There has been a fresh collection of female-led online television in the last few years. From the entertainingly influential Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt to the potently honest Love, the drive to create roles for women with a purpose has noticeably notched up a few gears. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a fantastic embodiment of this. Originally airing in October 2015, the show has gone onto become critically acclaimed for its contemporary musical-comedy style featuring a wide range of incredibly talented women. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is the show I have been waiting years for, and when it finally came to my attention I wanted to shout to the world just how important this series was going to be.
For those who are yet to see the show, please continue reading. This article is for you, (don’t worry about spoilers). I want to highlight just why you should be binge-watching Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I’ve found the show to be an eclectic exploration of the minds and bodies of women; put down your copy of The Beauty Myth, you can read that when you’re recovering from the seasons’ cliff hangers. Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna have created a piece of television magic.
One laudable aspect of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is the way in which it confronts the issue of mental health, and the way in which discussions of mental wellbeing are often gendered in society. Rebecca’s (Rachel Bloom) mental health is questioned from the moment she decides to uproot her entire life to West Covina, California, the home of her ex-boyfriend Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III). The term “crazy” is rightly put into question as a sexist term, one that disregards the emotional and mental wellbeing of the woman who is receiving the insult, and a term rarely, if ever, applied to men who struggle after the breakdown of a relationship. The show creates many moments which ask the audience to consider Rebecca’s, and her best friend Paula’s (Donna Lynne Champlin), actual mental states. Bloom and McKenna challenge the struggle women face with gender perceptions and relationships: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend consistently aims to challenge our societal perception of the difference between being “crazy” to the male gaze and experiencing real mental illness. Throughout this exploration, the show manages to remain endlessly amusing; there is a great enjoyment to be had in how Crazy Ex-Girlfriend deals with mental health and wellbeing and it is a credit to the show that it is possible to describe it using the words “enjoyment” and “mental health” in one sentence.
Bloom is a uniquely brilliant asset to the show, and so are her boobs. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a show that, often using song, deals with the continual struggles of successful women, and one of these numbers sees Rebecca singing for an entire two minutes about the biological annoyance of her breasts in a song entitled “Heavy Boobs”. The song is just one example of the normalisation of the bodies Bloom and McKenna musically strive towards in Crazy-Ex Girlfriend. “The Sexy Getting Ready Song” of series one mocks the incredible effort put into female appearances for romantic dates. Yanking on a pair of SPANX, Rebecca dances on top of her toilet whilst a rapper speaks of the influence the patriarchy has had on women and beauty. She sings the song as if she was a Shakira tribute act, adding to the irony of the song’s message. Body hang ups are spoken of in episodes but resolved quickly with sensible suggestions and resolutions. The female body as presented by the show is one to be enjoyed and experimented with, be that through sex, exercise, eating, or beauty.
As sexuality is one of the core elements of the show, it would be wrong to not focus on the role played by the vagina in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Sex, its benefits and complications, are explored through various characters in seasons one and two. Not to give too much away, but it speaks to the bravery of this show that it actually features a character undergo an abortion. As a television-obsessed woman, I am becoming increasingly frustrated by the number of fictional unwanted pregnancies that don’t consider abortion as an option. Abortion is an important issue in contemporary society, regardless of any particular individual’s perspective on it, and it should not be written out of contemporary television as it so often has been. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend carefully considers the implications of both keeping an unwanted pregnancy and aborting it, weighing up the factors to come to a well-judged conclusion, which is an important step forward.
More light-heartedly, the various female attitudes towards sex in the show are well expressed and entertaining. Rebecca struggles with how sex can lead to romance in the song “Oh My God I Think I Like You”, whilst also singing about the conflict between being sexually liberated leading to having to endure the pain of overused sexual organs. Valencia (Gabrielle Ruiz) enjoys casual sex and Heather is the face of “Miss Douche” (look it up). Where there is occasional emotional confusion over sex, there is a great lack of negativity associated with it in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend isn’t a show about women’s bodies, just as it’s not just a show about mental health or sex. It’s a series that combines all three and more to present various women at different stages in their lives, and whose lives are going in different directions. Even if you just want to watch the show for it’s hilarious musical numbers, do so knowing that if an American television network can air a show containing a woman performing an anal-wax during a prime-time slot, things are looking up for the freedom to portray women on television.