Bojack Horseman Commentary: There is No Magic Key to Happiness

November 15, 2018

I know you may be thinking “Isn’t this title slightly harsh...” but give me a chance to explain. The world cannot be divided into easily navigable segments, where every question has an answer and every event has a reason. Bojack Horseman depicts the life of an alcoholic, self-loathing, washed-up anthropomorphic horse-man TV star who attempts to regain his reputation and admiration, directly confronts this notion. It addresses the issues that arise when you place your happiness into the hands of uncontrollable and momentary instances of life. If you want to understand the faults in searching for a singular truth about happiness, then keep reading. Otherwise, you can close this tab. (Really though, you can do whatever you want). 

The Pitfalls of Searching for a Key to Being Happy

There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to be happy. I mean, most everyone wants to find happiness, often in some form of validation. The problem that I personally observe is the expectation that happiness is an end goal. Many people, including myself, believe that something will make us happy: whether it’s getting your dream job or finding that special someone or purchasing a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts, although they may come close, none of these outcomes will result in a perpetual state of happiness. The belief that happiness is a destination is not only false but also dangerous. It leads people towards a cycle of the constant need for achievement and that eventually one of those prizes will lead to lifetime happiness. But this idealization of how life works will only keep you in waiting for validation and alleviation that will never come.

Seeing Life as Moments in Time

“Well, I don't believe in endings. I think you can fall in love and get married, and you can have a wonderful wedding, but then you still have to wake up the next morning and you're still you. Like, you can have the worst day of your life, but then the next day won't be the worst day of your life. And I think it works in a positive and a negative, that all these things that happen are moments in time.” 
   - Raphel Bob-Waksberg, Creator of Bojack Horseman

Bob-Waksberg explains his perspective on life and that happiness lies in the realm of the journey over the destination. I think that shifting one’s understanding and interaction with life as moments in time will produce the ability to find peace within and escape the cycle of a need for fulfillment. Once you realize and let go of the notion that happiness can be static and maintained through an achievement, then you will be able to live more freely and honestly. You will be able to live without restraints and an immense pressure that you should be happy or intruding thoughts like, “why isn’t this making me happy?” Moving beyond this black and white construction of life, will actually let you find satisfaction with your life as it truly is rather than an idealization of what it should be. 

Happiness Understood by Bojack Horseman Characters

“I don’t know what to tell you. I’m happy for the first time in my life and I’m not gonna feel bad about it. It takes a long time to realise how truly miserable you are and even longer to see it doesn’t have to be that way. Only after you give up everything can you begin to find a way to be happy.” 
    - Cuddlywhiskers 

In season 3, Cuddlywhiskers shares his experiences about winning an Oscar for his TV show, but quickly he discovers that it doesn’t make him happy or fill the void. He explains his final realization that he will not find solace in anything as a product of his feelings or actions or art. He understands that happiness is not an end-game and the need to release himself from this grudge. Once he finally gives up everything, especially the pressure of an eventual and permanent state of happiness, he could finally begin to find peace in life and in himself.  

“It’s not about being happy, that is the thing. I’m just trying to get through each day. I can’t keep asking myself, “Am I happy?” It just makes me more miserable. I don’t know If I believe in it, real lasting happiness, All those perky, well-adjusted people you see in movies and TV shows? I don’t think they exist.”
Diane Nyugen

Diane already realized the constant monitoring of her happiness actually leads to a lack of happiness and often depressive states. But she needs to recognize that life is a spectrum filled with moments in time and that searching for ultimate happiness isn’t attainable. Diane has overcome the first hurdle, but she needs to prepare herself for the second jump; life is a series of ups and downs. The premise of moments of time presents life as a wave of highs and lows and that it is on-going with no end of lasting happiness. She will never find herself happy for a fixed amount of time, but rather varying lengths of time. That is until, a  naturally fall downward, which means an eventually upward curve on the positive end of the spectrum. 

Happiness is not a state of mind or a product of gaining a desired achievement. The key to being happy is to let go of the idea that something will ultimately make you happy. Life is a series of ups and downs where all we can hope to do is enjoy the ride and find peace among the waves.