But my favorite thing about “BoJack Horseman” is how badly BoJack wants to think of himself as—and even, if he’s desperate enough, wants to be—a good person. Just tell me I’m good is the constant undertow of his motivation. He doesn’t want to be cool or happy. He wants to be a good person, in spite of all the genuinely awful things he’s done. He’s ashamed of himself, sure. But he tries to disguise his failures as successes, as cocktail-party anecdotes and, if necessary, as lessons learned.
He has this exchange with Diane, which runs exactly parallel to the character vs. actions bit from “Mistress America” (BoJack knows the zeitgeist!):
BoJack: But do you think I’m a good person, deep down?
Diane: …I don’t know if I believe in ‘deep down.’
“BoJack” is a pretty scathing portrayal of the insufficiency of self-awareness. BoJack knows what his problems are and states them frequently and with often-hilarious bluntness, and it doesn’t help. As a different family entertainment once taught us, knowing is half the battle—but it turns out not to be the half where the battle is won.
I’ve watched both seasons of BoJack Horseman (and enjoyed them immensely), but you don’t need to in order to understand the point. Simply acknowledging your weaknesses doesn’t justify them, much less put you on the path to correcting them.
Has this always been a thing, or is it something recent? I’ve sat through countless sermons which fit into a standard call-and-response pattern—”You guys don’t pray/read your Bible/volunteer/give enough”, “True, true, we don’t pray/read our Bibles/volunteer/give enough”. And the transaction is then complete. Never have I heard one which starts, “So, after last week’s exhortations are you praying/reading your Bibles/volunteering/giving more?”, and I have to imagine it’s because the answer is obvious—and, in fact, to ask the question is to misunderstand the true purpose of the exchange.
As the writer says, “knowing is half the battle—but it turns out not to be the half where the battle is won.” To complete the thought: doing is the half where the battle is won (or lost). Doubling down on self-awareness is just a way of putting off engagement.