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'BoJack Horseman,' Depression & Getting Help

Let’s talk about how an animated horse can teach you about getting help.

BoJack Horseman, Season Two, Episode Twelve

I’ve been avidly watching BoJack Horseman on Netflix since the first season was released back in 2014. When the subsequent seasons were released, I binged all the new episodes within a couple of days.

A lot of modern animation tackles very serious topics or has them lurking in the background, such as how Rick and Morty pervades nihilism in every episode. Since I took too many classes about analyzing literature, I can’t resist digging into the deeper messages in the things I watch. There are dozens of different ways that BoJack Horseman addresses social issues and challenges of mental health, but I’d like to focus on some of the smaller messages about getting help.

Back in the second season, we regularly saw a minor recurring character who has been nicknamed jogging baboon by fans of the series. He’s seen jogging uphill and downhill outside of BoJack’s luxurious Hollywood mansion. He’s a background character for much of the series, but he suddenly rises to prominence in the season finale. In the last few frames of the season, BoJack lays down on the ground, gasping for breath after jogging a very short distance. The jogging baboon pauses, not in the slightest bit breathless, and goes over to BoJack to share some wise words.

“It gets easier… 
Every day, it gets a little easier. But you gotta do it every day — that’s the hard part. But it does get easier.”

BoJack Horseman, Season Two, Episode Twelve

The brief presence of this character stuck with me for two reasons. The less important reason is that I tried daily jogging that summer before watching BoJack. Note; I say summer. By the time I was watching this series in the fall and getting floored by the sheer amount of symbolism in the series, I had stopped my daily jogging and felt that little nagging guilt in the back of my mind every time I saw this very consistent baboon. That put him on my radar. However, the second reason his presence stuck with me is that he pops up in the season finale and says some very profound words.

BoJack Horseman has been described as "the saddest comedy you'll ever see," and those words aren't wrong. This is a series that tackles bigger issues while still giving the audience a main character they can sympathize with.

I’m Going to Skip Ahead to Season Five Now

BoJack Horseman, Season Two, Episode Twelve

We don’t see our dedicated jogging friend at all in this season, which does make you wonder what might have happened to him since he is clearly an older character. Has his health failed and he’s moved into assisted living? Or something worse?

Either way, without giving too many season five spoilers away, this arc of BoJack Horseman is all about accepting that sometimes, you can’t fix yourself on your own, you need the help of others. With BoJack making mistakes that outweigh even some of the very poor decisions he made back in season three, we see him sink even farther down than he has before.

However, even though he’s getting worse and worse, finding himself in circumstances even more terrible than before, he’s trying to help himself. In the past, we saw BoJack trying to take up jogging, we see him get a reassuring message that doesn’t quite stick. Throughout season five, we see BoJack trying to get his drinking under control. BoJack realizes that he has a wealth of problems and decides to work on fixing one of them by restricting himself to a certain amount of alcohol per day.

BoJack Horseman, Season Five, Episode One

We see him struggling to keep in line with this self-imposed limit. At one point, we see him waiting until midnight to drink the next day’s allotment. At another, he starts chugging from the bottle with no regard to the idea of controlling his drinking.

With his alcoholism and newfound opioid dependency rendering him entirely unable to function, finally, in the season finale, BoJack goes to rehab, brought there by Diane. Referring to Diane as a friend is a complicated word to choose at this point, but whether you focus on the platonic or romantic turns their relationship had taken, at the end of the day, it’s still a relationship that BoJack has at least tried to repair. With his alcoholism out of control, his mind in disarray, and his newfound opioid dependency out of hand, he finally makes the decision to get professional help.

This message is important for viewers, whether you’re struggling with physical or mental health issues. Both types of issues deserve to be treated with the same level of concern. BoJack’s problems are extreme and at first, you may not think you’re going to learn something when he’s reaching new all-time lows. I do think it’s very bold for the writers of BoJack Horseman to address the opioid epidemic in such a direct way, but that’s a story and analysis for another day. If you're interested in finding out just how common opioid dependency is in America today, this report from Johns Hopkins Medicine has some dark details on the issue. BoJack's problems are extreme, but not as uncommon as one might think.

BoJack is making the effort to try and get better, but instead, he’s getting worse.

BoJack Horseman, Season Two, Episode Twelve

It takes a colossal break for him to realize that he does need to get professional help. If you’re dealing with depression, anxiety, or any other kind of issue, there’s a lesson to be had here. 

We can try to make ourselves better on our own, but having close friends and family aware of the trials you’re facing and supporting you can be a huge help.

If the troubles we’re facing are too severe to fix with our own efforts and support from loved ones, then turning toward professional help with a doctor or therapist can be the best choice to make. 

The message from this finale is that you can make the choice to seek help before you’ve reached your own all-time low.

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