who crashed on BoJack’s couch after a party years ago and never
left. BoJack treats Todd like his personal human punching bag but
won’t kick Todd out because he’s afraid of being alone and needs
the closeness of simply having someone there. BoJack similarly
directs much of his abuse and neglect toward his agent and on-
again-off-again girlfriend Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris), a pink
tabby cat. He relies on her to fix his problems and goes running
back to her for a date or a little more whenever he needs emotional
validation before turning around and ignoring her, neglecting her
needs, and even verbally abusing her if he needs to vent. BoJack
loathes himself and takes his self-hatred out on everyone else, but
at the same time, he desperately longs to be loved or even just liked
(and not in a necessarily romantic sense). Deep down, he feels
unworthy of any sort of love, so whenever he gets close to
receiving it, he sabotages himself.
In a cultural landscape riddled with problematic depictions
of mental illness from fear-mongering and victim-blaming in
news coverage to stigmatization and stereotyping in film and
television when a piece of media portrays such issues with
respect, honesty, and authenticity, it’s a big deal. Furthermore,
when this powerful narrative arrives in the surprising form of a
cartoon show about a talking horse, it’s a really big deal. BoJack
Horseman offers the most sincere and honest look at depression
currently on television (or online), an accomplishment made
possible by a number of techniques, including its inversion of
common stereotypes, its longstanding narrative emphasis on
depression, and its advantageous use of the medium of animation.
Inverting Stereotypes
Part of why BoJack Horseman is so successful at depicting
depression is because it recognizes the problematic and
stereotypical depictions that came before it and intentionally
inverts them. As many individuals’ knowledge of mental illness is
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