As much fun as it is to be single in your 20s, there are a lot of nerve-wracking insecurities: Proving there are tons of people you can invite to your housewarming party. Trying to impress your crush’s parents. The special hell of getting ready for a date.
Though these issues come up all the time, you know what’s not considered socially acceptable? Talking about them — or, honestly, admitting they exist in the first place. And when people (especially millennials) try to discuss them on TV, as in HBO’s “Girls,” they’re frequently criticized for being too self-involved. So the last place you would expect to find some genuine #realtalk about these feelings is on a delightful CW comedy called “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” that also doubles as a musical.
But as it turns out, a musical is exactly the right venue to out the deep-seated fears of singledom. In real life, there’s a sense of shame that keeps people from talking about these common thoughts: I’m scared that I don’t have enough friends to throw a party by myself. I just spent three hours getting ready to impress someone who might just see me as a friend. Maybe if I can get my crush’s mom to like me, he’ll see the error of his ways and dump his annoying girlfriend.
However, when you throw them together as funny songs on a TV show? Those anxiety-ridden topics are fair game! Even more tellingly, these musical numbers are all inside the head of main character Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom). She’ll occasionally burst into song to depict her insecurities about single life and romance — the most palatable way to showcase such vulnerabilities. It’s one of the deeper themes of the show: The idea that women are expected to have everything totally together on the surface. Sure, it’s okay to fall apart … as long as no one hears it. Otherwise, you’re deemed the dreaded “c-word”: “Crazy.”
The tongue-in-cheek title “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” illustrates this perfectly as Rebecca, a 20-something who quits her job as a high-powered New York lawyer and moves to West Covina, Calif., where her high school ex-boyfriend just happens to live. The ex now has a girlfriend (a stunning, snooty yoga instructor named Valencia), though Rebecca is determined that Josh is her soulmate.
Of course, Rebecca runs into various humiliations, which is often when the show transforms into a musical. The most talked-about tune so far is R&B single “The Sexy Getting Ready Song,” in which Rebecca details the absurd amount of attention women pay to their appearances. “Primping and plucking, brushing and rubbing,” Rebecca sings, during a song that features one of the more graphic waxing scenes in TV history.
When a rapper appears for an interlude, he’s stunned. “God, this is how you get ready? This is horrifying, like a scary movie or something, like some nasty-ass patriarchal bulls—,” he says. “You know what? I gotta go apologize to some b——. I’m forever changed after what I’ve just seen.”
In interviews, Bloom says one point of the series is to highlight the contradictory messages women receive from society, particularly how they’re supposed to portray themselves when it comes to finding love. “The show is a f—ed-up rom com,” she told Vulture. “For me, it’s taking a pop trope and exploring — what’s the actual human side of that, that’s trapped in the sexiness? With the show, we also wanted to explore not just how someone comes to be crazy, but what women are sold.”
The series taps into another secret single-person fear of throwing a party by yourself, hilariously shown in “I Have Friends.” In the song, middle-school age Rebecca and adult Rebecca team up to prove all the cool people they can definitely invite to their party: “We have friends, we definitely have friends! No one can say that I do not have friends!” The desperation is just simmering under the surface, but in a catchy song that will be stuck in your head for a week.
As the show progresses, the songs get more outlandish. “Sex With a Stranger” showcases the excitement and horror of bringing home someone you don’t know that well. “Hey sexy stranger/come back to my place/and I hope you’re not a murderer/Kiss me baby all over the place/please don’t be a murderer.” It’s not all from Rebecca’s point of view: Her friend-zoned pal Greg (Santino Fontana) accepts that Rebecca is in love with Josh, but he offers a compromise in a Fred Astaire-style ballad: “I know there’s another guy that you fancy more/so even though I’m not the one you adore/why not settle for me?”
Monday’s episode took things to a new level with the hysterical “I Give Good Parent,” a hip-hop jam about Rebecca killing the game when it comes to impressing Josh’s parents when she scores an invite to their Thanksgiving dinner. (“I’m DTF but understand me/it means I’m dazzling the family!”) Again, this tune underlines Rebecca’s level of desperation to outshine Valencia, but somehow that insecurity is a lot more acceptable when it becomes performance art.