G. Wilson said in Against Happiness:
"To foster a society of total happiness is to concoct a culture of fear. Do we really want to give away our courage for mere mirth? Are we ready to relinquish our most essential hearts for a good night's sleep, a season of contentment? We must ignore the seductions of our blissed-out culture and somehow hold to our sadness. We must find a way, difficult though it is, to be who we are, sullenness and all."
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