Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is simultaneously great and horrible when it comes to gender representation, and episode 2, “Josh’s Girlfriend is Really Cool!” especially highlights this. In this episode, Rebecca meets Valencia, who’s Josh’s current girlfriend, and the episode revolves around Rebecca’s efforts to become friends with her. Throughout the episode, Rebecca’s cautioned about befriending Valencia. She’s warned by Josh, she’s warned by Paula; even Greg chimes in near the end, though his dialogue is less a warning and more an expression of concern. Despite the warnings, though, Rebecca is resolute in wanting to befriend Valencia – and then the ending happens, where Rebecca kisses Valencia and then admits that she and Josh used to date. Needless to say, that budding friendship ends sourly. Through this, the viewer is privy to a paradoxical presentation, where gender roles and relations are simultaneously progressive and regressive.

The main characters, and the main bearers of agency, in the show are arguably only women – Rebecca, Paula – and yet many of their actions revolve around Josh. There are many men-women interactions depicted – Rebecca and Josh, Rebecca and Greg, Valencia and Josh – and yet, many of those interactions are sexual or romantic. Few male-female interactions on the show are purely friendly or platonic in nature, and the ones that are – Darryl with Rebecca or Paula being the main ones I can think of – typically feature some comedic misunderstanding of one gender by the other.

The biggest example of this paradox within the episode, though, is the relationship between Valencia and Rebecca. Throughout the episode, we see Rebecca combat the idea that she and Valencia can’t be friends and must be feuding, and we see Valencia progress from not having female friends to coming to see Rebecca as a friend (before the club scene, of course.)

If only things stayed this well…

And yet, intertwined with this progress is an inherent element of competition between the two. In their first meeting, Valencia is dressed impeccably, and Rebecca is definitely not. Valencia is a yogi, so Rebecca tries to be one too. Rebecca agrees with many of Valencia’s statements, even when she has no truthful reason to; and Rebecca even wears the same dress as Valencia when they go clubbing. The song, “Feeling Kinda Naughty,” best describes this competitive envy that Rebecca feels for Valencia. To quote it: “I wanna kill you and wear your skin like a dress; but then also have you see me in the dress; and be like, “OMG you look so cute in my skin!”

I think Crazy Ex-Girlfriend does a decent job with gender representation for the most part. However, the plot and the type of humor don’t always translate to great gender representation, and in this episode, that’s apparent.