How Animation Is Starting A New Conversation On Mental Illness

How Animation Is Starting A New Conversation On Mental Illness

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Depression. Despite being a ubiquitously glib term used for "sad people" all around the world, few have a firm idea of what it truly means to be depressed. In order to clarify an often misunderstood condition, creative innovators have turned to animation to show the true reality of living with depression.

When it comes to portraying depression, getting it right can be difficult. After all, "sadness" and "depression" are often treated as synonymous terms. Typically, when depression is shown in television, and film, it is treated as brief sadness, an extension of a catalytic moment in a character's life, which is then "fixed" at some point. Think the Grinch after his heart grew three sizes; or the depressed are shown as eternally dour individual like Eeyore. These two common portrayals of depression fail to take into account the true breadth of the condition, that without proper treatment is difficult to live with and recover from, and create a mentality amongst people that view such glib portrayals of depression that the condition is a "mental state" rather than an illness. Fortunately, there are writers -- like Dan Harmon, Justin Roiland, and Raphael Bob-Waksberg -- who have been able to recently portray and demonstrate grounded, realistic, takes on depression, albeit in surrealistic animated television.

The premise of Raphael Bob-Waksberg's Netflix series, BoJack Horseman, is ridiculous in nature. The series follows an anthropomorphic horse, BoJack Horseman, who happens to suffer from depression. The world that BoJack inhabits is equally implausible, populated by humans and humanized animals. At a cursory level, it seems unlikely that a show that features a talking dog named Mr. Peanutbutter, a fictionalized Los Angeles where the 'D' from the Hollywood sign has been stolen (resulting in everyone referring to the town as "Hollywoo") and a still-living J.D. Salinger creating a Hollywood game show entitled Hollywoo Stars: What Do They Know?: Do They Know Things?: Let’s Find Out! would provide an appropriate outlet for discussing the nuances of the nature of depression. However, it is revealed through the absurdity of the setting of BoJack Horseman, the relatability and humanity of the titular character.

Much like a phoenix who rises from the ashes, throughout the two seasons of the show, BoJack Horseman (voiced by Will Arnett), a drunken misanthropic former sitcom star, puts his life back together. By the second season of the show, BoJack has everything that he has ever wanted, a girlfriend, respect, and a starring role in his dream movie, and yet still is not happy -- as evidenced in this exchange between Mr. Peanutbutter and BoJack Horseman:

As Bob-Waksberg is showing, BoJack is incapable of magically feeling cured of depression, he is stuck in a cycle of misery that no amount of success will spontaneously whisk away. The only constant in the life of BoJack Horseman is depression, and without the necessary treatment, BoJack, regardless of success, failure, triumph, or misery, will remain in a state of depression.

In a very similar vein to BoJack Horseman is the eponymous character in Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland's Rick and Morty. Rick Sanchez is a brilliant super-scientist capable of accomplishing his every goal and desire. With little apparent effort, Rick can construct devices that allow him to transcend time and space, shift dimensions, and travel throughout the universe. However, the problem is that Rick has no real desire, other than drinking to try and avoid his demons. Rick is a textbook alcoholic, and clearly suffers from depression (in fact, Rick's signature whimsical catchphrase is literally a thinly veiled cry for help).

In the most recent episode of Rick and Morty (*Spoilers*), "Autoerotic Assimilation," Rick reunites with his former girlfriend, Unity - a sentient HIVE-mind capable of enslaving entire worlds. At first the idea of being able to re-engage with a former fling gives Rick hope, but as the episode progresses, it becomes clear that Rick's self-destructive tendencies will drive Unity away. After she ultimately leaves Rick, it becomes apparent to Rick that there is no "one thing" that will ever give him the happiness that he craves. Despite the fact that Rick posses the ability to flee into a different dimension, if he wanted to escape the consequences of his mistakes, he in unable to for the sole reason that the Universe may change, but Rick Sanchez will remain the same destructive, depressed individual. With the God-like ability to shift the world around him, Rick cannot make himself happy.


Both of these surreal comedies are perfect allegories for what it is like for the average person living with depression. Depressed people cannot will themselves out of depression, it is a demon that continually tears into their mind as they live each and every day. Depression cannot be cured through success, or love, or some intangible idea. The cure for depression is treatment, because depression is not a state of mind, it is an illness. It is thanks to the writers on these major television shows, that the viewing public may gain a different perspective of what it means to be depressed.

Cover Image Credit: The Independent

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I'm The Girl Without A 'Friend Group'

And here's why I'm OK with it

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Little things remind me all the time.

For example, I'll be sitting in the lounge with the people on my floor, just talking about how everyone's days went. Someone will turn to someone else and ask something along the lines of, "When are we going to so-and-so's place tonight?" Sometimes it'll even be, "Are you ready to go to so-and-so's place now? Okay, we'll see you later, Taylor!"

It's little things like that, little things that remind me I don't have a "friend group." And it's been like that forever. I don't have the same people to keep me company 24 hours of the day, the same people to do absolutely everything with, and the same people to cling to like glue. I don't have a whole cast of characters to entertain me and care for me and support me. Sometimes, especially when it feels obvious to me, not having a "friend group" makes me feel like a waste of space. If I don't have more friends than I can count, what's the point in trying to make friends at all?

I can tell you that there is a point. As a matter of fact, just because I don't have a close-knit clique doesn't mean I don't have any friends. The friends I have come from all different walks of life, some are from my town back home and some are from across the country. I've known some of my friends for years, and others I've only known for a few months. It doesn't really matter where they come from, though. What matters is that the friends I have all entertain me, care for me, and support me. Just because I'm not in that "friend group" with all of them together doesn't mean that we can't be friends to each other.

Still, I hate avoiding sticking myself in a box, and I'm not afraid to seek out friendships. I've noticed that a lot of the people I see who consider themselves to be in a "friend group" don't really venture outside the pack very often. I've never had a pack to venture outside of, so I don't mind reaching out to new people whenever.

I'm not going to lie, when I hear people talking about all the fun they're going to have with their "friend group" over the weekend, part of me wishes I could be included in something like that. I do sometimes want to have the personality type that allows me to mesh perfectly into a clique. I couldn't tell you what it is about me, but there is some part of me that just happens to function better one-on-one with people.

I hated it all my life up until very recently, and that's because I've finally learned that not having a "friend group" is never going to be the same as not having friends.

SEE ALSO: To The Girls Who Float Between Friend Groups

Cover Image Credit: wordpress.com

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The Football World Loses One Of Its Finest Players

Bart Starr passed away and NFL players, coaches, and fans all mourn the loss of the Packer legend, but his life and career will live on in hearts of Packer nation forever.

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Bart Starr passed away at the age of 85 in Birmingham, Alabama. The NFL lost a great player. The Green Bay Packers lost a hero. And, the world lost a true gentleman. Starr's legacy has surpassed his accomplishments on the gridiron. He inspired not only his peers but the generations that have come after him. He is — and always — will be remembered as a Hall of Famer, a champion, and a Packer.


Bart Starr was a Packers legend. Starr led Green Bay to six division titles and five world championships. As the quarterback of Vince Lombardi's offense, he kept the machine going and executed the plays like no other. His mastery of the position was a large part of the Packers success in the 1960s. Starr was also the perfect teammate for the perfect team. His leadership put him in command of the Packers. Starr's time in Green Bay will not be forgotten by former players, coaches, and the fans.

Bart Starr's resume is rivaled by few in NFL history. He played in 10 postseason games and won 9 of them. He led the Packers to victory in Super Bowls I and II and won the MVP award in both games. He was the MVP of the league in 1966 and was named to the NFL All-Decade Team of the 1960s. The Packers retired his number 15 and Starr has been inducted into the Packers and Pro Football Hall of Fame.


After his playing days, Starr would become the head coach of the Packers. He could not repeat the success he had on the field from the 1960s teams. His coaching years do not take away from his legacy as one of the all-time great Packers. Starr was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.

One of Starr's last visits to Lambeau field was on a cold November night in 2015. Starr and his wife attended a ceremony in which the Packers retired Brett Favre's jersey number. Starr was the perfect personification of what it meant to be a Packer. His most heroic moment came in the 1967 NFL Championship Game. The Ice Bowl came down to a third and goal in Lambeau Field's south endzone against the Dallas Cowboys. Starr came to the sidelines and bravely told Vince Lombardi that he can sneak it in for a game-winning touchdown. Lombardi then replied, "Run it, and let's get the hell out of here." Starr ran a quarterback sneak for the game-winner and the Packers were off to Super Bowl II. Without Starr, Green Bay would not have won a second straight Super Bowl. His leadership in big game moments will live with Packers fans for a lifetime.

Vince Lombardi: A Football Life - The Ice Bowl

Starr leaves behind his wife Cherry, his son, and three granddaughters. Packers fans will have a tight grip on the memories Bart Starr and the 60s teams created. Starr left behind a template for being a Green Bay Packer. He also left a template for being a good man and a gentleman of the game of football. He was a competitor and a leader. Packer nation mourns for the loss of one of the finest human beings the game has seen.

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