“Back in the ’90s, I was in a very famous TV show…”
It seems bizarre, banal and very unusual to talk about a seemingly naive animated dark comedy from the point of view of a film review, criticism and recommendation of this kind, but deep beneath the surface full of playful animated characters and colourful backgrounds hides, in fact, a semi-subconscious world of general philosophy, general culture and art as well as depressing depictions of social decadence, which speaks so clearly about us and the world around us. This abstract adaptation of Orwell’s “Animal farm” questions world mechanisms trought the animated lenses.
Who are the heroes of this long movie story? Six of them are more or less permanent, present from beginning to end, while the others alternate. First the protagonist.
The Horse. During the nineties, under the production of his friend, the show “Horsin’ Around” starts, in which he plays the leading role, where he gains fame, and from that moment on, he tries to achieve something even more in the following decades, to maintain his popularity or regain his old glory. Since his parents were mentally absent during his growing up, he developed a feeling that he was neglected. He became narcissistic and depressed. He thinks he’s better than he is. His ex-girlfriend describes him as a “self-pitying masochist”. Although he is destructive to himself, he cares for others.
A friend. He wears a yellow beanie and a red sweatshirt in keeping with the trends. He sleeps on the couch at BoJack’s place, and then he moves and moves in with other friends. He is a lazy and messy personality, but also creative, with unusual ideas. At the end of the series, he finds happiness on Princess Carolyn’s couch and looks after her child.
She was the star of the show “Horsin’ Around” as a child. Hollywood’s “shine” and fame soon turn her, from a child’s acting hope, into a pop singer who indulges in alcohol and drugs and thus loses her life. She will be talked about until the end of the series.
A cat. Agent and manager of BoJack and many others like Mr Peanutbutter, Salinger… completely addicted to work. He fills his emptiness and life’s meaninglessness by constant work and solving other people’s problems. Although she is well into her forties, she longs for a baby. After adopting a child, she successfully balances the life of a mother and her professional career, like a cat on a hot tin roof.
The dog. Labrador. Actor and presenter. He is BoJack’s rival and at the same time one of his best friends. They love and hate each other at the same time. He is energetic, positive and understands the world and life as a big game. He has fun with 20-year-old girls whom he eventually marries. He will probably do it three or four times.
She is an intellectual, a writer trying to make it in the world of literature and social networks. Feminist. By writing a biographical book for BoJack, he becomes his best friend and remains so until the very end. Being half-American and half-Vietnamese, she has a problem finding her identity, which explains her artistic blockages.
The series, therefore, follows the life of the protagonist, a once very popular Hollywood actor (and his environment), but now an actor of faded fame.
When Shakespeare’s Richard III reaches his doomsday, he gives up the kingdom for a horse. That horse could be Bojack himself. The horse is not a symbol of freedom, strength and elegance. The one who will never run with a herd of wild horses. He is an exponent of a ruined kingdom, a devastated society with a bunch of “dignitaries” – Hollywood celebrities. Shakespeare is suggested to us through the series, through the line from “The Tempest”: “Hell is empty and all the devils are here”. The action takes place in America, mostly in Los Angeles, which is shown exactly opposite to the semiotics of its name, as a city of fallen angels and glamour whose glitter and gold hides mud, filth, a huge deep puddle that threatens to swallow everything. The inhabitants of the metropolitan extravaganza are people, but they often have animal heads (horse, dog, cat, rabbit, fish, frog, owl, pig, bull, dolphin…), such heads in human bodies have tails added to them or, like spiders, four pairs of legs, some characters are completely members of the zoo-worlds, which points not only to the human (which is to a much lesser extent) but also to the animal side (which is more predominant) and the instincts that rule this exciting gallery of anthropo-zoomorphic animated characters which point to the grotesque picture of the world. The gallery of permanent protagonists of this story is in search of rapprochement, friendship, and love in this lonely space. They are constantly searching for the meaning of life in a confused way, not knowing what the final outcome will be. Colin McGinn, in relation to Shakespeare, states that the general themes of uncertainty are evident in three areas: “knowledge and scepticism, the nature of the self, and the character of causality”, so equally it seems to us that anyone who is too good or too bad a character in this series begins to asks the same thing. Everything that is funny is actually tragic.
There is no God in L.A., there is no love in Hollywoo(d), contrary to every movie romance, countless celebrity shots. There is no real sense of a square footage of a film studio or the magnificent homes of famous stars, with large swimming pools. Everything is just a spectacle, a lie, a fraud, and art is just one big commercial. In the series, phenomenal parodies, such as the one regarding Salinger’s return, which offers a reality show in exchange for the traditional writing of a new novel, are terribly off-putting. It is the same, caricature and grotesque Tarantino’s replacement with a tarantula that turns the film into an arrangement with food. All these exaggerations and distortions, provocations and banalization, the transformation of everything truly artistically valuable into business, the imperative to monetize everything and everyone – does it conjure up to the viewers of the series new aspects and the only possibilities of realizing the American dream?
There is no likability in the American Theater according to Stanislavsky:
“You don’t want an actor, you want a blank canvas on which to project your own silly notion of goodness… cheerful, optimistic, indomitable… there is no such person”.
as stated in the series. They are marionettes that are not controlled by God, since he is not there, they are the actors of their lives, although they themselves are not aware of what acting is. Overwhelmed by their ego, addicted to work, success, looking for love, alcohol, validation and toxicity, they try to discover within themselves what is behind the facade, realizing that they are, in fact, constantly playing the part, dazed by the air of the elite metropolis. They have everything but they are still unhappy. God, how terrible it seems today to twist, to turn upside down the stated statement, which would be: you will have nothing and you will be happy?! Do you know who said that? What mockery? What a senselessness of people and their lives either by thesis or antithesis. What manipulations of these and those? Every man is the forge of his own happiness. It cannot be conducted, it has to be forged.
Film and life are not the same thing. The series is based on the principle of a story within a story. First, the protagonist was portrayed during the nineties as an actor in the sitcom TV show “Horssin Around”, which for him represents the ideal of youth, love, and career. He was then cast as the actor of America’s most famous and fastest horse, Secretariat – another Hollywood victim. This role brought BoJack success, but not the satisfaction of truth and a happy ending, because after it comes “the day after the happy ending”. BoJack’s last role in the project, which is shown alongside his (so-called) real life, is the suffering detective and murderer Filbert, who has many similarities with his interpreter, an actor in that stage of life and work: “Lost in a time that does not exist”. Social loneliness, lack of feeling of belonging to anyone or anything, and inability to change oneself, and thus the world, follow each of the characters. The tragic social satire of elemental reality. The (auto)biographical book reveals the world behind the movie screen, reveals the space within the walls of home life and behind the curtains of private chambers, and the pictures are such that it seems that only the bottom of the bottom has been touched. It is difficult because the work of art reflects reality.
The fear of being “sentenced to freedom” and the understanding of Sartre’s philosophy that life is lived for the sake of living haunt the actors, leading them to a depressed and anxious existence. Blaise Pascal, abandoning mathematics and abandoning himself to religion and understanding of man, concluded that the shell of mortality limits man’s happiness. Is there any consolation? How to survive in a world without meaning? Looking for a job? Each character chooses to spend time in their own way, productive or destructive. Due to the great responsibility of living and understanding happiness, thinking about reality on a rational level is avoided. In accordance with Kierkegaard’s existential understanding, do the protagonists think in order to live or do they live in order to think? Out of their desperation, do they indulge (like everyone else) in the senseless and endless game of moment and eternity?
This series destroys the projected image of Hollywood with its nudity. Everyone is Sisyphus with his own stone. It’s absurd. Escape from L.A. can only go to a prison, nursing home, rehab centre or student theatre. Trapped in the quantum of the great newly named world of known stars and their microcosms, the characters reach the supposed immortality, the star, the name, in spite of the fear of death. The Shakespearean ending with a wedding instead of a funeral still tells the audience not to be sad because this is a comedy.
The works of art communicate they come into contact with each other through quotations, allusions and parodies, and this series covers it all. There are numerous, ubiquitous, references to works from the history of philosophy, literature, and cinema, borrowed from pop culture, art industries and their slaves. A Los Angeles Night’s Dream. Paraphrasing Kant and his beautiful and sublime under a starry sky breaks the illusion for a second and dims and dims the glow of the starry Hollywood Walk of Fame. There is hope for a different tomorrow. What was funny, it was, now it is over.