"A big part of the show for me is what is the silliest thing I can think of, and then how do we take that really seriously? How do we find the beating heart underneath that?"For the Deconstructed Character Archetype page, go here. One of the main reasons why Bojack Horseman has received much critical and audience attention is its harsh and successful Deconstruction of Hollywood, life, true love, narcissism, depression and the eternal search for happiness.
— Raphael Bob-Waksberg, in an interview with Indiewire
- 100% Adoration Rating: There are no shortcuts to being loved. It's hard, takes a lot of time and work and even then, it might not work out. Furthermore, one's reasons to achieve it might not be good or altruistic at all.
- Bojack, while an abrasive person In-Universe, is fondly remembered as the Horse, the father character in Horsin' Around, a show that was part of everyone's childhoods. Despite his appearance and people often remembering him in an affectionate way, his attitude, especially for those who know him, is a major letdown. His reputation only works as a way to keep his incredibly fragile self-esteem going and his constant interactions imply that people are only willing to meet the guy who played the Horse, not the man himself, often overlooking other achievements of his, or more sympathetic qualities. Despite this, he tries time and again to obtain the love and acceptance of his (few) peers, but his childhood, combined with his narcissism, show that his perception of love and acceptance, as well as his attempts to win or earn it, are too narrow-minded and self-centered to truly work.
- Mr. Peanutbutter is Bojack's rival and a friendly Nice Guy who's constantly positive, cheerful and often tries to lend a hand often in his desire to make everyone happy. His upbeat attitude and willingness to entertain everyone in a Fun Personified style, combined with his personality, which causes people to adore him, make him a great friend and fun to hang around... for a while. In a similar vein to Bojack, the people who interact with him for a short while find him charming, yet these same qualities in greater scope make every single recurring interaction with people difficult, with his attitude often giving others the impression of his optimism as a sign of an oblivious moron or of another shallow celebrity trying to obnoxiously pass off as charming. This is only exacerbated by his constant insensitivity and passive-aggressive behavior, neither of which he intends. To go further, his perception is defined by his Anti-Nihilist and his dark outlook on life, which he deems cruel and meaningless, coupled with a previous, terrible marriage. While his (current) wife, Diane, adores him, she's not above getting exasperated with the constant reinforcement of his version of happiness over hers. To top it all, the one person Mr. Peanutbutter would wish to connect, Bojack, despises him (yet at the same time keeps him around, if only because he doesn't have many other friends).
- On a more plot-related case, Hank Hippopopalous' notoriety and well positioned status is such that when Diane denounces him as a woman abuser, the public's reaction to it range from shock and denial to hate of Diane for even suggesting something like that of Hank to even hate of women, believing them to be the cause of the whole issue for being such "drama queens". Such is the potency of the belief of Hank's innocence that not only does Diane receive death threats and gets no support apart from Bojack and Mr. Peanutbutter, Hank himself gets away scot-free. Lesson, kids: If you're gonna fight a Domestic Abuser, try someone who's poor, powerless and has no PR agent. Or more specifically, someone who's on the same level as you.
- Aesop Amnesia: There are only so many times you can fail to learn your lesson before you screw up irreparably. Bojack's perception of the world has been predicated on the belief that life, especially in the one he had on his old sitcom Horsin' Around, is basically rinse-and-repeat: someone does a bad thing, s/he learns an important lesson and is forgiven by the people around them. This would be fine and well, except he thinks this also applies to real life. While it could be attributed simply to him being a moron or an immature jerk, it's instead shown to be a response to the complexity and overbearingness of real, day-to-day life and how Bojack wishes it would be. Of course, Bojack's ability to forget each lesson he's taught and bad action he has done hasn't stopped others from remembering his misdeeds in painful and resenting detail or calling him out... or refusing to speak to him again... or hating his guts... or just plain sabotaging his chances to become a better person. Part of Bojack's arc is the realization of how this worldview has destroyed most of the good things he once had.
- Animal Stereotypes: While mostly being Played for Laughs, most of the animal characters presented in the show have one or two characteristics that have always been linked to their species and quickly underline how such mixture of characters can create some pretty awkward or even life threatening situations.
- BoJack, being a horse, could be normally expected to be a noble, loyal and steadfast animal. He is all of those things: He is noble, when his flaws and depression are not messing with his attitude. He is loyal, perhaps too loyal even if he doesn't believe in the cause. He is steadfast in the most cynical, soul shattering way. Does any of these qualities help him in any form when trying to improve himself? HA HA HA – No. That could only happen if those qualities had been developed in a positive way.
- Princess Carolyn has all the traits to qualify for Cats Are Mean cred. Or so it seems: She is manipulative when it comes to getting her clients parts, she is plain rude often to get a point across someone, especially if they're messing up and has a pretty cold personality, requirement if a woman's to make it into Hollywoo's alphas. At the same time, however, she has a tender side, she's emotionally needy and she keeps coming back to people who have hurt her repeatedly, much like the reputation actual cats have for being aloof but actually being fairly affectionate animals.
- Mr. Peanutbutter, a yellow Labrador, is happy-go lucky because he doesn't want to face up to the horrible truths of reality, is unpredictable and impulsive while at the same time being too stuck up in his ways to truly change and often wishes to make everyone happy to the point of annoying people. As such, he is often seen as a Fearless Fool or The Ditz despite being somewhat intelligent. He can also be cowed into accepting typical dog obedience orders, stay, go, fetch etc.
- There are plenty of background jokes involving animal habits and instincts that often hide quite dark and depressing messages: a little bird has just hatched in his stroller and suddenly leaves flying while still being a baby; a wolf using a "Sheep" T-shirt approaches an unsuspecting female sheep while a friend tries to get her away, the list goes on.
- Blackmail: Two bird paparazzo take compromising pictures of Bojack and Sarah Lynn making out and decide to squeeze as much money as they can out of it. Not only are they constantly rebuffed and fail to even get in touch with Bojack, when they finally manage to contact his agent and expose their reasons and demands, the tables are turned against them with threats of legal action for a) taking pictures on private property and b) attempted blackmail, with the only way to stop it being delivering the pictures and receiving no compensation at all. All for Nothing, indeed.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Todd is shown to have a lot of skills, to the point of being Renaissance Man material. One particular instance of this is his Rock Opera which Bojack eventually helps him produce, which manages to get a producer interested in the project. However, Todd eventually reveals a weakness: his laziness and addictive nature toward Decapathon, a videogame from his old college years, that eventually cost him his friends, family and education due to his inability to stop playing it. Todd's reinmersion in the videogame causes him to miss the deadline to present the Rock Opera to potential investors and ends up ruining the chances of it ever getting made.
- Catharsis Factor: In BoJack's words, "Closure is a made up thing by Steven Spielberg to sell movie tickets." Real-life drama doesn't wrap up in a neat little package once all is said and done, especially for those living with clinical depression, for whom the simple act of "being happy" is an elusive concept. Therefore, neither do any of the episodes or story arcs, meaning that the tension is never released and the audience, like the character, have that cloud of anxiety hanging over them as the series goes on. Had Herb not rejected BoJack's apology, it would cheapen the message that BoJack owes a lot of people apologies, but he doesn't deserve a single acceptance, whether we want to see him get it or not, and Todd has no choice but to jump to conclusions when BoJack tries to apologize for something which is, ultimately, not his fault for once. Lampshaded by Diane in "One Trick Pony," when she tells Naomi Watts that, while she enjoyed her wedding a lot, she now has to actually live the "happily ever after" part, which has its share of high highs and low lows. The only reason any of the characters got their respective bittersweet endings at the end of season 4 was because they made huge sacrifices to earn them.
- Contractual Genre Blindness: Bojack, being a former TV star, can often predict the way things are going to turn out in a given situation and he is quite savvy about his life, the people around him and his actions. However, he still does what's expected of him because of a stubborn and desperate belief that no matter what he does, the workings of typical cliches will come to his aid or his actions will end up invoking them in Real Life. Needless to say, this turns the advantage of his genre savviness into a flaw.
- Convicted by Public Opinion: Even if Diane had convinced some newspaper or media to believe her and publish an article about Hank Hippopopalous, it's unlikely anyone would believe her (or that Hollywoo wouldn't try covering it up). The public's point of entry (MSNBSea, newspapers and the Hollywoo hype machine) on the case against Hank Hippopopalous are biased or just plain designed to influence the people to swirl to his favor. Not helping is the way Hank is portrayed on media and how people remember him from his own talk show, which only makes them way more inclined to believe a version of reality in which Hippopopalous' wouldn't do such a thing, rather than accept the quandary and judge the morality of his actions at the cost of losing the esteem with which the public once held him. Furthermore, as the case against him recedes, the coverage starts to blindside the public into other themes, as the scandals against Hank and the interest in this fades into obscurity.
- Cutting the Knot: This trope was Joseph Sugarman's Fatal Flaw. He seemingly doesn't have the patience to actually think his actions through and shows a disturbing tendency to choose what that might appear on the surface to be quick and easy solutions to his family's problems, but are incredibility destructive and harmful to those around him. Is the wife struggling with mental illness? Have her lobotomised so you don't have to deal with it again! Is the child sick with a contagious disease? Just burn all of her possessions! Is the said child crying for her lost possessions? Just threaten to give her a lobotomy like her mother. That'll shut her up!
- Doing It for the Art: When Turtletaub vetoes a scene involving Secretariat's shady dealings with Richard Nixon because he wants a more crowd pleasing film, Bojack manages to talk Kelsey into shooting it anyway (going so far as to resort to breaking and entering to get the proper set). Once Turtletaub sees the scene, he should back down right? Well, no. Once Turtletaub finds out, he simply fires Kelsey. He apparently didn't even know of all the illegal stuff involved in the shooting: he fired her for the insubordination alone, which was frankly both necessary and justified. And now that the director is gone, Turtletaub simply replaces her with a hacky Yes-Man director capable of providing the schmaltzy feel good movie Turtletaub wants.
- Freudian Excuse: Crappy things may have happened to you, and those experiences can influence who you become, but it won't earn you an Easily Forgiven card when you hurt others because you are still responsible for your own actions.
- The ending of "It's You" took an axe to this trope; Todd finds out that Bojack slept with Emily, and with it being the very last straw in several greviences against Bojack, confronts the horse about it. Bojack attempts to justify it by saying he was completely drunk. Todd angrily cuts Bojack off and tells him that no matter how much he wants to pin everything that happens on his Dark and Troubled Past, it's extremely selfish of him to use it to justify hurting other people. The lesson here is that, yeah, Bojack's had a tough life (Abusive Parents, broken relationships, tons of trauma, drug abuse issues), but he's still the only one responsible for his shitty choices and actions, especially when hurtful consequences occur.
- Flashbacks in Season Four shows that Beatrice Horseman, Bojack's abusive mother, didn't have a great childhood herself. She was raised by an extremely sexist father who gave her mother a lobotomy when she "couldn't keep her womanly emotions in check" after her grief from their only son Crackerjack being Killed In Action during World War II consumed her. He was also completely unsympathetic when he forced her to burn Beatrice's favorite doll due to her Scarlet Fever, even obliquely threatening the crying Beatrice with a lobotomy of her own if she didn't reign it in. Her father later tried to get her to marry someone for his own financial gain, but she instead wound up marrying Bojack's dad after accidentally becoming pregnant and refusing to abort the baby that would become Bojack, and their marriage soon fell apart in part because of his inability to make money through his writing. That being said, it's made clear that none of that justifies being an Abusive Parent, and despite Bojack acknowleging that she had a lot of bad breaks and ultimately deciding to be the bigger person by willingly ending their relationship on a positive note, he never forgives her.
- Friend or Idol Decision: The choice Bojack made in his past with Horsin' Around had consequences that he'll have to live with. When forced to choose between Friend (supporting his best friend Herb, who got him the job on Horsin' Around in the first place, by threatening to walk if Herb gets fired) or Idol (keeping quiet, thus saving his own skin but getting Herb fired for sure and backstabbing their friendship), Bojack chooses Idol. Bojack keeps quiet, and Herb is fired. While Bojack feels extremely guilty about it, he makes no effort to contact Herb for twenty years, until Bojack finds out Herb is dying of cancer (indeed, Herb was still able to have a successful career afterwards, and his beef is entirely with Bojack cutting off their friendship). Their last meeting before Herb dies sees Herb reject Bojack's apology, and makes it clear that Herb will never forgive Bojack for his decision, even if it made sense at the time.
- Hilariously Abusive Childhood: Beatrice and Butterscotch Horseman, Bojack's parents and pretty much the ones who turned him into what he's today ended up married due to an unexpected pregnancy and Beatrice's unwillingness to abort. There was no love lost between them and each of their shattered dreams and lives fed their increasing resentment of little Bojack. Each one of their "The Reason You Suck" Speeches were just as much as directed to Bojack as to themselves. And even when it's all said and done, each one of them were as screwed and as unhappy as Bojack would become. As mentioned above, Diane's abusive childhood is basically "What if the exactly kind of abuse Meg Griffin suffered from was taken seriously?"
- Love at First Sight: Bojack and Wanda met each other through Pinky and fell in love the first time they talked and laid eyes on each other, which only increases when Bojack finds out that Wanda might be the only woman in all Hollywoo who doesn't know who he is, believing her to be a chance to start anew, since they clearly love each other. This instead blinds them to each other's flaws and different personalities, which only exacerbate the other's life. Eventually, they realize that although they still care about one another, they rushed things and can't be together anymore.
Wanda: It's funny. When you look at someone through rose-colored glasses, all the red flags just look like flags.