- The following is a review of Bojack Horseman season 3. No Spoilers
I remember my mom comforting me while trying not to laugh when I was about 9, crying like only a 9-year-old can. I don’t blame her, though. It’s not often you have to comfort a kid about the Penguin’s death scene in Batman Returns. Watching Danny DeVito’s razor-toothed mouth ooze with black goo before being ushered to a watery grave by his fellow penguins wasn’t exactly a comical scene (though it was one following Christopher Walken being electrocuted by a kiss, so, you know, comic book movies), but it wasn’t “I’ll never let go, Jack”, either. Still, something about the Penguin, who just wanted to have a family and be loved, who was poisoned by his need, who couldn’t see that his true family of penguins already loved him, was heartbreaking to me, even as a kid. Even now. Weirdly dark, moving and beautiful, in a way I don’t often recognize from Tim Burton anymore. It’s a twisted tale wrapped in the perfect delivery system for a child my age: a Batman movie.
Now that I’m 30, that delivery system is a cartoon.
When Bojack Horseman Season 3 came to a close, I relieved that Penguin moment for the first time. Once again, I was a bawling puddle for about 30 minutes. The only difference: no mother to comfort me this time (though, to her credit, she probably would have if I asked, probably once more holding back her laughter with mixed results).
Bojack Horseman is an adult flavored cartoon series on Netflix about an anthropomorphic horse who, back in the 90’s, was on a very famous TV show. Now a washed up celebrity, he struggles to find meaning and importance through destructive decisions and the pursuit of the selfish and vain desire to be loved once more by the Hollywood system. If they love him, maybe then he can love himself. Along for the ride are his agent, Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris), his roommate/couch crasher, Todd (Aaron Paul), his television rival, Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins), and his writer/friend/it’s complicated, Diane (Alison Brie).
As I pointed out Tuesday, I hate writing blanket praise. It’s much harder than constructive criticism (and even harder when you don’t want to spoil the material for others hoping to watch), but there is something to be said of a show that can pull on your heart strings and make you care this much about talking animals in Hollywoo. For a show in two dimensions, it’s got more depth than most live action series on TV. Its themes, its characters, its ability to juggle animal puns and goofy slapstick humor with soul wrenching drama that all feels true to the tone; it’s just great. When you first become invested in these characters, you feel safely removed; after all, they’re cartoon animals. But before you know it, you’re absorbed in their struggles because they betray a depth of heart unlike anything I’ve seen before.
Well, since I was 9, I guess. But I’m not even sure if that’s what Mr. Burton was going for.
Entertainment has a way of getting my guard down, so its emotional moments become all the more resonant for me. And I love that it was a cartoon that could do this, showing how much animation has to give to the entertainment world. But really, I find that shows like Bojack go beyond being entertainment. I honestly think it’s an important show, for me at least. It’s the one I relate to in the here and now. Back in the day, that honor belonged to Danny Devito in a plastic duck. A kid that just wanted love, that started lashing out because he didn’t understand how to get it or even earn it. Maybe that kid never grew up or learned how. Something like that unearths a truth that left my pillow still wet when Jena got home.
Whatever, don’t judge me. To quote this guy:
It’s still real to me, dammit.