‘BoJack Horseman’: Anthropomorphized Calvinist?

‘BoJack Horseman’: Anthropomorphized Calvinist?

I won’t actually make the point suggested in the headline. It just seemed like an SEO dream.

I’ve been rewatching the aforeheadlined show recently in anticipation of the third season. Plenty of people have understandably spilled ink discussing the show’s portrayal of depression of “Bojack Horseman.” However, I think there’s more to it. I’ve realized this show represents total depravity and the God-shaped void better than just about anything else I’ve seen. Or it more accurately represents the personal and psychological consequences of such idol worship, no small feat considering it’s an animated show about a reverse-Centaur living as washed-up actor in Hollywoo (editor: that misspelling is deliberate please don’t publish that misspelling is deliberate).

“Total depravity,” a phrase coined by—I want to say Rob Bell at the Council of Trent, means we are all slaves to sin or something like that. We cannot save ourselves from our penchant for evil. Or, as BoJack’s (obviously Reformed) mother Beatrice says, “You were born broken.”

The God-shaped void, coined by—let’s say me, refers to our inclination for idol worship. We’ll only find peace and satisfaction when we pursue God, yet we constantly pursue everything else in this world instead. In BoJack we see a character regularly galloping toward his vices, vices that serve as offerings to his idol of self.

The over-sexed, envious, gluttonous, angry, and arrogant titular character regularly exhibits all sorts of fatal sins that someone should probably categorize. In spite of the regret these transgressions produce, he can’t help but continue chasing them (his justifiable honeydew hatred notwithstanding). The titular character even refers to the “so predictably BoJack spiral of self-loathing and substance abuse.” This manifests itself in (among other things) days lost thanks to drugs or alcohol, sabotaging friends’ careers, and a surprising amount of attempted affairs.

Despite all this, he yearns to be liked by everyone (or just anyone). BoJack consistently, albeit at times ham-hoofedly (“I need you to tell me I’m a good person”), seeks validation from the world. Validation he rarely receives. As occasional girlfriend and agent Princess Carolyn puts it: “I don’t know how you can expect anyone else to love you when you so clearly hate yourself.” It’s a self he can’t help but hate and worship simultaneously.

The ghost writer penning BoJack’s autobiography constantly pokes and prods to get at the “real” BoJack, which BoJack continues to bury. Perhaps BoJack has a fear of being fully known, but not fully loved? Or maybe BoJack realizes that what we see is the “real” BoJack: A loathsome thing who lives to serve himself. Nothing redeeming exists under the surface, because nothing exists under the surface. BoJack has spent his adult life worshiping an empty vessel. Of course he’s almost never happy.

BoJack’s fleeting moments of satisfaction (I daren’t say happiness) typically occur when he seeks something relatively outside of himself. However, neither the “right” acting role, the “right” relationship, nor the “right” self-improvement method ever seem to fill that void in his heart.

Now, does that mean BoJack will experience a Marlin Luther-esque awakening and finally embrace the Lamb of God in season three? No, no I don’t think that’s what creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg is going for. But it seems like someone in the show should pass along some literature by John Sandpiper or C.S. Ewes.

Brian Willett is a research assistant for The Transom and the publisher of fwd, a daily tech newsletter. He lives in Birmingham, Alabama and tweets sporadically @brianjwillett
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