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“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” Is Doing Important Work With Mental Health This Season

 

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Spoilers for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s November 10th episode (and other episodes).

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The CW series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has always referenced lead character Rebecca’s mental health — hey, the word “crazy” is in the title, after all. But as the very first season’s theme song tells us, “The situation’s a lot more nuanced than that.”

The show's depiction of mental illness goes way back, though it's often done so subtly that viewers might not remember. We see Rebecca throw away her meds in the season premiere, for example. The show continues to address mental health, both directly — as in the scenes in which Rebecca goes to a therapist and always completely misses the point of her advice — and indirectly. This is often done through songs, like “Sexy French Depression."

(And that’s not even mentioning other characters' mental health — in season 2, Rebecca’s love interest, Greg, realizes he’s an alcoholic and beginnings attending AA after singing a new type of drinking song.)

The closest we’ve gotten to a diagnosis for Rebecca might be in the season one song “A Boy Band Made Up Of Four Joshes,” in which Rebecca imagines, well, a boy band made up of four Backstreet Boys-esque clones of her crush, Josh, romantically suggesting, in song, “Maybe we should have a session / address your anxiety and depression” because “We’re not just a boy band made up of four Joshes / We’re also a team of nationally recognized / Mental health professionals / Trained in cognitive behavioral therapy with specialities in / Personality and sleep disorders / and love.”

The season 2 finale was a turning point in the way the show depicts Rebecca's mental health. After Josh leaves Rebecca at the altar, we see her contemplate suicide before being talked off a literal cliff. And we also learn more about Rebecca’s past — namely, that in college, she had a relationship with a married professor, and, after he broke up with her, set fire to his house. Instead of serving jail time, she was institutionalized.

Now, season 3 is addressing Rebecca’s mental health more directly. Beginning in the season 3 premiere, Rebecca handles her breakup with Josh in a series of increasingly troubling, self-destructive ways — mailing him poop cupcakes; hiring a Josh lookalike to make a sex tape with her; having sex with her evil boss Nathaniel in exchange for Nathaniel’s promise to do something truly evil to Josh (which, luckily, Rebecca is able to call off before they happen); putting on her wedding dress to tell Josh all of the stalker-y things she did throughout their relationship; leaving Josh a creepy note threatening his mother; saying incredibly cruel things to her friends when they try to stage an intervention; and sleeping with her ex’s dad. At the end of the fourth episode, having hit rock bottom (as narrated in song by Josh Groban), Rebecca leaves Los Angeles to move back in with her mother.

 

The fifth episode gets even more real — and dark. Rebecca is sleeping all day and not eating; at one point, her mother, Naomi, takes her laptop and finds out that Rebecca is researching suicide methods. Naomi then starts sneakily giving meds to Rebecca, via strawberry milkshakes. At first, it helps — leading to the hilarious, Ronettes-esque song, “Maybe She’s Not Such a Heinous Bitch After All.”

But after Rebecca realizes what’s happening, she confronts her mother — and Naomi speaks openly and seriously about Rebecca's mental health, pointing out that she had previously attempted suicide and been institutionalized. Rebecca abruptly leaves and catches a flight back to Los Angeles — during which she attempts suicide, taking the remainder of her pills with a glass of Merlot. The episode closes out as we see Rebecca, on the edge of consciousness, ask a stewardess for help.

The show’s treatment of mental health is so much more than its title indicates — after all, the first season’s theme song reminds us that “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is “a sexist term.” Crazy Ex-Girlfriend shows Rebecca as a likeable, talented, fascinating person with a serious mental illness — who needs serious help. Showrunners Rachel Bloom (who stars as Rebecca) and Aline Brosh McKenna told TV Guide that the next episode will show Rebecca receiving a diagnosis and beginning treatment.

I can’t wait to see where the next episode, and the rest of the season, takes us.

Top photo: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend/CW

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Erika W. Smith is BUST's digital editorial director. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @erikawynn and email her at erikawsmith@bust.com.

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