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She's So Broken Inside: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and the Fantasy of Musicals

I will admit this from the outset: this post might be off-topic. I am using the term “fantasy” loosely here. But musicals tend to skirt the knife edge of fantasy: do they take place in a world where people spontaneously burst into song and nobody notices? Or is it that the main character is imagining everyone singing? Is something, perhaps, so wrong with them that they retreat into this fantasy world?

I’m also going to admit that the reason I am making this post is because I love Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and I want many more people to watch it (it’s getting really poor ratings). Because it is a show that also skirts a knife edge, this one deconstructing a usual comedy trope: having a protagonist who is both lovable and yet deeply disturbed.

As the theme song notes, the show is about Rebecca Bunch (played to perfection by Rachel Bloom, of “Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury” fame), a woman whose sole happy memory from the past decade was when she was sixteen at summer camp and she dated Josh Chan. When she unexpectedly runs into Josh (after having a panic attack due to a promotion) and he tells her that he is moving back to West Covina, California, she impulsively decides to move there, too. Not because of Josh, but just because she needed a change (or so she says).


And this, then, leads into the first musical number:

It isn’t clear, at first, if the musical numbers are merely in Rebecca’s head. If so, that would make sense, because she is also struggling with several mental problems, including anxiety and depression and bursting out into song might be her way of coping. But there are other moments when other people burst into song and we’re not sure if it’s Rebecca imagining them doing it or, perhaps, they are actually singing.

All the songs, however, are incredibly catchy...and sometimes deeply disturbing. It seems that while Rebecca can lie to herself, in song she often ends up revealing truths. In the second episode, Rebecca manages to befriend Josh’s beautiful girlfriend Valencia, ostensibly because Rebecca “likes” her, but really it’s because she’s obsessed with Josh and Valencia by proxy:

That this song is also a parody of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” is almost beside the point. It’s pretty clear that Rebecca deeply wants affection and, for some reason, can’t really admit that to herself that. Most situation comedies tend to have plots about lies to other people that spin out of control — Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s plots are about the lies Rebecca tells herself that spin out of control. And perhaps the truth is something she can only express in the fantasy of musicals.


Crazy Ex-Girlfriend airs on Mondays at 8 P.M. on the CW. Go watch it!

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