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Fandom Speaks: In Defense of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Last night’s episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend got REAL. The musical comedy took a turn for the dark side and while it kept humor at its core, it also did a fantastic job of demonstrating something more. It showed the audience a very raw and painfully brutal picture of a woman who has done everything she can think of to follow the ever-glib advice of faking it till you make it, but just can’t keep depression at bay anymore.

It appears that, in spite of the continuing struggle to convince potential viewers to look past its name and give it a shot, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has garnered fans who relate significantly to Rebecca Bunch, particularly in Monday’s episode, and have begun to defend the show from naysayers.

One Tumblr conversation in particular seems to openly demonstrate the various facets of the fandom, bringing the skeptics together with those who are uncertain about the show as well as with those whose lives are beginning to be impacted positively by the situations being represented on-screen.

The discussion began with Tumblr user obsessivecompulsive-listmaker expressing the following:

Maaaaybe I’m just a lil too sensitive buuut…

I am really disliking the new TV show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend so far…

I just feel like it’s making too much fun of having like psychiatric problems and needing treatment for them and everything, which btw I am not just pulling out of my ass bc they do tend to repeatedly reference it in the show. It’s really not a funny thing. It’s bad enough to turn psychiatric problems into a joke, but it’s almost worse to jokingly reference the need for psychiatrists, therapists, and actual treatment for these conditions.

I also highly dislike the association of the word ‘crazy’ with all these things. There is a big difference between being crazy and having mental illness.

Also, the main character hardly has a mental illness. She’s just stupid and overdramatic. There’s nothing else wrong with her other than that. I mean okay, it might be possible she has some sort of minor condition maybe, I mean.. she’s basically like stalking her ex boyfriend isn’t she?

IDK I just think the whole show is really dumb that’s all. It’s not really so much that I’m offended, it’s just dumb to me. IDK.

What do you guys think? I’d like to hear some other people’s thoughts on this… I just wonder if I’m the only one who has an issue with this or am I really just being too sensitive? lol

There are certainly different levels of sensitive, and it’s absolutely possible to be offended by any number of things seen in this show for various reasons. What stood out in the responses to this post, though, was the utter lack of judgment or vitriol that is fairly typical for Tumblr.

First, Tumblr user lauranoncrede responded:

In order:

– I think CEG hardly makes fun of mental issues. It’s a dark comedy, which I agree can be sometimes hard to swallow because even when you’re having fun, deep down you know it’s not just a bunch of jokes and you remain very aware that Rebecca isn’t fine and needs help. It’s even reflected in its episode titles: each one as an exclamation point that suggests beck’s trying to make herself believe what she’s saying (I’m so happy Josh is so happy! no, Rebecca, you’re not). iI’s definitely the first time I see a comedy on mental illnesses and I have yet to decide whether or not it’s a good concept, but I definitely don’t think it’s simply making fun of depression etc. Also, Rachel bloom did suffer from depression. I doubt she’d heartlessly make fun of her own problem.

– The very opening underlines that “crazy ex girlfriend” is “a sexist term” and the situation is “more nuanced than that”. The show tries to explore the many complicated issues that people usually dismiss as ‘craziness’. In order words it’s not saying they’re right, it’s saying they’re wrong. 

– The main character definitely has a mental issue imo. The very fact that she’d move to another town just to follow a boy (from a ten-year-old fling no less) speaks volumes. I’d say depression, but I’m no doctor. It may also be that her fucked up childhood and her mother’s pressures led her to make a long series of really bad decisions which resulted in a desperately unhappy life, if a wealthy one. Maybe she lacks confidence. Maybe she thinks she’s worthless. It’s hard to tell.

– I don’t think it’s dumb, I actually think it’s really brilliant. Again, I’m not sure it works overall, sometimes I believe it’s a so-and-so frame to fantastic musical numbers, but even when the narrative is not at its best I still enjoy it and appreciate the idea. But not everyone has to like something.

Just to be clear: I’m not trying to be a bitch to you, I just appreciate this show and thought I’d say something 🙂

This beautifully expresses the difference between what is often perceived about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and the reality of what the show is trying to accomplish.

Another user, spinningdust, also contributed to the conversation:

I’d like to add, as someone who has depression (among other things), I relate incredibly strongly to Rebecca and think she’s one of the best portrayals of a mentally ill woman on TV at the moment. Sometimes CEG is difficult to watch because it’s so, so true to my life and my experiences, but at the same time, actually getting to watch someone like me on TV who is understood and not a stereotype? It means so much to me.

That’s not to say the show would be for everyone, or that it would even represent everyone with a mental illness. But it deserves a chance, imo, because it’s like nothing I’ve seen before on TV.

There were also those like Tumblr user ohmygodshutup who were a little less certain about the brutally honest and painfully raw on-screen visual provided in the most recent episode of the previously almost light and fluffy comedy musical, but spoke up anyway:

Ok so today’s episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend…it was funny and there were some good lines about mental health but damn. Like it got reeaally dark and grim?? I mean it was still funny but shit got real. I have mixed feelings.

The dialogue being opened up by posts such as these and others is an amazing accomplishment for any show, let alone one struggling such as this. It’s bringing about an openness and honesty in viewers that has rarely been seen before.

Hopefully, viewers and critics alike can come together in an effort to de-stigmatize many of the things this show is working so hard to expose. And, whether the show ever has the numbers that it would like to have or not, those involved in its creation and production should be proud of themselves for refusing to water down mental illness or use stereotypes to represent them. The cast, writers, and crew need to know that they ARE making a difference. And maybe, with a little luck, the education they’re providing can spread like wildfire to the masses and start a grassroots movement to stop the disservice that years of misguided portrayals have caused.

Written by Erica Schaaf

Erica is a former social worker and mother of three who has been writing since she was a child. She currently writes fanfiction for the Veronica Mars and The 100 fandoms and is published on Kindle Worlds as well as fanfiction.net and archiveofourown.org. She hopes to one day have the chance to be a fly on the wall on set of her fave shows while filming!

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