What Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Means to Me

By Amy Kim

Author’s Note:

In this article, I will be spoiling several key revelations in the CW show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I would honestly argue that knowing these insights before watching the show would help you understand what it’s going for tonally and narratively much better. That being said, if you were interested in watching the show beforehand and wanted to know absolutely nothing about it, then I’d recommend beginning it now! It’s a phenomenal show, even if this fact may not be readily apparent until a certain episode! Just stick with it, it’s worth it.

In the show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Rebecca Bunch has the life that her mother has always dreamed of for her: she’s a whip-smart, work-obsessed lawyer about to be made partner at a top law firm in the city that never sleeps. She should feel happy, or at least satisfied with herself. She feels neither. 

One day, she stumbles upon her joyful childhood sweetheart Josh and falls in love instantly. Determined, and more than a little deluded, she decides to quit her job and move to Josh’s hometown. She obsesses over this idea that if she has the “perfect guy,” all of her issues will disappear. But it becomes evident as the show progresses that it was never Josh Rebecca was in love with, but what he represented: that life filled with kindness and community that she so desperately dreamed of. The show dives into her mental health issues, skewers romantic comedy tropes, and packs in 2-3 original musical songs in a tight, entertaining 40 minutes. Over the course of 4 seasons, we watch this unstable, unhappy woman who clings onto unhealthy fantasies blossom into someone who may not have her life completely together but is content and knows who she is. It’s a beautiful character arc, and one that I desperately needed to see. 

I am not a Jewish woman, nor am I in my early 30s. I am not a Harvard graduate, nor do I ever aspire to be. I am lucky enough to have 2 loving parents who pushed me to do my best and were there for me no matter what. Yet I felt so vividly seen by this show, and especially by Rebecca Bunch, in a way I never had before. 

I started Crazy Ex-Girlfriend during a lazy summer before my junior year in high school. I was mindlessly scrolling through Netflix when I stumbled upon it, and was immediately hooked by the offbeat comedy and imaginative musical sequences. I mean, what other show jokes about period sex, UTIs, pregnancy, or the horrific ritual that is attempting to look beautiful for a party (read: a man)? Maybe there are others, but you’d be hard pressed to find one that nails all of these topics and makes them gut-bustingly funny! And you can’t expect a humble girl who compulsively dances to any song she hears to not lose her mind over bops like “West Covina”, “It Was a Shitshow”, “Settle For Me”, and “You Ruined Everything”. That’s just cruel! As a high school girl, I was also naturally obsessed with the “love triangles” the show presented in the first 2 seasons. I got excited when Greg or Nathaniel had romantic moments with Rebecca, and I was livid every time she still chose Josh. I was always a huge fan of the show, but until season 3, I had appreciated it for fairly superficial reasons. There was something else I couldn’t put to words that I adored about it, but my adoration of the show’s technical merits and its high entertainment value largely overshadowed that je ne sais quoi factor for me.

In season 3, though, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend dives deep into the mental health issues of its protagonist that its prior seasons had only scratched the surface of. Yes, we have been witness to the sadly pathetic highs and borderline unbearable lows of Rebecca Bunch in her pursuit of love before. But both the audience and Rebecca finally start getting answers that recontextualize these series of events this season. And once Rebecca is able to look within her soul and understand what’s truly been happening this entire time, she begins one of the most inspiring character arcs I’ve ever seen. She doesn’t become perfect or solve all of her issues. She still falters sometimes and relapses into old habits. But she makes the effort to improve, and she gradually does. By the end, a character who was once-irritating because of the poor choices she made grows into a mature woman who ends the show making the best possible choice for herself. 

As the show began nearing its finale, I finally, if you will, sais quoi I appreciated about it so much in the first place. The way it portrayed Rebecca’s unhealthy fixation on Josh actually eerily reminded me of my own behavior towards my grades. Throughout my academic life, I had assumed that if I achieved the perfect score — that ever-elusive 100% — I would be accepted into the perfect college and obtain the perfect career and finally, after all of that, be happy. In that incredible state of delusion I had existed in since 6th grade, I was positive that earning top marks on every test would be my one-way ticket to happiness.

As Rebecca slowly realizes that a man isn’t really a means to ultimate joy, I slowly realized through this show that grades aren’t really a means to ultimate satisfaction. As I destroyed my social life and my sleep schedule in pursuit of a GPA boost of a hundredth of a point, I found that I wasn’t proud of myself at all. I was just disappointed I hadn’t done better. I had made my entire life revolve around a number, thinking that number would be the defining factor of whether or not I succeeded at life. And all along, during this foolhardy pursuit, I had overlooked the profound euphoria that a simple pastime brought me. Watching television and writing about it was the aspect of my life that actually brought me happiness and satisfaction. That feeling after finishing a review I could be proud of or writing a scene I could perfectly envision in my mind was an excitement no 4.0 GPA could produce. And though I still have depressive spirals and slip back into old habits every so often, I find that no matter what point I am in my life, television is there. I can always find a show to put on in the background, watch for fun, analyze deeply, or even write myself. Though I’m not as eloquent of a writer as I’d like to be yet, I nonetheless want to focus my efforts on creating writing I can be proud of. It’s this, not a test grade, that truly brings me happiness.

Near the end of the series, Rebecca realizes what creator and writer Rachel Bloom had known since the show’s inception: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was always a love story, just not a romance. Near the end of the series, I found out what truly matters in my life, what I’m truly passionate about. Like Rebecca, I finally chose love. And I’m never going back.