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Bojack Horseman: Living Under a Spotlight

Updated: Sep 1, 2021

Bojack Horseman leaves quite some space for people to analyse, to discuss and to disagree. Of course, it is the most critically acclaimed television show of this generation and quite rightfully so. While the show has an overwhelmingly interesting set of primary characters, it is about Bojack himself. Every seasonal arc is, in the end, always about him. I wanted to make a series of posts about what makes Bojack, well Bojack, but I soon realised there is no finite number of events in someone's life that explains why a person is the way they are. Rosebud didn't encompass or even summarise who Citizen Charles Kane was, it defined what has stood out of a life of rise and fall. So instead, I want to talk about just one of those elements.

While Sarah Lynn and Mr Peanutbutter also have had this element in their lives, for Bojack, it hits him differently. First thing is that before the spotlight hit him, unlike Sarah Lynn, he had a life of his own. Bojack, for most of his life, focused on one advice given to him by Secretariat: to always cut and run. He was asked to run away and never look back at the past, since it will forever haunt him. This advice stuck with him so strongly during his career that he let his best friend be fired for his sexuality and continued performing without him. Sarah Lynn was under a blinding spotlight, and Bojack not only failed to empathise with her, but actually enabled her. Bojack has given up on people that would have liked him in exchange for the loudest applause.

Bojack's life was his own making. Bojack craved more and more attention. He wanted the satisfaction that there are many people out there who acknowledge his talents. Well, not cutting away from Hollywood is one decision he would regret over and over and over and over and...

After Horsin' Around was finished, Bojack found himself, in essence, discarded by Hollywood. He was once a big star, but whatever entertainment that could have been extracted from him already had been. Bojack decided not to live away from the spotlight, but to brighten it and have it over his head once again. He wants people to look at him and "love" him, which meant that he was willing to create a persona for that. And you know what? It worked. He got to play his hero in a movie. Bojack was back at the place he felt he truly belonged.

But you know things did not work out the way he expected. He found the representation of his idol being perverted for the sake of pleasing his audiences, the same ones he did everything to please. This was where we started seeing Bojack regretting his entire life of pandering. Bojack even managed to escape LA and go back to simplicity with his friend Charlotte, with whom he believed could have been his future if not for the appeal of the show biz.

Escape from LA is a truly special episode. It starts out on a truly optimistic note but ends with a dark message. Bojack, after serving his entire life to the audience, managed to break free. There was no spotlight on him. This was the perfect life for Bojack: it was the caricaturised life he once lived on the set of Horsin' Around. What started out as a really fun and comforting idea turned into true horror when we realised the awful truth: once Bojack drops his Persona and becomes who he is, we find out that he is an awful person. He got minors drunk, made a move on a happily married woman and, upon rejection, tried to sleep with her daughter.

Bojack cannot escape LA.

He is fully consumed by his own narcissistic, apathetic and sociopathic behaviour, the one that allowed him to throw Herb under the bus. He can take Secretariat's advice and run all he wants, but he just ends up running in circles, which is never better highlighted than the rhythm of relapse and recovery within each season until he seeks to become a better person.

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