I told you guys.
I told you many months ago when the first trailer for The CW's musical comedy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend dropped that there was probably more to this show than its questionable title. Seven episodes in, there's no question The CW (home to some of the best shows right now: Jane the Virgin, iZombie) has produced another great, female-centric show. For many skeptical viewers, the hesitation came from—other than the concept of "musical comedy"—its sexist-leaning title. Women are so often colored "crazy"—sister words to "bitchy" or "bossy"—but creators Aline Brosh McKenna and Rachel Bloom (who stars as the show's lead, Rebecca Bunch) are more than well aware of that. In the cartoonish theme song, a chorus of people sings, "She's the crazy ex-girlfriend!" but Rebecca makes sure to point out, "That's a sexist term!" And then she shuts everyone down by saying, "The situation's a lot more nuanced than that."
It is. Even though the premise is initially frustrating: A successful New York City woman on the verge of becoming made partner at her law firm runs into her ex-boyfriend Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III) and decides to drop her entire life and move to West Covina, Calif., where he lives (I hear that place is a dump). It's 2015—must we really watch a show about a woman who gives up EVERYTHING for a man? A man who may not even be interested back? Fortunately, Crazy Ex makes a smart, self-aware effort to wink at, and then debunk, its own title.
Surprise, surprise, being made partner at a respectable New York law firm does not equal having it all—especially not for Rebecca. It shows in the way our "crazy" heroine reacts to the news of her promotion—she runs out, panicked, instead of jumping for joy. It's at that point that she runs into Josh, inspiring the catalytic move that becomes central to the show. She isn't giving up a happy life for a guy, she's seeking a better one, using the excuse of Josh to chase it.
Of course, her move to West Covina doesn't solve all her problems. Her attempts at seducing him are hilarious and devastating, but in a medium that mostly celebrates male anti-heroes, it's interesting to see a show as light-hearted as this one present such a flawed and complicated woman, while still making her lovable. By accepting her, we become more susceptible to accept ourselves, flaws and all. If you thought this show dismissed women as hysterical creatures, it couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, it's immensely subversive—does the patriarchy even notice how fiercely feminist it is?—and we should all feel blessed by the five extra episodes The CW just ordered for the show's first season.
The casting of Rebecca is also commendable: She's older than your average CW heroine. The actress is 28, but the character could play anywhere from late-20s to mid-30s. Her best friend Paula (played by 44-year-old actress Donna Lynne Champlin) isn't pigeonholed into your typical middle-aged housewife/mother role either, even though she is in fact married with children. She's shown doing things for herself (or playing comic sidekick to Rebecca), but she's not neglectful of her family. The two have a teenage coming-of-age sensibility when it comes to finding themselves. Most shows and movies depict women making mistakes and learning from them at a relatively young age, but what if you're older, and you still don't have your shit together? Crazy Ex-Girlfriend makes room for those women—but not in a tragic way.
It's not all "Yay, female friendships!" either. Like in real life, Rebecca doesn't get along with every girl. Josh's impossibly hot girlfriend Valencia sparks wild jealousy, and instead of going out of her way to avoid her, Rebecca suddenly becomes obsessed with the idea of befriending her (we've all been there). She goes to yoga with her, sets up friend dates with her, and then she crosses the line by even making out with her. Her logic is that maybe if Josh's girlfriend can love her, Josh can love her too. It's twisted, sure, but it's scarily relatable.
In the seventh and most recent episode, Rebecca's depression—which has mostly been bubbling under the surface—rears its ugly head. There's more going on with her than just the dismissive "crazy" label, which shows itself in Dr. Phil hallucinations, her desperate dive for a pill she finds on the bathroom floor, and a breaking and entering attempt to fake a prescription from her doctor. But depression is also dealt in a way that only Crazy Ex-Girlfriend can. In a black and white musical segment, Rebecca, dressed like a Godard girl, sings about how she's in a "sexy French depression," with hilarious lyrics like "I bought a book about John Wayne Gacy online" and "I watch porn but can only fixate on what happened in the porn stars' lives to lead them to these careers" (all in French, for that extra kick of humor).
Not all aspects of her life are made uncertain, though. We're always reminded of how smart Rebecca is (she is a Harvard graduate, never forget), and how capable—overqualified, even—she is at her job. For all the questionable choices she makes in her life, she never comes across as a dumb person. She's also confident in her sexuality, which, yes, comes with age, but also represents an aspect of her life she doesn't feel self-conscious about. The show does go into racy territory—in song form a lot of the time—parodying overtly sexy music videos but getting real (too real?) in lyrics. Before a hookup Rebecca is seen dancing around in a leopard-print leotard, looking like she's about to go into a sexy seduction clip, except she sings facts about STD testing and gives a heaping dose of reality: "Your balls smell weird/Your balls smell so much worse than I feared." What does a sexually confident woman actually look like? She's not always coy, lounging around in fancy lingerie. She's more in line with Rebecca Bunch.
Sexy videos that get too real is somewhat of a Crazy Ex-Girlfriend specialty. In an earlier episode, Rebecca does her version of the makeover montage, "The Sexy Getting Ready Song" (which looks awfully like Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl" video), sucking in all her body fat and painfully waxing off every inch of unwanted body hair. Then a rapper steps in, posing to spit some verses about how sexy she looks, et cetera, except he pauses and points out how getting ready for women looks more like a scary movie, and isn't all that sexy in reality.
"I gotta apologize to some bitches," he says before pointing out the "nasty-ass patriarchal bullshit." Amen. And just like that, within the short time since its Oct. 12 premiere, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has proven that it doesn't play by that nasty-ass patriarchal bullshit. This is a show by women, about women, for women. By accepting Rebecca's flaws, we learn to accept ourselves. By acknowledging her strengths, we look for ours. If you've conscientiously stayed away from the show, you're sleeping on one of the most women-friendly shows right now.