Speculative Fiction Saturday: Bojack Horseman

Bojack HorsemanOkay, I’m going to conclude this month of modern Speculative Fiction series with a series that isn’t really speculative fiction, but I have watched it twice. In all honesty, I’m just writing about it because I like thinking about it.

Bojack Horseman crosses a line, and this is not because it is an adult-oriented animated show. Yes, this has been done before as South Park and Family Guy have been doing them for years. The Cartoon Network also has their Adult Swim programming, but I have found that these shows are often filled with really gross and sexual humor. For this reason, I have been avoiding it, but as I have just written in a now five-part series about the arts, I don’t just avoid a work because there is violence, sexuality, and profanity in it.

About the only speculative element of Bojack Horseman is that it takes place in this anthropomorphic world where some people are half human and half animal. There is no explanation on why, and there really shouldn’t be. I suppose I could ask how these hybrids reproduce, but I’m kind of glad the show doesn’t address this even though the humans seem to pair up with these animal people from time to time.

This doesn’t mean that the world finds these half-human hybrids are normal. Bojack Horseman is a half-man, half-horse, who was in this 90’s comedy called “Horsin’ Around”, which is about a half-horse person who raises three orphaned kids. When the show was cancelled, Bojack essentially had no follow-up acting career. He must have invested is money wisely, because he has a big house in Hollywood and doesn’t seem to do anything.

The show is essentially about Bojack and the relationship with his friends and co-workers. There is kind of a romance that Bojack is having with Diane Nguyen, who has been assigned by Penguin Publishing (which is ran by a penguin) to write Bojack’s biography. Bojack wants to commit to Diane, but she is committed to a half-man, half-dog named Mr. Peanut Butter. Mr. Peanut Butter was on a show with the exact same premise as “Horsin’ Around”. Bojack also has an agent that he works with name Princess Caroline, a half-cat who had a fairly decent episode about her. Then there is Todd, Bojack’s roommate who moved in but probably should move out.

What makes Bojack Horseman work is that it is an animated show that can be taken quite seriously. The show has funny elements like a lot of animals acting human, but it really has a very serious premise. It is clear that Bojack is in the midst of an existential crisis, wondering if he will only be remembered for his 15 minutes of fame.

There is one episode where Bojack goes to see a friend of his who has cancer, and I won’t spoil it at all. It is interesting to see how Bojack deals with the guilt of what he did to is friend, and it feels pretty genuine.

The show can be watched on Netflix, and it has a Christmas Special. What is funny is the special is nothing more than Bojack watching a Christmas Special of “Horsin’ Around”. Bojack and Todd make fun of it, but in the end, they actually like the schmaltz. I suppose this is a commentary on our society, because I have been watching Alf, and even though the jokes, plots, and overall premise is dumb, I still enjoyed it. In the case of Bojack Horseman, it is smarter that it seems to be, and this is why it works.

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