#ThinkpieceThursday- Bojack Horseman: Can a character truly be beyond redemption?
Each Character Type has unique flaws that can drag them down, and can be overcome to create a satisfying story – Protagonist has a problem, their traits make things more difficult, they overcome those character traits to resolve their conflict, etc.
But what if your character tries to redeem themselves and fails so many times in ways that are harmful to others, that they can never truly be redeemed? To examine this, we’ll be looking at the Netflix adult animation Bojack Horseman. Be advised that MAJOR SPOILERS follow for all four seasons of the show.
Bojack Horseman (voiced by Will Arnett) is Power of Ambition, but the front that he puts on is so typically Power of Excitement that it is initially hard to determine which type he is. His party-loving ways seem like Power of Excitement behaviour, but deep down all his wants is to be liked, and to be successful again.
Bojack is a washed-up actor famed for his role on a network family sitcom back in the 90’s. Now he just drinks and makes the lives of those around him- agent Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris), rival Mister Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins), roommate Todd (Aaron Paul) and biographer Diane Nguyen (Alison Brie)- a living hell. Bojack is aware of his deep insecurities and reckless behaviour and manages to ruin the constant shots at redemption that come his way.
Many characters that seem irredeemable never actually try to fix themselves. But Bojack has attempted on multiple occasions to get his life back on track, even abandon Hollywood and live a quiet life, but every time he tries this it ends in disaster and he returns to his miserable bachelor pad near the Hollywood sign.
Most notably he tries to seduce the underage daughter on a woman he once loved, and in a later season, he upsets a man who fixes up Bojack’s decrepit country house while mourning the death of his wife. Even his shots at rehabilitation and growth end in disaster. At some point, an audience must realise that no matter what, a character will never truly change.
Bojack discovers he has a sister, a young woman in his life that he has neglected up until that revelation. It seems like he has found someone to care for, and who may be a positive influence on him, but the viewer is left knowing that inevitably Bojack will destroy the relationship in some unforgivable way.
There are only so many times he can get himself clean of drugs and alcohol, and claim to be thinking of anyone but himself. He is a self-loathing narcissist who may experience profound revelations but never acts on them, and likely never will.
I cannot think of another show willing to show a character is such a self-destructive cycle, especially because the rug is always pulled from underneath our feet. Bojack may never change, but even though he tries- and effort should be commended- he is arguably worse than those that never try.
They may have a shot at redemption, but unwillingness holds them back. Bojack is willing to try, but he is his own worst enemy, and perhaps is truly irredeemable. I’d like to see more writers taking such a risk with their characters, especially ones as amusing as Bojack Horseman.