If you haven’t binge watched Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on Netflix yet, why not?
by Kirsty Harrod
The show is the brainchild of Rachel Bloom, who you might recognise from such viral videos as Fuck Me Ray Bradbury and I Steal Pets. She’s since moved away from YouTube onto the big(ger) screen, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has so far run for three successful series. It follows Rebecca Bunch (no prizes for guessing where the name came from) as she leaves her high-flying New York job to chase her summer camp sweetheart and the chilled vibes of West Covina, California. Sounds like a normal sitcom? Not quite! There are also a few original comedy songs in each episode, inspired by a wide range of music, from Drake to Les Miserables.
At its most basic, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a damn good comedy. It’s as hilarious and dramatic as any good sitcom from the last decade, and its recent renewal for a fourth series proves that it’s a much loved show. And why wouldn’t you love a show with an ABBA parody named ‘Very First Penis I Saw’, or a song about the perils of having heavy boobs?! But, at its heart, this show is more than that. It’s important.
Crazy Ex has been commended for its presentation of female sexuality. Rebecca has an unashamedly high sex drive, and the show celebrates that without any slut shaming or moral quandary. Songs explore aspects of female sex life we don’t necessarily talk about: the panicked hope that your random one-night-stand isn’t gonna murder you; having an all-consuming girl crush as a straight woman; or getting a UTI from too much sex. Watching Crazy Ex, you can tell it was written by a woman – and it’s refreshing.
Rebecca’s female friendships are fulfilling, diverse, and rarely competitive, busting the TV stereotype that women can’t be friends. This stereotype is even unpacked in an episode, with Valencia (Gabrielle Ruiz) at first claiming ‘Women Gotta Stick Together’, with such brilliant ironic lyrics as “Women have the power / The power to make a change / Like this girl should pluck her eyebrows / And those jeans should be exchanged.” Don’t worry – Valencia eventually learns her feminist ways and learns to love her fellow women. Rebecca’s friends are wholeheartedly supportive of her, whilst also calling her out when necessary.
The characters are genuinely diverse, with a Jewish lead, a Filipino love interest, and multiple Hispanic supporting actors. There are multiple bi characters and a fulfilling gay relationship (no-one dies!). There are different body shapes, without using fat as a punchline. And the show does it all without seeming like it’s trying too hard.
So – all impressive so far. But what makes Crazy Ex groundbreaking is its presentation of mental illness. Throughout the series, Rebecca struggles with anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders, before being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in season 3. This is a disorder rarely talked about in mainstream TV, and one which is shown with care and tact in this show. Rebecca’s new diagnosis comes when she’s nearly 30, and she still clings onto the hope that finally figuring out her mental illness is going to save her. It’s crushing when it obviously doesn’t, but is an eye-opening insight into the way people live with mental health disorders.
Crazy Ex also demonstrates that, at the times when you feel the lowest, when you’re lonely want to disappear, you’re still loved. We don’t just see Rebecca lashing out at her friends, sabotaging herself by sleeping with her ex’s dad, and walking away from everything she holds dear: we see the friends she’s left behind too. They’re worried, they’re trying to get hold of her, they care – even when she thinks they don’t. That message is valuable, and a comfort to many.
Rachel Bloom’s creation is exactly the kind of telly we should be watching in 2018. No more sitcoms about two straight white dudes trying to bang chicks, or five privileged white people living in gorgeous apartments in NYC (seriously, Monica – how do you afford that place?!). Instead, give us intelligent, diverse shows that tug at the heartstrings as much as making you belly-laugh. And Crazy Ex-Girlfriend does just that.
Want a night where you can get drunk, sing along to Heavy Boobs, and meet other fans of the show? Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: The Sing-A-Long will be held at the Canvas Café in Shoreditch on 14th April, 7-9pm. Get the event up on Facebook for tickets and further details.