That might sound a bit overblown… and to a degree, it is, duh. But these two shows have been something of a critical cartoon renaissance by themselves. Rick and Morty tries to shatter its audience’s delusions of self-importance, while Bojack only ever shows the profound damage one self-loathing bastard can cause. While both vomit cynicism, they approach it with two very different lenses.[Also if you’re not caught up on either, Imma spoil the hell out of both, so… go do something else]For the unaware, Rick and Morty is basically Doctor Who with more human-scale consequences. Rick’s a scientist, and his intelligence has gifted him with god-like powers. Along with his grandson, Morty, he treks the stars looking for zany adventures and doing kooky science.In Season One, Rick’s plays the role of the selfish, alcoholic antihero. But that nihilism is earnest. Like the Avengers, his abilities invite challenge, and through them, Rick comes to understand humanity’s smallness.At the same time, Rick balances the cosmos against the lives and emotional well-being of his family. Years prior, Rick left his ex-wife and daughter. As the show opens, he’s only recently tried to reconnect with his family, and throughout the series, Rick struggles to understand others’ comparatively limited perspective.That tension grounds and defines Rick and Morty.Each episode doles out a piece of a grander philosophy. At first, we’re hit hard with the tremendous scope of Rick’s universe. Throughout that season, we’re told that people are small in the cosmos, that we really don’t matter, and that existential dread and life are a package deal.He’s dealing with the cosmic, and he is right. In a reality with infinite parallel universes — we don’t matter. Nothing does. But he invalidates that argument with his own arc. He clings to that vision, that comforting reality (as opposed to a comforting delusion), but it pulls him away from those he does genuinely care about.The show’s perspective flips at the start of Season Two. In the first episode, Rick risks non-existence for his grandson, Morty — an odd moment of altruism for an otherwise gruff character.But that moment signals a shift in Rick’s character. Throughout the rest of the season, Rick is bludgeoned again and again with the cost of his gallivanting. His life falls apart, bit by bit as he learns about the damage and pain he’s caused those he pretends not to love.He’s caught between the cosmic perspective and the interpersonal one. He’s caught between the reality that we’re just motes of dust in a vast cosmic void and the delusion that our relationships and feelings matter. Episodes like ‘Total Rickall‘ — filled with warm memories and positive connections — nail that home.This, of course, is the antithesis of Bojack Horseman. While both shows consistently show their antiheroes unintentionally tormenting everyone around them, Bojack is locked in a cycle of self-destruction. Rick had the means to break out, but Bojack falls into the same patterns again and again.Bojack Horseman, is a washed up actor with enough money left over from his fifteen minutes that he never has to worry. In some ways, that offers him the same liberty as Rick’s intelligence and sciencey stuff. Both are unbound by the responsibilities that everyone we probably know faces. Bojack can be critically depressed for days and not have to worry about pulling himself together to go to work (unless he happens to have a shoot that day). Because of that, he burns the time and energy of everyone else around him, sucking them into his vortex of self-loathing.He gets to mope around and be self-destructive. His goals revolve around drumming up praise and adulation from others so he can forgive himself for past sins. But each time he repeats this cycle, he permanently torches relationships. By the end, there’s no one left to reassure him, and he’s alone in the shadow of this mess he’s made. He enables his friends’ vices, and he fails to support anyone unless it elevates himself.If depression hits us in the real world, we have to call in sick, at best. No matter how messed up the average person is, no matter how much we feel like we’re falling apart, we have to show up just to hold onto a job and pull in enough to eat. There is no other option, so we press on.For me, this breaks Bojack’s relatability almost to the degree that he’s become an idol of envy for me. But the essentials of his story have never been more relevant.Bojack wants to do better, but he often doesn’t know how. He strives to treat people well, to be more considerate, and to be simply good. Focusing externally and being good for other people leaves Bojack without an internal compass. He’ll listen to friends, take one step in the right direction, and then lose it when he can’t figure out what to do next. His damage, his flaws, are the ways in which he uses that freedom to bring others down with him. He is uniquely awful in that, while he’s sympathetic, he’s not redeeming at all. Or at least not yet.That’s why these two shows often get mentioned in the same breathe. Rick and Morty filters human struggles through a cosmic lens and notes the importance of self-improvement. Whether we are good or bad doesn’t matter to the cosmos, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect the ones we love. Bojack, on the other hand, hurts himself and everyone else because his relative social power allows him to fall back into the same pit over and over.