Now Reading: ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ Has Amazing Representation Of One Of The Most Stigmatized Mental Illnesses


‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ Has Amazing Representation Of One Of The Most Stigmatized Mental Illnesses

March 14, 20185 min read

At first, the show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend may sound like a shallow comedy about unhealthy behaviors and a toxic relationship. But you’d be surprised at how it’s not even close to that.

Courtesy of The CW

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend first aired in early 2015, created by and starring Rachel Bloom as the main character Rebecca Bunch. Now, not only is Bloom a phenomenal actress and comedic genius (listen to some of the hilarious songs from the show here), she is also a wonderful mental health advocate. Having suffered from mental illness herself, Bloom commonly speaks candidly about her struggles with her diagnosed depression, anxiety and OCD, also raising awareness on multiple other issues such as body positivity. She wrote an essay for Glamour on her personal experiences with depression and anxiety, simultaneously encouraging others who suffer from the same problems to believe that they are far from alone in their struggles. In the essay, she writes that:

“The thing that has most aided me through my anxiety and depression is realizing I’m not alone. I’m naturally bubbly, even when I’m sad. But here’s what people can’t see: During a spiral the world feels dark. I have anxiety about anxiety, then I worry the anxiety will ruin my life. It’s a snake-eats-tail loop. But in opening up to others, I found a lot of people have felt the same way.”

Bloom’s show gives the sort of mental health representation hardly seen in mainstream media. Whilst the show does exhibit instances of unhealthy and toxic behavior on multiple characters’ parts, it clearly outlines the wrongness of such behavior and portrays the causes and often grisly consequences of them. The show is also definitely a complete emotional roller-coaster ride, whisking you through extreme happiness to extreme anger and sadness. But most importantly, it is so cathartic to watch. Even if it takes some problems a season or a few episodes or even a single episode to work themselves out, it feels so rewarding to see when they do, and the relief is definitely unlike anything I’ve felt watching any other series.

Courtesy of Netflix

In season 3, Rebecca Bunch is diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD): the diagnosis we (and her) have all been waiting for. Then, unlike other shows where you may expect this revelation to be used to demonize her character or never be fully explored or explained, the show takes you on a journey with Rebecca through her accepting and understanding of this diagnosis. It features in-depth scenes of Rebecca with her therapist, in many of which BPD is clinically explained for both Rebecca and the audience.

Mental health professionals have also spoken about how true to mental health Bunch’s character is:

“I like how the show illustrates the complexity of people,” Hilary Jacobs Hendel, licensed psychotherapist and author of It’s Not Always Depression, tells SELF. “Each character has their own flaws and struggles combined with very wonderful aspects. This reflects humanity.”

Rebecca ticks 9 out of the 9 most common symptoms doctors look for when diagnosing BPD, all of which are subtly or loudly identifiable in her character over each of the seasons, making the diagnosis understandable and perhaps not a complete shock. What’s more, she is never portrayed as a villainous character, as many with mental disorders usually are in mainstream media, even despite her obvious flaws. She is an extremely complex character, just as every other character in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is, and whilst at times she does some awful and questionable things, the good in her is also undeniable, and this is part of why we, as an audience, love her so much.

She is so wonderfully human, and there really isn’t anything more we could want.

Cover Image Courtesy of The CW

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Niamh Parr

Aspiring writer by day. Occasional crime-fighter by night.