This week on CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND, Rebecca took Josh to a family function in New York and Darryl had to deal with the awful new boss. The dual plots of “Will Scarsdale like Josh’s Shayna Punim?” left me emotionally confused by the end because this show is honestly terrible when it comes to Rebecca’s mother but it’s outstanding about Darryl. On the one hand, it normalizes Naomi Bunch’s narcissism as a messed up fact of life that Rebecca just needs to deal with but on the other Darryl set himself up as the nice dad figure for Nathaniel Plimpton. This show is disturbingly personal for me because it has no problem being raw about emotional abuse so whenever they try to actually show Rebecca’s relationship with her mother, I just go
All right guys, listen up: the town, people, and cultural accoutrements in which you were raised are not you. It is perfectly 100% fine to hate them if all you ever experienced from those things was trauma and negativity. You are not the place that you are from. You are not your blood relations. You are not a culture. Those things can shape elements of your identity but they are not you. It’s a terrible thing to say that they are. This show is usually really good about addressing childhood trauma and identity issues and they do show Rebecca’s mother is awful, but they also often forgive her her behavior and that doesn’t sit right with me. This is my public service announcement: if a character is an unrepentant narcissist who dominates, belittles, and infantilizes others you don’t have to try to humanize them and you don’t have to present them as cute. This episode did a decent job presenting that but undercut it by having the rabbi tell Rebecca that if she hated where she came from then she hated herself. Just no. While Crazy Ex-Girlfriend usually gets an A+ on the mental health side from me, I can’t deal with them pretending that’s an okay statement. I’m glad Rebecca realized (briefly) that the issues she’s having in her life were in herself, but it’s not okay to say she hates herself because she hasn’t embraced the completely awful things in her life. Those are the things you move to California to get free of.
Now that I’m done screaming for the sake of my own mental health, the rest of the episode was wonderful. I like the way that each episode this season gives a different character central focus but we never forget that they’re all important and have their own lives. This is only mean boss Nathaniel Plimpton’s second episode and already he has a heartwarming amount of pathos—not because of his daddy issues, but because Darryl intervened in the downward spiral caused by his daddy issues and Plimpton accepted that intervention. This week, Darryl got to be center stage and even while the majority of the episode was his desperate, goofy antics, in the end his compassion transformed him from buffoon to sweetheart. I feel like he’s the show’s emotionally honest version of a court jester. Rather than telling the king hard truths couched as jokes, he always seems like an over-eager, ineffectual doofus and yet it always turns out that he has the biggest heart. He tries to be stoic and bottle up his feelings but the second he pretends he’s okay when he isn’t he bursts out with the truth. As the cool kids would say: Darryl has no chill. I love him for it. It’s so interesting to me that Darryl and White Josh are like the model of how to be emotionally healthy which contrasts well with Rebecca’s self-destructive fantasies.
Speaking of those fantasies, yes I am upset with some of the rhetoric in this episode. Crazy people are touchy. I’m allowed to be upset. But overall, this story did such a good job of getting Rebecca to a place where she realized that if she wanted to fix her problems she had to look to herself to do it. If this show had a thesis statement, they expressed it at least twice in this episode by saying Josh Chan “isn’t magic.” I think my favorite part of Rebecca’s story here is that once her mother decides she likes Josh it takes the luster off of him for her. If he falls for her awful mom’s behavior then he must not be Prince Charming. You can watch the jaws of the trap snap shut around Rebecca when that happens. If the person who is supposed to save you from drowning starts telling you that you have gills—the lie that the people drowning you have always told you—all you want is out. I’ve had that experience many, many times and that was the perfect way to disillusion Rebecca about Josh. Her comment that “it sounds like one thing but means another,” while technically made about Jewish culture, is exactly how narcissism plays out for people trapped in its cycle. So I’ll just say Rebecca perceives Judaism through the lens of her mother. Hence, everything is grim because no pleasure is ever allowed. That sort of duplicity of meaning is so hard to explain to people. They expressed it well through the “Remember That We’ve Suffered” number that Josh can’t hear even as Rebecca tries to translate it for him.
And then, of course, the biggest plot development was Josh proposing to Rebecca, which I’m thinking her mother put into his head. If Rebecca ever figures that out she will be upset. The marriage proposal was played perfectly, with the psychiatrist trying to shoo Josh away from Rebecca’s moment of self-actualization and Rebecca immediately falling off the reality train. No idea where they’re gonna go with that but I’m sure it’ll be a beautiful disaster.
Overall, this was a great episode. It was just sullied for me by the assertion that you aren’t in control of your own identity. You are you. Don’t let anyone tell you what harmful things you have to love to be yourself. Not even a cute show that usually gets it right. Also, seriously guys, if you need help please Google “Adult Children of Narcissists,” find a good support group on the internet, or come find me in my various digital incarnations and I will point you in the direction of resources. TV shows are great if you can’t do therapy but sometimes you need someone real to believe you.
Season 2, Episode 10 (S02E10)
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend airs Fridays at 9PM on The CW
Dana is a digitization archivist by day and a masked pop culture avenger by night. She spreads the gospel of science fiction and fantasy wherever she goes.
Follow Dana on Twitter: @DanaLeighBrand
Keep up with all of Dana’s reviews here.
Dana Leigh Brand | Contributor