potent. The very fact that the dramatic content is so unexpected
because of the form of the show makes it resonate more loudly
while the humor makes the dramatic material more palatable and
digestible for audiences. Furthermore, The A.V. Club’s Vikram
Murthi asserts that rather than inducing tonal whiplash, the shifts
between the light-hearted and the heart-wrenching work well
because the show doesn’t treat comedy and drama like two
different genres but, rather, like two sides of the same coin
(Murthi).
Beyond the absurdist comedy made possible by animation,
the mere fact that BoJack Horseman is a cartoon facilitates its
engagement with depression. Mental illness is an abstract thing that
can be difficult to visualize, and thus, a physically realist approach
can have a hard time depicting the nuance of it with clarity. Some
of the best portrayals of mental illness employ the fantastical and
surreal, heightening reality to absurdist dimensions in order to
show the far-reaching influence mental illnesses have on people
living with them. For example, The Independent’s Stephen Kelly
observes how Lars Von Trier’s widely-lauded 2011 feature
Melancholia is successful at portraying depression by setting the
impending apocalypse as the backdrop for the depressed bride-to-
be protagonist: “It does a great job of distinguishing depression
from mere sadness, exploring the former’s power to overwhelm
just as any physical illness can when at its worst: neither her
wedding day nor the coming apocalypse make any difference to
Justine’s condition” (Kelly). Another example is Jennifer Kent’s
2014 horror feature The Babadook, which employs a dark,
paranormal entity as a metaphorical stand-in for depression and
guilt, a shadowy figure that is not representative of monsters and
horror so much as “coming to terms with the dark side of human
experience: mortality, fear, anger, grief” (Kidd).
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