Why Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is the Best Show on Television

21 October 2018

** Please note: This post DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS, so if you plan on watching the show and don't want anything ruined, maybe skip this one.  TW // mental illness, depression, anxiety

In honour of the fourth and final season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend premiering this past month, I bring to you my collection of thoughts as to why "CXG" is so, so, so important.

01. It unapologetically displays behaviours of mental illness with almost terrifying accuracy

As someone diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, as our hero Rebecca Bunch is in season 3 of the show, I was absolutely astounded at how authentic the behaviours and thought patterns are. What a relief! I've grown sick of the portrayal of mentally ill characters and how utterly ill-researched their suspected illnesses really were. As if there wasn't enough of a stigma against sufferers of all mental illnesses, the media can really exacerbate these already societally-conceived biases against the mentally ill. In Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Rebecca has serious, and I mean serious issues, but she is still portrayed as highly intelligent, quick-witted, feisty, and full of love. Rebecca as a character is riddled with flaws, but still ultimately likeable, and even if her actions are often a bit...well, unorthodox, we are still rooting for her, even though at times I feel like I'm watching myself at eighteen making the same mistakes over and over again without learning a damn thing, but that's more of a me problem...

Not only is the representation so very important and needed, but it's also somewhat therapeutic. I, personally, as well as many other people I know who have watched the show obsessively, noticed a lot of mistakes Rebecca makes and noticed a similarity in my own life. It really put my own behaviours into perspective as we watch Rebecca's life slowly fall apart. It made me want to get better for myself so I don't get to the same dark places she ends up. But when she eventually does get better, it gives a glimmer of hope that no matter how bad things seem or how deep a hole you dig for yourself, there is a way out, and you can get better.

Probably the most authentic and evocative moment in the entire series so far is when Rebecca finally gets an accurate diagnosis. Anyone who has been accurately diagnosed professionally with an illness that just made your entire life make sense can understand exactly how Rebecca felt when she walked out of that doctor's office, knowing that everything in her life wasn't her fault, and why she never felt "normal". This moment rung especially powerful to me, having been diagnosed with the same disorder. Tears were streaming down my face as she felt so freed by finally having a name for the pain, as it was exactly how I felt given the same news. I had never seen anything like it on television before, and it really humanises the feeling of hopelessness associated with feeling abnormal your entire life with no explanation.

02. A diverse and loveable cast of supporting characters

Other than the representation of mental illness as an illness and not the fault of someone who is just "crazy", the inclusion of characters of a diverse range of races, cultures, sexual orientations, and gender identities is vital, especially in an era where people are finally able to be themselves more freely. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has one of the most diverse cast I have seen in a very long time, which is such a valuable asset for a television programme to have in 2018, and makes it more relatable to a wider audience.

Although our main character is straight, cis, and white, the main love interest, Josh, is played be a Filipino-American gay man (Vincent Rodriguez III is his name, and he rocks), which in itself is so important due to the Euro-centric and xenophobic stigma against Asian men being considered attractive (I will never understand). Seriously, try and think of a show or movie where a white woman is pining after an Asian man. Even if you can think of any, it is hardly ever seen. Even if there is a Caucasian/Asian relationship in some form of media, it is typically a white male with an Asian female. It may seem like a small, insignificant factor, but representation can be a dynamic tool in ending stigmatised racial stereotypes.

Besides our love interest, Josh, there are a handful of other people of colour portraying fun and interesting characters, including Valencia, Josh's saucy albeit seemingly bitchy girlfriend, and Heather, Rebecca's observant and addictively sarcastic neighbour. Even the extras in the background of public scenes and small characters such as vendors, office workers, and clients have a wide arrange of racial portrayal, which seems like a small gesture, but extremely important in the normalisation of racial diversification in film and television. Even Rebecca herself, while a white woman, is Jewish American, which is also not often found in mainstream programming.

If more shows or films pick up on this, the more we as a society will hopefully and ultimately become accustomed to racial stereotypes and generalisations can be slowly but surely obliterated. This won't inherently end racism by any means, but it is a baby step toward the end of a very white-driven entertainment industry, providing more work, opportunities, and confidence for marginalised individuals.

There isn't' just a voice provided for people of colour, there is also LBGTQ+ representation as well, including Josh's friend White Josh who is gay, and "comes out" on the show in the most hilariously passive, indifferent way, showing that being gay just isn't that big of a deal, and shouldn't be treated as such. And then there's Darryl, whose bisexual representation is most pertinent to me. His character's coming out song, "Gettin' Bi" totally annihilates bisexual generalisations

Something I've told everyone who is just starting Crazy Ex-Girlfriend for the first time is that nearly every character you meet you start out hating or disliking in some way, and eventually end up loving them, even if you think it's impossible. Every character is loveable in their own way, and add important elements of perspective and balance to the show's overall plot. I have never seen such substantial character development in any other show before, in every single recurring character.

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