In light of the vibrant, musical TV show ‘Crazy Ex Girlfriend’ coming to an end, I thought about its positive impact associated with the portrayal of mental illness. The story of the show follows Rebecca Bunch, of whom we as an audience are supposed to identify ourselves with. She’s funny, messy, boisterous, sharp, and one of the most interesting people you would ever find. However, she is quite flawed. In many episodes, she becomes obsessed with the love interest of whom she broke up with in her teenage years, and later moved to a city in California to pursue.
As the show flies through each season, we watch Rebecca face more issues. She’s not just overly reliant on others, but also anxious, severely emotional, and has a history ridden with abandonment, leaving her with trauma and insecurity. But what I really like about the way the show is written, is that it’s not seen as this scary, irreversible, end-all-be-all problem. Instead, her issues are portrayed as musical numbers. She regularly sees a therapist, and reflects the ups and downs of dealing with a mental disorder, which we eventually discover to be BPD (Borderline personality disorder)
It shows that those living with mental disorders aren’t too different than those that aren’t; they’re in plain sight. Many TV shows will over-simplify the effects of disorders, making the character suffering from it appear malicious, crazy, or simply just project them in a poor light. This is also part of the irony of the show’s name. We find that Rebecca isn’t really such a “crazy” ex girlfriend after all. She’s just Rebecca; she’s genuine, honest about her feelings, high-spirited, and loyal to those she loves.
Mental Illness is commonly misrepresented in hollywood. Suicide is glamorized, illnesses are seen as an inescapable black hole, therapists are for ‘crazy people,’ the characters are overly dramatized and usually made out to be the villain. This is unfair to people who actually suffer from mental illness, and see it from a completely different perspective.
I understand the counterargument; characters dealing with mental illness in healthy ways doesn’t make for good television. Well, to that I say: watch Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the perfect example to oppose that stance.
It’s 2019. People living with mental illness do not deserve to be stigmatized in TV and film. It just makes it less likely that people will reach out and get help. So, here’s to supporting quality television that positively impacts mental illness; let’s hope the future of hollywood holds more of it.