Bojack Horseman and Depression

The Netflix Original TV Show Bojack Horseman appears to be a funny, lighthearted comedy, like Family Guy, or The Simpsons. However, it dives into extremely deep and real subject matter such as depression, addiction, and love. The main character in this show is a former Hollywood Star, and current B-List actor, who struggles with depression, resorts to substance abuse, and feels isolated. 

The obvious irony of this show is that while it appears to be set in a completely different dimension on the surface, with talking animals and humans coexisting, the emotions and struggles of the characters are the same as ones we may all face at some point in our lives. These dramatic, realistic dilemmas that we may even relate to are offset by frequent puns or jokes that may be over the top or remind you that this is taking place in a fictional world. The main dilemma of this show is not the fact that Bojack was an A-list actor and is now taking small roles, but it is how he is facing mental illness in a way that is extremely realistic and honest. It shows him at his highest and lowest points, but always reinforces that mental health is not something that is completely reliant on success, and aspects of your childhood will shape you as an adult. 

The main lesson that I think the creator wants us to take from this show is that mental health cannot be bought, or found through drugs, alcohol, or sex. Depression, especially in the case of Bojack, is a chemical imbalance in the brain and will still be present even in times of success, love, or substance induced euphoria. We can take the main characters attempts to use unhealthy outlets to cure his unhappiness as lessons that this is not a viable solution.

SNL ¨Subsitute Teacher¨

The SNL skit ¨Subsitute Teacher¨ is about how substitute teachers always come into the classroom with the goal to be able to relate to a class of young teens. And by relating to them the teacher uses hip hop to connect to the students to understand the music of the orchestra. The plan that he comes up with does not work since there have been many teachers just like him who come into the class to build connections with he students using the exact same method that makes all the kids embrace by him resulting in him being kicked out the class.

The comedy behind the skit is that older people always treat younger people as if they are from two different worlds as if when they were there age people did not do the same towards them. The skit also shows how it combines all young teens to be interested in rap music as if we all were based on one set of styles. The skit also makes fun of the idea that any substitute teacher is trying to be the person that changes the ideology of a group of trouble kids for the better through there own likes to get them to see a bigger picture. The skit also makes a mockery of the quiet student and how they are to themselves but in the skit, the student that seemed quiet was more embarrassed by the teacher than anything else. The skit uses comedy to bring up situations that all high school students deal with but in a more comedic manner that puts a smile on the audiences face to not just make them laugh but to also show that everyone has had a similar situation in there lives as well no matter the age and makes the awkward moment of a teacher and student relationship more relatable and normal.

Rachel and Nick Defy the Bounds of Class

The movie Crazy Rich Asians is a perfect example of a rising-in-status comedy. While it is light-hearted and humorous it also has some much deeper moments and fulfilling character development. As Rachel and Nick come from their own very different worlds and fall in love, a point is made about how people from differing social classes and families can form a connection.

At the beginning of this movie, Rachel is an American economics professor who is dating Nick in the United States. She comes from a middle to low class family and her father does not seem to be in the picture. Later in the movie, she discovers that her boyfriend, Nick, actually comes from an extremely wealthy dynasty in Singapore. Through meeting all of the ridiculous members of his prestigious family, Rachel rises to a seemingly wealthier status and ponders whether she is cut out for this lifestyle.

The humor in this movie is very well utilized. The funny moments are mainly present in the dialogue of Rachel’s best friend (played by Akwafina) and her family. By inserting this humor into a plot and group of characters that weren’t the main one, the movie has laughable moments, while also maintaining the gravity and depth of the main conflict. When I watched this, I loved how I was able to feel with Rachel and Nick during one scene and quickly transition into hysterical laughter during the next one. 

The ending is, of course, a happy one. Nick and Rachel are engaged and Rachel has found peace with most of the members of Nick’s family. Along with this, she resolves to stick-it-out in Nick’s lifestyle as long as she can be with Nick. While Rachel rises in status in terms of class, she also rises in her love for Nick, and in an overall understanding of herself and her values.

Stefon: An Unexpected Love Story for the Ages

We have all heard of SNL. The long running late night comedy show has been running for about four decades and offers comedy in many forms such as satire, sketches, news updates, and more. One of the most popular story lines, however, is that of a guest star on weekend update: Stefon.

When Seth Meyers hosted Weekend Update, Stefon came on as a guide to New York City, offering crazy tourist advice covering parties, activities, and food. But Stefon became way more than just a side character, as the skit went on to receive multiple reiterations and formed into a full blown story.

Dramatic Comedy as applied to Aristotle’s definition (at the least) is a meaningful art form because it allows us to see humanity in exaggerated circumstances, and it is open enough to shape to what society wants. Stefon is an extremely exaggerated character, pointing out the almost absurd hipster customs and lifestyles of certain New Yorkers, as well as mocking the way they talk and dress. But despite the completely ridiculous satirical sketches, the audience started to become very connected to Stefon as a character, specifically when it came to his relationship with Seth Meyers. As the seasons went on, people watching the show recognized a flirtatious attitude forming between Stefon and Seth Meyers. Noticing this, the skits started to shape towards that potential romance. And in the pair, the audience members found a story to hold on to. Stefon as a concept is funny on his own, with the talents of Bill Hader and the writing of John Mulaney supporting the character, but he is also very human. And, what started as just a characterization, turned into a comic hero, with the story reflecting what society wanted.

What is so cool about this “dramatic comedy”, is that the story was never set in stone, perhaps because it was never really supposed to be a full story. But, as the sketch went on, and the people responded, a story was created out of it. Because of this, a very real very natural romantic comedy was formed out of almost nothing. And what is also wonderful about this example is the writers/actors ran with it. The comedic form is very open, and allows for these kinds of spur of the moment twists and changes. Stefon could have just stayed a simple side character, but instead turned into a whole character with a love interest and, (spoilers) in the end, a husband. When Bill Hader left the show, the writers concluded the skit the way it had built up until that point, with a dramatic episode ending in the marriage of Stefon and Seth.

Why We Need Comedians Like Wanda Sykes…and More Inclusive Specials

While I was thinking of different movies and shows to choose from, I realized that a lot of my favorite humor has come from stand-up specials and old SNL sketches this past year (and they are about the same length as movies at this point so I consider that long-form). As Netflix and Amazon have been making a more conscious effort to include original stand-ups from womxn and people of color, I’ve watched a lot of them. The comedy realm is yet another world, profession, and space in Hollywood that has become dominated by white cis males over the years. While most people can recognize comedic veterans like Robin Williams, Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, and Colin Jost, a lot would struggle to put a face to names like Chelsea Handler, Tiffany Haddish, Aidy Bryant, Wanda Sykes, Ali Wong, Iliza Shlesinger, Lily Singh, Samantha Bee, Ilana Glazer…and while the list could go on forever. In this sense, I think comedy is one of the most powerful mediums in understanding the human condition. While there is still a long way to go in giving representation to everyone, it gives a voice and a stage to people who might not get one otherwise. We get to hear- and most importantly laugh at- experiences specific to genders/races that are different from us. And stand-up specials adhere to the definition of comedy because they are a form of reflection after a life-changing event where the comedian is a better person afterwards.

Given the current political climate, many comedians have used their shows as a chance to speak out against injustices. They use careful humor as a way to shed light on political issues and encourage people to vote (i.e Ilana Glazer in “The Planet is Burning, and Dave Chapelle in Sticks and Stones). But my favorite example from this past year is Wanda Sykes in her special “Not Normal”. Sykes- a regular on Curb Your Enthusiasm- has spent a lot of her career commenting on politics. She was even the first African American womxn to host the Correspondents Association dinner. Her pushback against Trump is smart, funny, and increasingly relevant. She educates her viewers, and shares a point of view we rarely see in comedy, let alone in Hollywood. As a female of color and a part of the LGBTQ+ community, Sykes has shown how important it is to use a platform of fame wisely and what we can learn from it. This is why we need comedy and it’s also why we need representation; we need to learn about experiences that are different from ours and have alternative outlets of educating ourselves. And we need someone with a platform to call out corrupt politicians like Trump, and humor is a great way to do that.

“Love Actually” as a Treatment for Society

2003’s “Love Actually” is a heartwarming romantic comedy revolving around many British characters of various social and economic groups during the holidays. With how wide of a net it casts romantically, it has something for everyone to slightly relate to. The movie follows roughly nine subplots all seamlessly intertwined with one another without barging in, but for the sake of understanding the importance of comedy, the plots to follow are between Harry and Karen.

Harry, played by Alan Rickman, is a high ranking director of a design agency and happily married to Karen, played by Emma Thompson. Karen stays at home to look after their children while Harry works in the office. A new secretary named Mia (played by Heike Makatsch) is hired at the office, and immediately begins to show attention to Harry. Throughout this plot, Harry grows increasingly more fond of Mia and begins to have an affair with her, despite having a wife and children. His wife catches on during Christmas where she expected to receive a necklace that she found in Harry’s jacket, but instead receives a CD. She soon finds out about the affair, but decides to think of her kids and stay with Harry. The reason why this plot is so significant is because it uses comedy to normalize familial trauma and difficulties. By using comedy, Love Actually, removes the stigma from the conversation of divorce and infidelity. It starts a conversation by not putting the conflict between Harry and Karen in a dark depressive tone, but instead a comedically tragic one. Comedy, in general, but specifically in this case, is necessary for society because it helps us process and eventually accept pain. While this comedy isn’t necessarily trying to make us laugh, it does take a slightly lighter tone to the sometimes heartbreaking truths of reality.

Satire in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

When I was thinking about this project and the piece of work I would pick, I thought of all the really good comedies i’ve seen. And instantly, I thought of the Oscar-nominated, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. And the more I thought about it, this film has many different satirical elements that make the movie so good. For starters, Tarantino really employs the use of parody in his movie. The entire film is set in the 60s and he pays homage to his favorite spaghetti western movies by having his actors almost mock the feelings of the actors in the time. For starters, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character has been rumored to be based off a ton of different actors from the 60s. His constant outbursts and breakdowns shed light on how hard a changing industry can be on an actor.

SPOILER ALERT:

But probably the most apparent use of Satire is the ending with the Manson family. Tarantino is known to rewrite history in some of his movies and that is exactly what he did involving the tragic murder that took place in Hollywood 50 years ago. At the end of the film, three of Charles Manson’s cult members came to murder Sharon Tate and a few of her friends because Charles Manson had a problem with the person who owned the house before them. But before they could get to Tate (like they did in real life), Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) violently murdered all three of them. Booth having his dog maul one and bashing the head of the other into a brick wall, and Dalton blow torching the third person. This whole situation is very hyperbolic considering they could have easily hurt them and called the police. But the point of this scene is to show how this tragedy could have ended in a completely different way. By making the death of these three murderers so gruesome and overdramatic, he is giving respect to Sharon Tate and he’s showing that if more people paid attention to suspicious people like that, things like this wouldn’t happen.