English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Tag: #crazyexgirlfriend

#Exposed: The Writing in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a very clever show; its writing is frequently deceptively critical. When speaking about the writing in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, it’s impossible to ignore the songs; they’re always super catchy and super focused in their criticisms of various issues, from women’s oversexualization to the glorification of mental illness. This is true in the case of the song “Sexy French Depression,” which is featured in episode 7, “I’m So Happy that Josh Is So Happy!”

In strongly playing up the concepts of mental illness being interesting and of girls who are struggling being interesting and quirky, the song ends up poking fun at said concepts and deconstructing the fantasy inherent to them. Take the first stanza, for example:

My eyes are dark from sadness
My lips are red from pain
My bosom ‘eaves with sobs
I’m in a sexy French depression

Each individual line portrays an idealized image of struggle and sadness, and by so strongly embracing the concept that female suffering is sexy, the song is able to shine light on the ridiculousness of the concept, right from the start. The second stanza also deconstructs the concept of “sexy depression”, but in a different way. First, a quick look at the stanza:

I walk, oh, so slowly
I can only breathe and sigh, oh!
My bed smells like a tampon
I’m in a sexy French depression

In this case, the stanza doesn’t play along with depression being sexy. Instead, it shines light on how depression really is, unflattering aspects and all, through lines like, “My bed smells like a tampon.” The song switches through these two approaches, going from wholeheartedly embracing depression’s “sexiness” to exposing depression for what it really looks like, and by doing this, it more effectively gets its point across.

This clever writing isn’t very surprising, considering that “Sexy French Depression” was written by Rachel Bloom and Adam Schlesinger. Rachel Bloom has past experience with the particular style of blunt, oftentimes-explicit comedy, from writing and singing the song “Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury,” in 2010 to singing “My Sex Junk” on “The Sexual Spectrum” episode of Bill Nye Saves the World in 2017. She also has experience with musical comedy—as of now, she’s released 2 musical comedy albums, Please Love Me and Suck It, Christmas—and regularly speaks about mental health issues, having a history with it herself (she has depression, OCD, and anxiety.) As for Adam Schlesinger, he has a broad wealth of experience with songwriting, having written song lyrics for movies, TV, and musical theater.

Works Cited

“Adam Schlesinger,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Schlesinger

“I’m In A Sexy French Depression,” Genius, https://www.genius.com/10127238

“Rachel Bloom,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Bloom

“Rebecca Tries to Make Healthy Choices!”

What constitutes a healthy choice, and how does one make them? This concept is the thematic motif of episode 4, “I’m Going on a Date with Josh’s Friend!” In this episode, Rebecca aims to make healthier choices after almost following through on the impulsive decision to have a one-night stand with a Tinder date. While Rebecca has a solidly clear end-goal in mind – to feel less regret about the decisions and choices she makes – she has several ways to go about this that the episode demonstrates.

For most of the episode, Rebecca believes making healthy choices comes down to resisting her urges. It’s why she becomes vegan, despite expressing several times how much she misses meat; it’s why she becomes Buddhist; and it’s why she goes on a date with Greg, despite being in love with and wanting to wait for Josh.

Combined with resisting her urges, Rebecca’s approach to making healthier choices also includes being more practical and less idealistic, and the episode’s two songs, “Sex with a Stranger” and “Settle for Me,” both demonstrate this dilemma. “Sex with a Stranger” musically summarizes Rebecca’s sexual experience with the Tinder date, and there’s an intriguing dichotomy present in it: the visual presentation of the song is hypersexual and idealized, but the lyrics express a more realistic thought process, featuring thoughts like how stinky his genitals are and whether he’s been tested for STDs.

This same dichotomy is even more present in “Settle For Me,” the song summarizing Rebecca’s interpretation of Greg asking her out. The video and instrumentals depict an idealized version of romance and love, complete with a dance sequence, fancy outfits, and a black-and-white tint. And yet, Greg says several awkward things, and the lyrics are literally about how Rebecca should settle for him despite loving someone else.

Ultimately, Rebecca’s approach to making healthier choices leads to more regret as she ends up making a chain of impulsive decisions – namely, eating meat and then leaving her date with Greg early to hook up with the hipster taco vender she met during the date – and at the end of the episode, Rebecca’s moved away from such an approach, acknowledging its unhealthiness.

This theme of making healthy choices – and the associated, inherent dilemma of practicality versus idealism – is relevant to the show as a whole, especially in terms of how healthy Rebecca’s pursuit of Josh is and whether it’s actually worth it. This theme is also definitely relevant to society. There’s been a cultural shift in the last several years in favor of leading healthy lifestyles, which has led to more discussion of how exactly to live healthily; and the “practical versus dream” conflict is one that emerges frequently in people’s lives, from jobs to romance.

Girl Crush/Hit List Target: Gender Reps in Crazy Ex-GF

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.

Crazy Ex Girlfriend’s Visual Design

In Crazy Ex Girlfriend, dark subject matter is often juxtaposed with a cheery tone (example: the cartoon sun in the intro that joyfully sings “She’s so broken inside”). The general color scheme of Crazy Ex Girlfriend provides the same kind of optimistic contrast to Rebecca’s serious mental health issues. Often, light, bright colors dominate the scene. From the setting of the scene (think the bright green walls of the bar that Greg works at, or Rebecca’s white and airy house) to the clothing the characters wear (like Rebecca and Paula’s work outfits), bright colors can be found everywhere.

In addition to providing a cheerful visual tone, color is also used symbolically, especially in the outfits worn by the women of the show. For example, in Episode 6 My First Thanksgiving With Josh!, Rebecca and Valencia display their clashing personalities and methods through the clothing they wear. While Rebecca wears light blue throughout the episode, symbolizing her thoughtfulness and how she strategizes winning over Josh’s parents in order to win over Josh, Valencia wears a dark red dress that connotes her vibrant sexuality and how she uses sex to win Josh over after a fight. In the same episode, Josh’s mother Mrs. Chan wears a light pink sweater which corresponds perfectly to her nurturing personality.

In all honestly, the direction is very standard for a TV show. Quick cuts are used during conversations to display a person’s face as they speak; long shots are usually reserved for a character’s pensive expression as they mull something over or have a realization. Where the show really takes off directorially is during the musical numbers, which are shot in a variety of ways. Earlier in the show, when Greg sings “Settle For Me,” the sequence is shot in the style of ‘3os musicals, a la Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, with uninterrupted shots of them dancing in black and white. In Episode 6, which features a lovely number named “I Give Good Parent,” however, the show goes a more MTV route, with shots where the camera rotates around a still figure, and shadows are used to convey power and sensuality. The musical number are where the true talent (as well as often the true feelings of the characters) of the show’s cinematography comes out.

Another stunning example of Crazy Ex Girfriend’s directorial versatility


Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén