In an age where media lacks accurate representations of mental illness, trauma, and the complicated nature of personal relationships, BoJack Horseman is both a breath of fresh air and a terrifying view into subjects many of us refuse to deal with.
While BoJack’s personal trauma from his abusive parents and what is (most likely) undiagnosed Borderline Personality Disorder isn’t “new,” with him now working on a new TV show our hopes of normalcy and stability are destroyed. Certainly, my own expectations of lessening his alcohol dependency and increased range of emotion were undermined. BoJack himself seems to understand how what most would think of as a saving grace turns out to be the very thing that causes his fragile mental state to shatter. While talking to his temporary love interest, he details a common problem that arises when many people challenging schedules begin medications; when his filming schedule bleeds together night and day, it’s hard to know when “morning” is. Unable to get help, Bojack is left to us own insufficient devices.
One of the unresolved problems from seasons previous was BoJack’s demented mother, her mental state rendering BoJack unable to receiving closure for the years of emotional abuse from his parents. Heartbroken and crying, I watched as BoJack delivered a twenty-five-minute eulogy to one of the most pivotal characters in the series: Beatrice Elizabeth Horseman. Arguably the most heartbreaking episode, we see years of emotional trauma, mental illness, and searing pain from anger, spoken in BoJack’s signature sad, monotone voice. As someone who recently lost a family member many I know would call “morally questionable,” every part of it hit home; the sad laughter of good times, the words that seemed to move in slow motion as the speaker almost veers into tales of missed childhood concerts, drunken rants, and superiority complexes. A large part of the eulogy is BoJack talking about never feeling good enough for his mother and his eventual apathy that led to a downward spiral in his personal standards for interpersonal relationships and for himself. A rare moment of genuine vulnerability on the part of BoJack, we finally have a moment to process the trauma that permeates his being.
Season Five also dives deeper into Princess Carolyn’s adoption and fertility issues. Her desperation to become a mother is heartbreaking, especially as we watch the rest of her life seem to crumble around her. Whether her motivations to become a mother are ethically sound, there’s a new side of Princess Carolyn we hadn’t seen before: her childhood. She grew up poor with an alcoholic mother hellbent on stunting her daughter’s hopes and dreams of moving up the social ladder. During her teen years, we learn that CP had a fleeting romance with the son of the rich family her family worked for. Soon she ended up pregnant.
In other shows, in other stories, it’s possible that would’ve been the end of Princess Carolyn. Fortunately for her, though, the family promises to take care of her for the rest of her life: money, access, social status, and - most importantly - a stable husband and family for her and her unborn child. That all came crashing down, though, as Princess Carolyn suffers a miscarriage and all her ties to her seemingly-secure future are severed.
In short, we see another side of her rush to have a child, as we now understand that in her mind “baby” and “success” are synonymous.
In conclusion, while season five continues to deliver on all the things we normally love about BoJack Horseman (attention to detail in the animation, character development, dialogue, and catchy end-theme), this season, in particular, brings out something emotional in the viewer past seasons haven’t.