There is this ‘little’ show called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. My love for this piece of TV art is deep, ever growing and essential.
There are not enough words to describe this series. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, to say the least. It is a very niche combination of comic element, a tragedy of battling certain patterns and tendencies of mental issues, non-conventional honesty of struggles of regular life – all with more than 150 original musical numbers which are used to express highest and lowest moments, storms of feelings and different routines.
It’s an absolute treasure for me, one I can’t share with many people as I know they won’t understand and won’t appreciate this very peculiar format of story-telling. It so happens that a couple of my like-minded friends somehow started to watch it independently of me and love it as much as I do, but generally, I kept it to myself for 4 years – ever since I started watching its first season when there was no clarity if even season 2 would ever happen.
But this Friday Crazy Ex-Girlfriend comes to an end, so I feel like I need to pour out my feeling of appreciation and gratefulness for this gem.
The whole story arc was initially planned for 4 seasons – it was pitched to the network this way. Despite the lowest ratings on the CW (and among all network channels for that matter) they got an order for all 4 seasons and were able to tell the whole story – for this, I’m eternally grateful to whoever made this decision. Somebody allowed a brilliant team of dedicated to their craft people make things right.
This makes this show stand out – it was never intended to be indefinite and to go for many seasons, now, when it is ending it feels more like a very long movie (or musical) with an obvious starting point, great arc and inevitable end in sight.
That way show never recycles past plot points, it doesn’t make stories out of nothing. On the opposite – it creates space for all characters to grow through their experiences, for the tone of the show to change from season to season, and for the audience to feel as they went through thick and thin together with these characters and learn something essential along the way.
Creators of Crazy Ex had a brilliant and very ambitious plan of deconstructing classical romantical tropes while using them to toy with the audience, manipulating us into feeling a certain way and then making us face the fact that some of the natural responses to this manipulation don’t make any sense.
The main protagonist, Rebecca Bunch, is a Jewish girl with an IQ of 164 and striving career of a respectable lawyer in New York City. She feels deeply unhappy about her life, battling anxiety and depression while still trying to meet enormously high expectations of her overbearing mother. One day she meets her ex-boyfriend (from the time they both were 16 and spent summer in a camp) Josh Chan who lives in West Covina, California. Mislead by her feelings of happiness related to this summer when she was 16 and obsessed with the romantic idea of reviving an old flame, she makes a rash decision to leave New York and move to West Covina to chase Californian dream.
The first season was at times very uncomfortable to watch – Rebecca is an emotional mess in total denial. She is smart, caring, thoughtful, funny – you can’t avoid feeling sympathy for her. She is a good person (yes, it’s true!), or at least has sound reasoning to do whatever she does. Through the whole season, she tries to fill the void in her existence by getting Josh Chan to love her and choose her (while he obviously has a long-term girlfriend). Many situations she ends up in because of that are drowning in second-hand embarrassment and therefore cringy at times. Rebecca disrupts the lives of people around her but is blind to the impact her behavior has on others. There is no self-awareness in what she does until she hits rock bottom and realizes for the first time that maybe she is a villain in her own story – and it serves as an initial turning point in this overall classical story of romantic comedy.
Rebecca’s journey is full of attempts to break old patterns, work through abandonment issues and tendency to obsess over the idea of love, her intense nature of going ‘all in’ in whatever is in focus now. It is also full of her self-sabotaging tendencies and spiraling into the endless void of shame, self-deprecation and ultimate darkness she has no control over despite intellectual understanding of what’s going. All of that resonates with me on a very deep level.
I don’t have a mental illness which Rebecca has, but my own journey of self-discovery, personal development and attempts of breaking old patterns always follows ‘three steps forward, two steps back’ approach. It’s never a direct route but a spiral, every new spin brings me closer to something profound and deep but unavoidably also pushes me back. It’s exhausting and discouraging. Sometimes in this process, I feel desperate. There is no easy fix, there are cracks and voids in me I can’t fill with any amount of rationality and logic. But not this long ago I realized that this little show gives me hope.
By season 4 [Spoiler alert!], Rebecca got diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder after failed attempt to commit suicide, she is in an excessive amount of therapy, working through her issues day by day. She is also surrounded by friends, who stayed by her side despite her many less than honorable actions towards them (and herself), she is loved and cared for. She has a support system and terrific amount of self-awareness and even tools to notice and articulate what’s going on with her and check herself if she is in need to up her self-care.
On her journey she managed to inspire people around to change their lives in a best possible way – some discovered their sexuality, some – career aspirations they never were brave enough to admit they had, some faced their long-term issues and got out of dead ends, some broke up relationships which didn’t work… But what is common – the whole reality surrounding Rebecca became honest, gentle and accepting. From infantile illusions and ultimate blind desires of season 1 to adult conversations around needs, issues and uncomfortable situations of season 4, this journey led us to a heightened world of care, love, warmth, hope, support, and self-awareness.
Sometimes the thing or person you think will make you happy – doesn’t.
This show made me question my own views and perceptions as to what makes me truly happy and if I rely on some specific things or people way too much for that. And believe me – I do. This intense desire to go ‘all or nothing,’ simplify the reality of multidimensional things to black and white categories, all these new starts, new challenges, new relationships – something I call myself out on regularly. My emotional skin is way thicker than Rebecca’s, and I’m a bit more stable and structured, but happiness for me is a journey. I have an amazing husband who is my best partner in life, I have a loving family, many dear friends, the job I’m super passionate about… I ‘tick the box’ almost by all attributes and it’s not superficial stuff. But sometimes I still feel deeply broken, sometimes I spiral into the lifeless void, sometimes I feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. And you know what? That’s okay. That’s okay to not feel okay. Tomorrow will be another day.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is not a perfect show. It is not a perfect story about love which conquers all. I literally spent an hour of therapy to talk about the penultimate episode and how torn I feel about it and how sad it makes me. Not because I’m a TV nerd but because it touches something very deep inside of me. In some way, I see myself in Rebecca and the way she is projecting and extending herself into the world. Even her romantic interests are reflecting her, and she is reflecting them. It feels very confusing as if there were no boundaries and no distance between her and the world. And the show is telling us it is not a healthy situation. And I wrecked my brain thinking about the outcome which would feel both healthy and satisfying, and I couldn’t find one! Life doesn’t make narrative sense. Maybe the truth is that some situations don’t have a satisfying and healthy outcome. But I still have big hope for tomorrow’s finale!
This long love letter I want to end with words of gratitude and appreciation to creators, cast, and crew of this show. I’ve never seen such a talented, multidimensional, committed, kind-spirited group of people who love what they do so much it spills over the screen. I love all the characters, all of them without any exception. They all are REAL people, they have depth and their own quirks, they are like close friends to me who I know and whose friendship I cherish. I’m genuinely heartbroken this era is ending. I don’t think there will be EVER a show like this one. The show which stayed true to itself from the beginning to the very end. Actors who gave it all. Dancing, singing, acting and just having fun – it was glorious 4 years together. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I will miss you forever.
Top-25 Songs from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The ones I can listen again, again and again. The ones I know all the words to.