CULTURE

How “BoJack Horseman” and “The Good Place” Helped Us Find Humanity in a Broken World

"BoJack" and "The Good Place" may be over, but the lessons they taught us will be important for the rest of our lives.

Two incredible shows—BoJack Horseman and The Good Place—have just released their final episodes, and the Internet is awash with emotion.

Both TV shows revolve around two not-very-good people. The former is about BoJack, a successful Hollywood movie star (and anthropomorphic horse) who struggles with addiction and the demons of his past; the second stars Eleanor Shellstrop, a self-proclaimed "Arizona dirtbag" who lived her life completely devoid of a moral compass, until she died and wound up in a skewed version of heaven.

By the end of both shows, both characters have been put through the ringer—BoJack nearly dies countless times, and Eleanor literally dies multiple times along with the rest of her cast mates—and both have been forced to stare themselves and their pasts in the face, all the while questioning what matters and whether change is possible.


While the shows might be over, they're indicative of a strong bend towards morality, existentialism, and critical thinking in media that can be seen both on the Internet and in culture at large. Socially conscious down to the last excruciating detail, the shows interrogated the consequences of fame and digital culture, redefined comedy, explored the nuances of moral philosophy, and asked its viewers to question the way they were living their lives.

If mass media reflects a culture's internal desires, then perhaps BoJack Horseman and The Good Place reveal that despite all the bad things happening in the world—climate change, gun violence, massive income inequality and the like—people really do want to change.

Despite the trash heaps and dumpster fires that constitute so much of the news, the Internet, and these protagonists' lives, there's a feeling of palpable transformation and change afoot. Sometimes change happens so slowly that you forget to step back and take in the view, but the past few years have seen an explosion of activism and political change. Even online call-out culture—for all its dangers and negative consequences—reveals a mass shift towards intolerance for injustices and cruelty. We can see this frustration reverberating in the real world, thanks to explosion of populist politics around the globe, in the success of Bernie Sanders' campaign, in the rise of #metoo, in the rise of frank conversations about mental illness online, and in the success of fundamentally hopeful plans like the Green New Deal.

That doesn't mean that everyone's more cheerful; if anything, the times are harder than ever. BoJack Horseman and The Good Place reflect this. They're both about characters dealing with their own guilt, traumas, depression, and shame (BoJack goes harder on the depression), processing their own apathy and learning how to move through it. A lot of people have likely had similar revelations of late, as they understand the problems with the ways humans have been living and struggle to figure out new visions of the future. These shows offered empathetic views of human suffering and the trauma that creates it while refusing to forgive its protagonists until they actually change. They also remind us that sometimes you need to let go of unattainable visions and negative people so you can make room for true growth.

Ultimately, we're grateful—for BoJack's starlit, trippy ramblings, for Eleanor and Chidi's universe-bending love, for all the sadness and sorrows and tentative hope their writers let us share in—even though we knew at some point we'd have to let go.


BoJack Horseman and The Good Place are both available to stream on Netflix now.

You know those movies that have been parodied, memed, and referenced so much that you feel like you've seen them–but you never have and, honestly, why would you bother?

You know that at the end of Taxi Driver Travis Bickle may or may not hallucinate a violent episode, and you've seen people dress up in Robert De Niro's utility jacket, black shades, and weird Roman soldier haircut at every Halloween party you've ever attended. You know that Scarface's Tony Montana screams, "Say hello to my little friend" while wearing a suit with giant lapels and holding a machine gun. How do you know this? No, you've never seen the movie; the fact is that the sheer masterpiece of a few key scenes capturing the climax of a film can overshadow the entire production. Sure, you want to sit down to watch them "one day," but you just never get around to it.

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Netflix comedy-bingers are being forced to diversify their comedy diets.

Despite the streaming platform's multi-million dollar deal to keep Friends, Netflix couldn't pull the same strings for the NBC classic The Office. Many fans took to Twitter to vent their dismay, while others praised the Lord, because maybe now people will stop basing their entire personalities on the show.

It's true; there are worthwhile shows other than The Office to fill the void of your empty, meaningless soul. Branch out and explore comedies old and the new! Find new friends through a fictional program! And finally, learn to let go when your imaginary friends outgrow you.

Mike Schur's Staples:

If you're truly an Office fan, then you will have checked out Mike Schur's other ingenious comedy projects. If not, then you're a fraud.

Parks and Recreation

This show is the obvious and safest choice to fill the The Office void in your life. With Parks and Rec, you won't miss the spectacular mockumentary format and the odd but lovable relationships that blossom in the workplace environment. Even better, the show is also set in the Middle of Nowhere, U.S.A. just like The Office!

Parks and Recreation: Chris Pratt Explains The Series In 30 Seconds | Entertainment Weekly www.youtube.com

Runtime: 125 episodes of approximately 22 minutes.

The Good Place

Mike Schur debuted without his writing partner, Greg Daniels, as the only showrunner for The Good Place. The original sitcom king, Ted Danson, flourishes as the "architect" of the version of heaven Ellen Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) is accidentally placed in. Just when the show gets good, it gets better in ways one would never expect. Enjoy!

The Good Place Season 1 Trailer [HD] Kristen Bell, Tiya Sircar, D'Arcy Carden www.youtube.com

Runtime: 39 episodes of approximately 22 minutes. More episodes are coming.

An Oldie, But A Goodie:

Cheers!

Kids these days don't know about the Holy Grail of TV comedy. Ted Danson played the cultural phenomenon Sam Malone, a Red Sox relief pitcher who owned the bar, Cheers! This show practically founded the "will they, won't they" narrative with Sam's iconic on-and-off relationship with Diane (played by Shelley Long), a graduate psychology student turned barmaid. Cheers! became one of the first American sitcoms to explore love and loss while redefining the notion of family— it's simple and epic.

Cheers intro song www.youtube.com

Runtime: 275 episodes of 30 minutes.

Netflix Originals

You'll never have to worry about Netflix originals disappearing off the platform. Choose one of their many original comedies to enjoy, and then petition after Netflix cancels it.

Grace and Frankie

Imagine, your husband of over 40 years takes you out to dinner with his longtime law partner and his partner's wife. You and the wife are hopeful and confident your husbands are going to announce their retirement. Instead, they tell their wives they are leaving them, for each other.

Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin shine as Grace and Frankie, the two wives in their '70s who have no one in their lives who understand their situation except each other. It's an absurd and hilarious effort to showcase the trials of aging women in the modern era, changing family dynamics, and sisterhood.

Grace and Frankie | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix www.youtube.com

Runtime: 65 episodes of a variation of 25-35 minutes. More episodes to come.

Big Mouth

You know that American Doll puberty book you read when you were 12? No? Does that only apply to women? Well, try to imagine a puberty book that came to life as an animated show starring John Mulaney and Nick Kroll. Are you intrigued? Are you already invested? I thought so. Also, Maya Rudolph voices the Hormone Monstress—I probably should've started with that.

Big Mouth | official trailer (2017) www.youtube.com

Runtime: 21 episodes of a variation of 25-46 minutes. More episodes to come.

American Vandal

American Vandal took mockumentaries to a whole new level by deep diving into the world of high school investigative journalism. The show kicks off with the trial of Dylan Maxwell, a troubled high school senior, who is accused of vandalizing 27 vehicles with phallic images (dicks). The true crime satire showcases what it's really like to be a teen today, using social media to propel the story forward in a ridiculous fashion. Netflix may have cancelled the show after its second season, but American Vandal has already earned its cult status.

American Vandal | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix www.youtube.com

Runtime: 16 episodes of a variation of 25-42 minutes.