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Why Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Deserves More Recognition

Why Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Deserves More Recognition

This Musical Show Tackled Mental Health and Relationships Better Than Any Other Show On Television

It had it all – catchy and hilarious musical numbers, great representation, genuine storylines centered on mental health, and an exploration of society’s most taboo subjects all wrapped up in a relatable and exciting package – so how come Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was one of the lowest-rated series in television history? Regardless of its low numbers, the CW decided to keep the show around for four seasons and complete its story, seeing something special in the project that its small audience also saw. 

It may not have had a large viewership, but it was a critical darling – especially in regards to Rachel Bloom, the show’s co-creator, writer, director, and lead performer as the character Rebecca Bunch. For that reason, and the following, are why Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is one of the most underrated and underappreciated shows to have graced our televisions, and why it deserves far more recognition than it has received. 

Story Woven With Song

Many shows have attempted to integrate songs into their storylines, such as Galavant or Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, but no one did it quite like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend did. The show follows Rebecca Bunch, a lawyer who runs into her childhood crush, Josh Chan, and obsessively follows him to West Covina, California, where she meets a colorful cast of friends and romantic flings. Rebecca ultimately goes on a path to find herself outside of romantic relationships, identifying her issues, and finding her true purpose. The show plays on the idea of a “crazy ex-girlfriend” and shows how that is a sexist term, exploring how there’s so much more to Rebecca than her obsession with her ex.

The show delights audiences with a couple of songs each episode, usually addressing a serious topic through a comedic lens – like “Let’s Generalize About Men” and “It Was a Shit Show.” The music in the show is co-written by Bloom and Adam Schlesigner, who was mostly recognized for being a founding member of the band Fountains of Wayne. The duo wrote over 150 songs for the show over its four-season run, often parodying music videos and musical theatre to the delight of many theatre fans. The songs aren’t just there for a bit of comedic relief either, as they are a central device to the plot and are a part of Rebecca.

Representation Matters

One of the best aspects of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is that there’s great representation present but in a way that is natural and doesn’t have to be commented upon. One of the biggest highlights is getting to see one of the lead characters, Josh Chan, who is one of Rebecca Bunch’s love interests, be played by a Filipino actor. The show helped change perspectives on what a leading man and romantic lead could look like. The show also features many other characters of color and features many subplots revolving around gay and bisexual relationships. 

One of the earliest moments in the show comes in the first season, when Rebecca’s boss, Darryl Whitefeather, sings a song to his employees about the revelation he’s made about his sexuality, titled “Gettin’ Bi.” Most of the time, these authentic relationships aren’t even questioned and are as normal as any other relationship in the show. Whether it’s a character’s sexuality or their character arc, nothing in this show tries to be anything but genuine in portraying everyday, average people.

Why Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Deserves More Recognition

The Portrayal of Mental Illness

Based on the title, one may think Crazy Ex-Girlfriend goes down a stereotypical path, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the show has been praised for its depiction of mental illness and mental health, portraying it in a way that’s never been so authentically shown on television before. Every character on the show is dealing with some form of mental illness or struggle, and it greatly impacts their storylines. Rebecca Bunch goes on a journey throughout the show, from trying to ignore her issues and act like they don’t exist, to slowly realizing she needs help and is willing to work for it. 

Season three is where Rebecca, and the audience, finally get a diagnosis – borderline personality disorder (BPD), but the events leading up to it are the most chilling yet realistic depictions of a person suffering with mental illness portrayed on television. Rebecca reaches such a low point that she considers taking her own life and is so desperate and scared that she finally asks for help, showing that it’s okay to ask for help and to want it for yourself.

The show continues on her journey with revolutionary songs as well, such as the pivotal moment she gets her diagnosis, titled “A Diagnosis”, and when she starts taking antidepressants in “Antidepressants Are So Not A Big Deal” – once again approaching sensitive subjects but pointing out that everyone goes through the same thing and it shouldn’t be looked down upon. The series pointed out the hypocrisies of how mental health has been portrayed in the media and the stigmas society has about it, tearing down walls for conversation to be had about the struggles we all face.

Making History

The show has made history for multiple reasons, including its representation of mental health, but its approach to sex and sexuality is another high point. The show never shied away from talking about sex or the human body, and it even featured the first usage and explanation of the word “clitoris” on a network show in television history – showing that it’s alright and should be alright to talk about female anatomy and not be uncomfortable about it. Other topics that were revolutionary for the show were often told in song, like “My Sperm is Healthy,” “The Buzzing From The Bathroom,” “The First Penis I Saw,” “Period Sex,” “I Gave You a UTI,” and “The Miracle of Birth.”

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend also tackled many significant topics regarding women and the workplace, in particular regarding how the workplace can affect mental health and the sacrifices one must make, especially women in career fields like law. Rebecca’s best friend and co-worker, Paula, has dreamed and worked hard at becoming a lawyer throughout the show, and as soon as her dreams look like they’re going to come true, she discovers she’s pregnant. She doesn’t have time or the energy to spend towards raising a child; she wants to focus on her career, and the show gives one of the most beautiful representations of not only a relationship, as her and her husband discuss their options without judgment, but of the topic and act of abortion on television. 

Paula ends up going through with the procedure, but the show doesn’t make it out to be anything more than what it truly is, respecting Paula’s decision and not shaming her in the slightest. The procedure is done, but never shown, and is only mentioned in passing, showing that it’s alright to want to choose your career or yourself and that many women go through with it, so why should a show that wants to depict accurate people and their relationships not depict something that occurs in most women’s lives?

That’s the beauty and rarity of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Everything feels natural, normal, and grounded in reality with characters who have struggling relationships – most importantly with themselves. Rachel Bloom set out to create a show with campy, theatrical musical numbers to entertain, but she also created something extremely special and unique by bringing out our “flaws,” spotlighting them to make us realize how much we truly have in common. That our flaws and the “taboos” of our society shouldn’t be taboo or looked down upon at all, that we can talk about mental health, we can talk about sex and sexuality, and we can have a healthy discussion about what makes us human, if we are willing to put aside our insecurities and fear to embrace what we all go through in a positive light.

Why Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Deserves More Recognition

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Official Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Emily Bonifacio is a writer, screenwriter, and playwright based in her hometown of Savannah, GA. She graduated from SCAD with a BFA in Dramatic Writing in 2022.