One of the things I wanted to get better on in 2020 is my ability to articulate my views on pieces of media: movies, television shows, and books. Even if they aren’t necessarily in the form of reviews, this appears to be a form of writing I struggle with. The more I thought about it last evening, I recognized that perhaps a large part of that stems from the kind of pressure I put on myself: because I treat it as writing that is distinct from my ordinary writing or blogging. Naturally, the solution to that, I felt, was to make it a part of the blog. That’s the context to Tejas’ topical take for today. Welcome to my story. I’m glad to have you here.
Bojack Horseman premiered in 2014. Netflix launched in India in January 2016. In the interim, I ran through Grade 12 and joined University, and was introduced to a lot of websites that allowed me to access pirated content that I enjoyed for quite some time. I only heard of Bojack Horseman in 2017, and people told me it was a good show – one worth spending time on. I was quite lazy though. As with everything else, I had several other pieces of media I wanted to get through and I prioritized though ahead of the show. I also couldn’t find an excellent print of BoJack on all the sites I frequented, and at some point, I gave up.
In December 2017, I spent one month on campus with 4 friends and several puppies working on a competition I was devoted to at the time. I couldn’t work on it all day, and I decided to indulge in Netflix that month. They had a one-month trial period, which I activated the day I came to an empty campus, and I binge-watched shows and movies like it was nobody’s business throughout the month. All to keep myself sane and to give me some time away from thinking about work. I cooked macaroni in my kettle, made a bunch of noodles, ordered several snacks – and every evening/night, I’d get cozy under my comforter, and binge-watch shows till I felt like sleeping.
The first show I took up was BoJack Horseman. I remember watching the first season and being super-confused. I hated the protagonist, and everything cheerful ended up going awry almost instantaneously. Every single character had traits I enjoyed, but also traits I detested, which irritated me because I could not point to a favourite character or personality, nor could I point to what the show was moving toward. What kept me going at that point was the plot progression, and how the reviews raved about the show. I stuck with it in the hope that it would grow on me.
The second season was when it actually did. There was so much plot progression, and the grey-ness of the characters who had been introduced already was explored so much more that I began to enjoy it. I recognized that this was a show that was fully revealing the layers to their characters, and while the puns and the anthropomorphism was enjoyable, these were things that helped reflect how grey the human species in itself is. The plot itself took quite a few twists and turns in the second season that I did not anticipate, so I opened up my mind to the show – deciding to expect nothing except entertainment.
Season three was the beginning of when I started to be floored by the show. It reflected human society in so many ways, and the producers and directors began to experiment with the format of each episode. So I latched on for the ride, and decided I’d follow along for every single season that came henceforth.
Each time a new season released, I binged it on the night of its launch. I binged through it knowing that I wouldn’t relive that experience of watching those episodes for the first time again, but that I’d be better off for having watched them. Each time I watched a fresh episode, I found myself more educated than I was previously. This was especially true across the final three seasons, when it opened up my brain to the kind of spectrum that mental health sees. It got me to begin reading about mental health more generally. To become more conscious about the things I said and did in a lot of ways that unbeknownst to me, might be impacting people. It got me to reflect.
Watching the “Free Churro” episode last year changed a lot of things for me. It was effective in its acknowledgment of grief and the process of being confused about why you grieve over someone you dislike, or have only unpleasant memories of. It gave me a sense of gratitude for several things I needed to be more grateful for at that point in my life. On a broader level, I had begun to develop a lot of affection for this deeply problematic character who was struggling to get his act together – and I cried when he spoke about his mother, who clearly meant so much to him.
Which is why I loved the beginning and middle of the final season. BoJack begun to take responsibility for himself, and genuinely followed through on it, unlike his half-assed attempts from before. I watched that season and that part at a point where in my life, I had genuinely messed up, and I was trying my best to piece things together. Really trying to understand them, to prevent them from happening again – to act responsibly, to the standard that I held myself to as a person. It was disappointing to relate to behaviour and people who I classified in my head as problematic, but I was super conflicted about how I had love for this person. How was it that I could appreciate someone who kept spiraling?
It was probably just the attempts to take responsibility. To push himself to be better – and despite failing, on multiple occasions, and being worse, just trying again. It was also the supporting characters who tried to get him to do better as a human being.
The last part of the last season, therefore, confused me more than ever. He took responsibility in private, but chose not to in public – and then self-destructed, by taking responsibility in public(?) if you could call it that. It left me conflicted.
The last episode, though, gave me some closure. It was a great last episode. I found BoJack at a good time in my life, and he helped through a not-so-great time in my life, and I am holding on to the thing that BoJack taught me: that you can, and you should, be better every single day.
If an animated show has left me with that, there’s not much more I can ask for.