way to be happy even when things are going well. The show takes
its time across entire seasons to give BoJack the things he thinks
he wants – money, fame, love – then to depict him failing to find
happiness. All of these stories create a fuller and more thorough
representation of BoJack Horseman, who he is and what his
depression is like, which would have been much more difficult, if
not impossible, to depict in a single episode.
By making depression the focus of the entire series, the
show can illustrate from episode to episode the ups and downs of
living with the condition, the impact it can have on relationships,
and the extent of its influence on the life of someone living with it.
Essentially, BoJack Horseman can and does provide a more thorough
depiction that doesn’t need to be over-simplified to fit within a
mere twenty-two minutes; through its ability to be more detailed
and extensive, it creates a more realistic narrative to tell the story
of living with mental illness with surprising nuance and complexity.
Within BoJack Horseman, depression does not operate as a single
episode storyline but as the series-long narrative emphasis, which
gives the show’s writers the space to engage with mental illness in
a far more comprehensive and authentic manner.
The Advantage of Animation
The medium of animation allows BoJack Horseman to create
emotionally honest depictions of depression that would be much
more difficult to accomplish in live-action television. The rather
goofy and bizarre nature of the show (both in its premise and its
humor) may seem at odds with its dramatic intentions, and it is
counter-intuitive at first glance. As film and television critic Alan
Sepinwall notes for Hitfix, however, “the sadness hits harder
because it’s coming right from a cartoon horse’s mouth, while the
preposterous comedy…feels even more welcome as a relief from
the crippling despair” (Sepinwall). The humor and the drama
actually help reinforce one another as each makes the other more