Let’s Talk About… Why Bojack Horseman is A Horse(man)

Will Arnett in "BoJack Horseman."

Given the name of the show, the question of why Bojack Horseman is half-horse, half-man may seem a little self-explanatory. Beneath the obvious denotation of Bojack’s name, however, you will find layers of clever satire and commentary of modern Hollywood and our own animal nature.

In the show, Hollywoo is filled with a mix of cartoon animals and cartoon people. The two recurring human characters Dianne and Todd, arguably undergo the most character development on the show. The animals, on the other hand, seem to be doomed to fulfill a Hollywood archetype. Mr. Peanutbutter the golden retriever is limited to his happy-go-lucky “Mr. Nice guy” personality. Princess Caroline, however, is constantly trying to please those around her in her role as a Hollywood agent. Finally, we have Bojack Horseman, a horse whose entire domain is a hyperbolic take on “why the long face?” jokes.

There are all sorts of metaphors that can be linked to Bojack being a horse. For one, he is the embodiment of a “one-trick pony.” He had one successful role back in the ’90s and now he is forever haunted by his achievement and seems to be unable to move forward or accomplish anything else. Furthermore, racehorses notoriously run in circles, never actually getting anywhere. This is perhaps a fitting metaphor for Bojack’s position in Hollywood.

Beyond this though, there is something about Bojack being a horse which makes the show somehow palatable. If Bojack was a middle-aged man with a human face, watching him consistently abuse the people around him and repeat the same mistakes would be unbearably exhausting. There are certain storylines that would perhaps render Bojack the man irredeemable as a character. And yet because Bojack is an oddly charming cartoon horse, we continue to endure his atrocious behavior and self-deprecation. Is this a commentary on how we as an audience consume Hollywood drama? Are we being fooled?

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Regardless, Bojack as an animal makes the show aesthetically unique and opens the floor to metaphorical interpretation. Perhaps these links are tenuous, but the fact that Bojack is a strange half-horse half-man hybrid allows us to entertain these questions.