Will Arnett voices BoJack, a successful actor with a failing personal lifeNetflix

"Before coming to university, I had the notion that being accepted into Cambridge would represent one of the biggest landmark moments of my life. I used to regard it as a cutoff point of sorts, because I felt like this kind of achievement changes who you are. Once you’ve done it, surely all self-doubt just vanishes somehow. When you get to the culmination of everything you’ve been working towards for a long time, you want that moment to be set to the crescendo of a Hans Zimmer soundtrack and look like something that Hoyte van Hoytema, Interstellar’s cinematographer, worked on. Needless to say, the “scene” that followed after I signed into my UCAS account was cinematically trivial. My expectations were somewhat misguided, to say the least.

"[BoJack] still finds himself plagued with the same psychological troubles and insecurities as before; success never quite helps you stop feeling like a failure"

It’s funny to think that I found a more realistic perspective on success and how it impacts who we feel we are on the inside when I started watching the animated comedy/drama BoJack Horseman, which follows BoJack (hilariously voiced by Will Arnett), an anthropomorphic horse who doubles up as a high-end Hollywood star living in both luxury and psychological despair. I watched the first four seasons of BoJack Horseman over Easter Term and have only recently finished the fifth season which came out on the 14th of September. It has helped me reflect on my first year in new ways.

"Getting into Cambridge did not erase any insecurities, in fact, it raised many, many more"

Trailer for Season 5 of BoJack Horseman, released September 14 on NetflixYoutube- Netflix

BoJack Horseman dispels the romantic myth of fulfilment or internal bliss as a direct result of success; even when BoJack gets what he wants (which technically happens quite regularly), this never actually helps him to feel fulfilled. After he achieves his lifelong career dream of starring as the titular character in the film Secretariat, and even after (briefly) becoming an Oscar nominee for his aforementioned role, he still finds himself plagued with the same psychological troubles and insecurities as before: success never quite helps you stop feeling like a failure. Getting into Cambridge did not erase any insecurities, in fact, it raised many, many more. Like BoJack, looking at my achievements merely as means for validation and expecting them to “make me feel better about myself” didn’t do much besides make me feel like I either did not deserve those achievements or like I would not be able to keep up the facade of success.

The latest season continues to show the despair in the personal life of successful movie star BoJackNetflix

Just getting what I wanted really wasn’t a quick fix for countering any lack of confidence, and success never provides a happy ending fix in BoJack, either. That is because success is never the end of the story at all - there’ll always be the next day and month and year which will feature all of your past problems and some new ones on top. In our academic environment, this can be recognised on a smaller scale in the form of the weekly workflow, where one essay out of the way (even a praised one) hardly ever means anything other than thousands left to go. Nonetheless, I’ve come to believe that running from deadline to deadline and seeking some self-satisfaction within that is superficial. I’ve learnt that, if anything, it’s because of the small moments between those deadlines - such as the frantic research phase in the UL, the 2 AM McDonald's trips, the spontaneous lunch dates, and the quiet Fridays in with Ted Baker playing and a bowl of Doritos - that I absolutely adore Cambridge.

"BoJack Horseman dispels the romantic myth of fulfilment or internal bliss as a direct result of success"

Successes, even small ones, are never the end of the story. Happy endings that give us that fuzzy feeling don't exist at all in real life, argues the show creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg. BoJack Horseman is written in a serialised narrative form which refuses to provide closure at the end of each episode the way sitcoms, for example, often do. In Raphael’s words: “Well, I don't believe in endings. I think you can fall in love and get married and you can have a wonderful wedding, but then you still have to wake up the next morning and you're still you.” Getting into Cambridge merely marked the start of this beautiful madness, but taught me that life happened day by day rather than deadline by deadline or milestone by milestone.


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Getting into Cambridge hasn’t helped me overcome my own anxieties the way I thought it would, but it has given me a new way to look at success: I now know how to derive satisfaction from the process rather than the result. BoJack Horseman explains that not even Hollywood is exempt from the trivial burden of living, and yet behold a silver lining: “It gets easier. Every day it gets a little easier. But you gotta do it every day. That’s the hard part. But it does get easier.”

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