Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a musical comedy centered around the emotional dysfunction of one young woman named Rebecca Bunch. It’s also one of the most spiritually honest shows on television.
Rebecca Bunch, played by the show’s co-creator and co-writer, Rachel Bloom, is the talking, singing incarnation of Urban Dictionary’s fourth definition of “hot mess” – “an attractive person, generally female, that repeatedly engages in situations which could negatively impact his or her social, mental, societal, and legal reputation.” And she’s surrounded by an array of dysfunctional people — or just, well, people. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend exposes, through send-ups of musical genres and cultural memes, the ways in which we all look to all sorts of good things to try to fill an aching void. Some look to alcohol. Others look to their friends. Rebecca looks to love. Or rather, the idea of love, as portrayed in romantic comedies. (Spoilers below.)
Rebecca suffers from depression and anxiety, and looks for a cure at the altar of Being Loved. She believes that if she can make someone love her, everything will be all right. Rebecca has bought so far into a false reality of love conquering all that when she runs into Josh Chan, an ex-boyfriend from summer camp years ago, she drops her successful career at a Manhattan law firm to move to West Covina, Calif., to (try to) be with him. Antics ensue as she plots to break up Josh and his longtime girlfriend Valencia, with the help of her friend Paula — who uses trying to help Rebecca as a way to fill her own void. These schemes only push Rebecca further from her goal, and make her seem crazy and unstable in the process. Occasionally, Rebecca will have a moment of self-awareness — in one brilliant parody of a Disney villain’s song, she sings, “We’re told love conquers all/but that only applies to the hero. Is the enemy what I’m meant to be? Is being the villain my destiny?”
Like Rebecca, Josh also loves being in love. He cannot handle life outside of a relationship, but when he is in one, he cannot fully commit. After spending two seasons trying to fill his void with love from Valencia and Rebecca, he leaves Rebecca at the altar to kneel before another love: religion.
Josh believes that by joining the priesthood, he can legitimately run away from the guilt of leaving Rebecca because he’s doing a noble thing. In a song-and-dance number in this season’s second episode, called “I’ve Got My Head in the Clouds,” he sings, “No obligations are holding me down/that’s what religion is for.” (He later refers to God as his “E-ZPass.”)
Josh is less interested in the hard work of the priesthood — studying, serving, prayer, and meditation — than in passing out the wafers and wine. The god he’s swapping for his idol of love is his own projection: His idea of the Holy Ghost is a man wearing a white sheet with holes in it for eyes. At one point in the song, this vision joins him. Josh exclaims “Whoa! That’s what you look like?” The Holy Ghost replies, pointedly, “It’s what you think I look like.”
And though this is not the message of the show, Christ-followers may hear echoes of the gospel in its songs and themes. At the heart of Rebecca and Josh’s desire for love and forgiveness is a real calling. We are made to love and be loved first and best by God — because only God can love without self-interest and with perfection. God loves us unselfishly, because God is love, and offers that love regardless of whatever we may do or not do to attain it.
It’s only God who can tell give us the validation we need.
We have been created to live out of the overflow of God’s love for us. It is that love that can stabilize us when we feel anxious and afraid. It’s that love that can give us the strength to love others. It’s that love that enables us to face our fears and failures honestly and let God heal us.
As Crazy Ex-Girlfriend explores the ways that human frailty often drives us to self-destruction, it is also creating a treasure trove of anecdotes and references for the young, hip, and enterprising pastor trying to stay relevant. Of course, viewers should proceed with caution: the show is often vulgar and lewd with a lot of overtly sexual themes and occasional offensive language. Still, for fans of musical theater who want to be told the truth in hilarious song and dance numbers, it hits its notes nearly every time.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend airs on Fridays at 8 p.m. on the CW.