BoJack Horseman and the Question of Happiness

BoJack Horseman

When I watch cartoons I feel both too late and too old to be doing so. My tastes as a kid changed from watching Spongebob to religiously watching ESPN. SportsCenter with Keith Olbermann, Dan Patrick, and Stuart Scott seemed more appropriate to me as a 9 year old than Animorphs the animated series. Now in my late twenties, my cultural horizon has widened enough to include cartoons once again. I am overjoyed watching new 10-minute episodes of Steven Universe, Adventure Time, The Amazing World of Gumball, and Regular Show. These shows have helped reshape and understand deeply what it means to be a child and at the same time wish I didn’t give up so early.

Last year, I began watching adult cartoons. This all happened when I came across Bob’s Burgers on Netflix. This led me to Archer, Rick and Morty, and the infamous BoJack Horseman. I binge watched the first season of BoJack Horseman and then watched each episode at least three more times. Each episode has an enormous cultural and emotional depth. In the first season, BoJack questioned if he was a good person. In the last episode, Diane answered BoJack with performativity theory:

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The second season of BoJack Horseman continues in depth, but the question has changed. It’s now: “How can I be happy?” This season ends with more closure than the first, but I think still has the possibility for a third season. Overall, the question of happiness has always intrigued me. Like why is it in the US Constitution? Or how does a person measure happiness? My mom will ask me after different life transitions if I’m happy. Maybe happiness and being content go hand-in-hand. That if I am content and feel purposeful, I’m happy. Although, this is not always true.

If BoJack Horseman has taught me anything, it’s to take more risks. To allow yourself to be vulnerable. Disappointment is inevitable, but the point is to put yourself out there enough to feel the depth life has to give. I am often brought back to a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke. He thought the new technologies of his day were making people less attune with each other and life itself. To wake them up from their slumber of apathy, he imagined an Enemy who would besiege a safe city.

All of you undisturbed cities
haven’t you ever longed for the Enemy?
I’d like to see you besieged by him
for ten endless and ground shaking years.

Until you were desperate and mad with suffering;
finally in hunger you would feel his weight.
He lies outside the walls like a countryside.
And he knows very well how to endure
longer than the one that he comes to visit.

Climb up on your roofs and look out:
his camp is there and his morale doesn’t falter,
his numbers do not decrease; he will not grow weaker,
and he sends no one into the city to threaten
or promise and no one to negotiate.

He is the one who breaks down all walls,
and when he works, he works in silence.

Take risks.

Be disappointed.

Fight for something or someone.

Life’s too short to be apathetic.

Watch BoJack Horseman? 


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