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BOJACK HORSEMAN: Diane Nguyen is TV’s Most Honest Portrayal of Depression

Who would’ve thought that a show about a horse would be one of television’s most human shows? Bojack Horseman is one of my favorite series of all time. It’s well written, well acted, and the artistry and attention to detail in this show is remarkable. Bojack Horseman is truly one of today’s most progressive TV series and is home to some of the most complex characters on television.


While not as morbid as season three, season four still carries a ton of emotional weight. It dives more into Bojack’s family history- and how he became the way he is. After a year of introspection in rural Michigan, Bojack returns to Los Angeles to make amends with the people he’s hurt. Over the past year, Bojack has severed relationships with Todd, Princess Carolyn, and Diane. Following the events of the prior season, Bojack slowly rebuilds his relationship with each character.

Over time, Todd has come to terms with his asexuality, and strives to figure out his place in life. Princess Carolyn is in a committed relationship and has been trying to start a family. Diane is trying to be supportive of Mr. Peanutbutter and his political aspirations, but her personal values continuously clash with his. And lastly, the driving force of this season is a new character named Hollyhock. She’s introduced as a teenage horse searching for her birth parents. Her appearance causes Bojack some serious introspection, and invites some demons back into his life.

This season has a more upbeat ending, but the existential crises of the major characters is still strong. Over the course of the series, Bojack Horseman has tackled some touchy subjects such as asexuality, politics, gun control, abortion, and perhaps its crowning achievement- mental illness. In the world of Hollywoo, so many people are broken. When it comes to mental illness, what Bojack Horseman gets completely right is depression. There is one character in particular that I am going to focus on in regards to this:

While Bojack is a walking pit of despair, Diane Nguyen is more relatable in her struggles. Over the seasons, she has fought with the trajectory of her life. Although Diane’s life is at times pretty enviable, she still struggles to accept it. She isn’t the person she thought she would be, doesn’t have a perfect marriage, and doesn’t have her dream career. Over time, she uses social activism and her marriage to Mr. Peanut Butter to distract her from her real feelings. During the course of the show, Diane buries herself underneath her writing- opting to tell the truth about others, but neglecting to tell the truth about herself.

Bojack Horseman: Diane's Depression
Photo Still from Bojack Horseman: Season 4, Episode 7


In season four, I feel that Diane’s arc has taken a bit of a backseat, but her emotional distress is felt in each episode. In episode seven, during a drunken stupor, Diane breaks down. Bojack reminds her of all the good things she has, but Diane admits that she is still dissatisfied. In this moment, she feels the weight of her inability to be happy.

Even when I was above ground, I was unsatisfied. Oh my God, I am the problem! Why can’t I be happy?…Am I busted? I am! I’m a pit! I’m a pit that good things fall into!

Many Bojack Horseman moments have left me reeling, but this particular scene punched me in the gut. It hit close to home…maybe a bit too much. In entertainment, I haven’t seen depression summed as well as Diane’s outburst in this scene. Diane has a good life- a marriage to a man…I mean dog that loves her, a great job, and friends that care about her. However, she still feels hollow. One of the most heartwrenching things to ever feel is the feeling of realizing that something you thought would make you happy- doesn’t actually make you happy.

In many TV shows and films, depression is either romanticized or a punchline. In Bojack Horseman, depression is portrayed as the mental illness it really is. The most horrible thing about depression is that it may never really go away. Even when things are going well in life, feelings of emptiness are still there. Depression is like a hidden computer program: you think you’ve gotten out of it, but it’s still running in the background. And if not managed properly, it can eventually slow you down.

In season two, Diane is shown at her lowest point in the series. After returning from an assignment in a war-torn Kordovia, Diane crashes at Bojack’s house, afraid to face Mr. Peanutbutter. While there, her depression worsens. She lays around the house all day, bingeing and neglecting her hygiene. Everywhere around Diane is a pile of food wrappers and beer cans. She’s completely unkempt- her hair in a messy ponytail, and her clothes dirty. She lounges around Bojack’s home all day in a bathrobe and dirty pajamas. She’s more cynical and mean-spirited towards everyone except Bojack. Eventually, Diane gains the courage to return to Mr. Peanutbutter and rejoin the real world.

In seasons three and four, Diane seems alright at times. In fact, Diane seems to have gotten her life together, but the void is still there. Although she tries to compromise and make things work with Mr. Peanutbutter, she struggles to find common ground with him. Diane has also realized that many of her relationships are superficial. With the exception of Bojack, Diane fails to truly connect with anyone. The end of the season four is open-ended, leaving us to wonder how her and Mr. Peanutbutter’s relationship will fare. It is apparent that Diane has grown tired of their charade. This season’s ending asks the question, will or can Diane ever be happy?

The good thing about Bojack Horseman is that the writers let us know that “you don’t have to feel bad for feeling bad”, especially when your life is not that bad. Pretty solid words from an animated series. So if you’re feeling bad, it’s OK. Trust me, it’s OK.

Bojack Horseman Season 4 is available on Netflix now.






Adriana is a twenty-something Marketing Coordinator and Content Writer living in San Diego. Her passions are films (of course), writing, social justice, bargain hunting, and carbs. The Franco brothers are to her what Morris Day and the Time are to Jay and Silent Bob. She plans on moving to Los Angeles in March of 2018.

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