As the acclaimed series comes to an end, Hannah Patterson tells us why this is the show you should all be watching
At first glance, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend could easily be mistaken for a shallow TV show about a girl obsessed with her first love. In the first episode we see Rebecca Bunch, the show’s protagonist, literally move across the country for a chance to reconnect with a boy she dated for a summer when she was fifteen. The show quickly establishes itself as silly, and maybe a bit removed from reality (characters regularly break out into song in Rebecca’s mind, staging huge musical theatre-esque numbers), but if you watch beyond the first few episodes, the show becomes one of the most important feminist releases of the past few years.
Rebecca (expertly played by the shows creator and writer Rachel Bloom) openly struggles with mental illness and processes her emotions through music. Although most of the songs are humorous in nature, there is usually a strong and often very poignant message behind them. The songs cover everything from how difficult it is to have a big chest and the joys of having a girl squad (and our occasional tendency to generalise about men when we’re upset), to more serious topics like not being able to have an honest relationship with your parents, or how having your heart broken can really and truly feel like the end of the world, and drive you to do irrational things.
In the later series of the show, we begin to see other characters expand in truly beautiful ways. Paula Proctor, Rebecca’s colleague and eventual best friend, goes through one of the most powerful character arcs that I’ve seen on a TV show in a long time. It’s especially refreshing to see this character development in one of the older characters in a show – shattering the idea that your life stops being interesting or important after you have kids. This is backed up further when Darryl, another colleague of Rebecca’s, realises that he is bisexual in his mid-30s. The show deals with the delicate topic of sexual identity in a way that is both tactful and believable, and most importantly sustains this sexuality change. Two series down the line, Darryl is still actively dating both men and women – instead of coming out and then never mentioning the subject again like so many shows seem to do.
Toxic masculinity is portrayed absolutely perfectly in Nathaniel, one of Rebecca’s love interests. In an episode that is as touching as it is hilarious, Nathaniel comes into work and refuses to admit that he is sick because it’s not manly to take time off sick (we all know that guy). Nathaniel then proceeds to literally shit himself in the workplace, and if that doesn’t highlight the dangers society faces from toxic masculinity then I don’t know what does.
But above all, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend needs to be commended for how it deals with Rebecca’s breakdown and suicide attempt. It’s the first time I’ve seen an attempted suicide on TV that feels painfully true to life, and the issue is handled so beautifully, and acted so flawlessly that it elevates this TV series from a great show to an important piece of art.
There’s so many amazing aspects of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend I haven’t even covered, like how Rebecca has a body that isn’t absolutely perfect, but instead absolutely normal (and sexy to boot), or how the show manages to keep a sharp wit in even the most emotionally charged scenes. As the final season draws to a close, all I can do is recommend that you please go and watch this show, because it is one of the funniest, saddest, sweetest, cleverest shows that has been released in the last decade or so. It’s unlikely we’ll ever see a show quite like this again, so we should appreciate it for what it is- a masterpiece.