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Art in Bojack

by Jaime Rosas


What at first glimpse seems to be yet another mature cartoon comedy, as the plot develops into a drama that criticizes the morals and the hypocrisy within our society  The story of Bojack horseman uses art references to make users empatice with the specific scenes and characters  throughout the show. 


The premise is that Bojack was a famous TV star in the nineties who's trying to return to the spotlight with a ghostwritten autobiography.  Within the first season, a common setting is his home office, where we can see the Bojack adaptation of David Hockey's "Portrait of an Artist", The painting is a  perfect representation of his hedonistic, self-centered lifestyle up to that point. The art piece was created by Hockey after a breakup found him struggling with depression, something that we later find out to be  also a reality for Bojack whenever any of his relations come to an end. Soon after, we get to see his bedroom. Resting over his bed we can see an interpretation of "the Marylin series" by Andy Warhol. This artwork was created by Warhol following the passing of Marylin Monroe and served the purpose of criticizing how the media and the celebrity lifestyle takes a toll on their mental sanity, this in a way, mirrors the reality of Bojack Horseman as we later find out how he picked up his drinking habits in the television set of “horsin around” and his drug addiction from people in the entertainment industry and used it as a way to cope with the anxiety caused by constantly being on the public eye.

Later in the series, we learn about Bojack's mentor figure and creator of Bojack's show “horsin’ around” who's relationship dates back to the early 90s is gay, a time where being of that orientation was taboo. This scenario is complimented with an art piece by Keith Haring, an eighties New York artist who often addressed political and social themes around homosexuality. As the media finds out about Herb's sexuality and starts a crusade against him, Herb asks Bojack to threaten producers with his departure if his friend is removed from the writing team, however, Bojack is persuaded by one of the producers to carry on without his friend. In one of the scenes in Herb's office we can see a Jean Michel Basquiat painting, Basquiat was as well close friends with previously mentioned Haring. Bojack and Herb’s come up relationship mirror the one Haring and Basquiat had in the streets of Brooklyn as graffiti artists, Bojack and Herb start off small like Basquiat and Haring practice stand up in L.A. before making it big just like Basquiat and Haring as they transitioned from the streets in to galleries.

As Bojack Horseman returns to the spotlight with a new movie, he tours around film festivals with his girlfriend, this relation being on its last leg.The painting "figure at the seaside" by Picasso, is used to represent their relationship, a crude and bizarre relation that has lost desire for each other, past its expiration date. Furthering how bojack can be affected by relationships and often being afraid of ending them.

As he returns to the "hollywoo" spotlight, Bojack gets to experience the privileges of being a celebrity in a capitalist society. In contrast to this reality, we can see the "Man Loading Donkey with Firewood" by Diego Rivera, a depiction of a field worker of rural Mexico done by a member of the Mexican communist party hanging on the wall of a high-end restaurant. The irony of how a painting made by a communist is being used to adorn this lavish and splendorous scene totally opposing Rivera’s intentions materialize the parasitic relationship between  Bojack and “hollywoo”. After the publishing of Bojack's biography Diane marries Mr. Peanut Butter, a well-liked tv star that had a smoother transition to the current celebrity status unlike the struggling reality of Bojack. Mr. Peanutbutter attempts to branch out of the entertainment industry into politics by running for the Governor of California leaving quality time with his wife Diane being almost nonexistent. When she confronts Mr. Peanut Butter about this situation, we can see "the Kiss" by Gustav Klimt. The painting talks about the finding of elemental feelings during the industrial revolution in Austria, mirroring the situation of the fast changing relation to new time consuming aspirations . The marriage could not overcome this adversity   and resulted in a divorce and Diane moving into a smaller apartment in a less luxurious part of Los Angeles. In an attempt to Dress up the hole in the wall that is her new apartment, Diane hangs up "The Japanese Footbridge" by Claude Monet, this art piece was painted in Monet’s dream estate in Giverny, counterposing the less ideal reality that Diane was facing after her divorce.

As Diane was facing this, Bojack kept struggling with self-control and harming habits ultimately seeking help by checking in to rehab, in his new room we can see a Van Gogh self-portrait. Vincent being represented as a goat Symbolizing the madness they both were struggling with when they finally reached out for help. Both Bojack and Van Gogh struggled establishing and fostering friendships and love relations as well as with substance abuse leading them to seek help voluntarily at one point of their lives.

Once in rehab, Bojack helps his roommate, Jameson H., sneaks

 out so that she can go to her boyfriend's house, where she witnesses her boyfriend cheating on her. In the background"Frida Kahlo on White Bench" by Nikolas Murray, is used to represent the love affair that they had while Frida was married. Bojack returns to rehab where he takes his time to heal and grow as a person. However, he grows too accustomed to this 'safe haven' of rehab and ends up being afraid of moving forward and going back to regular life. Due to this, his therapist confronts him by saying that Bojack has to move on. While this happens, we can see a new Van Gogh self-portrait, "Self-Portrait With a Bandaged Ear". Usually every artwork referenced on the show is done by substituting humans with animals, but this one is more loyal to the original piece, showing van Gogh after one of his most famous episodes, witnessing his true self. This clarity of self in the painting represents the milestone that Bojack has achieved, healing emotional scars made by people during his childhood plus the traumas that resulted constantly being under the public eye. Traumas and scars that were once coped with unhealthy habits.

Bojack Horseman's plot evolves as the story develops, but a constant reminder of the maturity that awaits at the climax of the story is set by the raw and accurate art references that can help the viewer gain a further understanding of this story and its main character. With these artworks, we get to see the reality of a celebrity and their struggles in life.

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