‘BoJack Horseman’ takes on controversy the right way

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Bojack Horseman season 4 / Etrg Torrent / Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

"BoJack Horseman," now on Netflix, proves itself to be unapologetically honest regarding both mental health and media.

From the #metoo movement to keeping up with who’s been “canceled,” today’s generation faces a whirlwind of controversy on a day-to-day basis.

TV shows buzz with references to mental illness and feminist justice in search of a “good job” token, but one show distinguishes itself from the rest. 

Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s Netflix series “BoJack Horseman” takes on the reality behind mental health and accountability in pop culture, and it punches hard. 

The show follows an anthropomorphic sitcom has-been named BoJack Horseman, who attempts to escape his drug-filled, depressing life in hopes of salvaging what’s left of his acting career. 

Throughout the show, BoJack desperately tries to reach for a better version of himself but constantly devastates the people around him and, much like recent incriminating celebrities, continues to ridiculously outrun his consequences. 

Watching the show is a mind-bending experience; while appreciating the gags and pop-culture references, you will also be left wallowing in an existential crisis from the relatable and dark circumstances the characters find themselves in. 

Mental health and mocking media tend to be overdone topics in the film industry, but “BoJack Horseman” offers a different spin on the subject.    

Waksberg avoids repeating the romanticized antihero we can’t help but love and applaud for escaping a troubled past seen in shows like “Madmen” or “Breaking Bad” and instead makes BoJack eventually face the consequences of his decisions and permanently ruined relationships. 

BoJack is denied the satisfaction of closure or maintaining the spotlight as the series explores the narratives of the sideline characters, all of which contribute to revealing toxic patterns within mental illness in a way that provokes the viewer’s perception of themselves and the people in their lives. 

What makes this series stand out from other shows based on difficult topics is that “BoJack Horseman” doesn’t label difficult-to-understand problems.

Unlike the catastrophe “13 Reasons Why,” “BoJack Horseman” does not set up flat archetypes that validate black-and-white interpretations of mental illness. Instead, it sets a diverse representation of the impact of mental illness and leaves the “why” for the viewer to interpret. 

While the show does an excellent job of portraying its ideas, the silly adult animation and lack of cohesive plot in its first season make it easy to misinterpret the purpose of the show.

There will be gags like “Giraffe CEO breaks glass ceiling” or a hammerhead shark hammering a nail with its face, while the impending darkness of the rest of the show is held back for too long. The punchline is too far out to reel in many viewers, and it easily becomes misinterpreted as another wacky adult cartoon that viewers are likely to drop after the first few episodes. 

Other than the rocky start, “BoJack Horseman” proves itself to be unapologetically honest in the way it destigmatizes mental health and delivers rightful atonement for wrongdoings in the world of media, while also leaving a powerful impression of our own character and the people around us.