Before Bojack Horseman, I never thought that a show about a talking horse would make me cry. Unexpectedly, I became oddly invested in the lives of cartoon anthropomorphic characters, finding myself in their every success and failure. Through absurd situations and witty dialogue, the creators of the show raise the question “Can a bad person become good?” in a digestible yet ludicrous manner. Through its six season run, Bojack Horseman walks a fine line between blatant self deprecation and deranged comedy. In one season, there is a ski race to determine the governor of California, the release of a pro – choice pop song, and the creation of a company where strippers become chauffeurs. Simultaneously, the season focuses on the loneliness of fame and the confrontation of morality.
Pieces of art similar to Bojack Horseman fall into a hyper – specific genre I have dubbed no – nonsense nonsense. As nonsensical as the piece of art is, the nonsense is carefully crafted, and often works to the artist’s strengths. For example, Bojack Horseman depicted Bojack’s fear of loneliness (no – nonsense) through him sabotaging his friend Todd’s acclaimed Broadway rock-opera (nonsense). Behind the chaos (what’s a rock opera anyway?) there is somehow profound philosophy. Bojack Horseman uses situational comedy to communicate depressing concepts and ideas.
On March 15, 2015, Kendrick Lamar released his third studio album, which would later be considered one of the most critically acclaimed pieces of music ever. The title of this momentous moment in hip hop? To Pimp A Butterfly. While the album deals with topical issues such as racism, depression, and consumerism, Lamar articulates them through frivolous metaphors and analogies. The no – nonsense nonsense of To Pimp A Butterfly can best be exemplified in the song “For Free? – Interlude.” Lamar compares his relationship with America to that of one with a toxic girlfriend. Over fast piano scales and driving drum riffs, the West Coast MC argues with his partner the legitimacy of their relationship. Lamar feels that he is being exploited by America’s institutionalized racism the same way that a boyfriend might feel that he is being sexually taken advantage of by his girlfriend. He rattles, “This d*ck ain’t free/I need forty acres and a mule/ Not a forty ounce and a pitbull,” referencing America’s failure to provide reparations for former slaves after the Civil War and two staples of his Compton upbringing — alcohol and violence. Lamar’s decision to compare systemic racism to his sex life seems ridiculous in theory, but his execution of no – nonsense nonsense is perfect. The song is brash, uncomfortable, and brilliant. Every word is carefully chosen to apply to both situations, enhancing Lamar’s overall frustration.
The Metamorphosis features Gregor Samsa’s unlikely transformation into a bug. It is no nonsense nonsense at its finest. On a random morning, the “boring” traveling salesman rolls out of bed, only to find that he is now a large insect. His new life as a bug makes him a burden to his loved ones, which leads to his slow and self destructive death. Samsa’s sudden change plays as an allegory for the suffocation and dehumanization one can feel due to the self deprecation of depression. The underlying pressures from his job as a traveling salesman as well as the feeling that he is not “giving” to society makes Samsa feel almost unnecessary.
No-nonsense nonsense is my personal favorite genre of anything and everything. Whether it be TV, music, or literature, I find it interesting how artists can appoint meaning to a seemingly meaningless idea.