Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Popcorn Jane: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (& Sisterhood)

Like many young women in college, I went through a devastating breakup. I thought that I was going to spend my life with this person. At the time, two years seemed like a long relationship and, as upset as I was about “wasted time," I was even more upset by the total emptiness I felt. When I wasn’t experiencing devastation, I was feeling confusion. In my mind, I did everything I was supposed to do to have a healthy relationship: hobbies, classes, a work-study job, and my writing. 

However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I should have had more fulfillment than I was experiencing. What I had failed to recognize during my relationship is that I neglected my friendships. It didn’t dawn on me until I realized - in my time of need - my female friends were the ones lifting me up. They were the ones who came to my apartment with takeout when I couldn’t leave because I was crying too much. They were the ones who invited me to watch movies and drink hot chocolate. They were at my side as I ran into battle. Sisterhood saved me.

One show that portrays the importance of sisterhood is Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. It is a musical comedy series whose protagonist, Rebecca Bunch, quits her job at a fancy NYC law firm and moves to California after running into her high school summer camp boyfriend, Josh Chan. She believes they are destined to be together.

The show is a highly self-aware send-up of the sexist tropes found in many romance stories, going as far as to remind the viewer during the opening theme song that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a “sexist term.” While on its surface, the show is about the insane lengths we will go to find love (because we see it as the answer to all our problems), it has secretly been exploring the importance of strong female friendships and sisterhood since the first episode. On the surface this show is focused on Rebecca’s relationship with Josh and other potential love interests, but when we dig a bit deeper we see that the show is about support systems and finding happiness.

In season one, although Rebecca’s antics to steal Josh away from his girlfriend, Valencia, and Rebecca's relationship with Josh’s best friend Greg are seemingly at the forefront of the show, Rebecca’s relationship with her co-worker turned best friend, Paula, is the core relationship of the season. Although initially suspicious of Rebecca, Paula soon vows to help Rebecca when she discovers Rebecca is in West Covina on a quest for Josh Chan’s heart and true love. It is revealed that Paula is so willing to help Rebecca because of her own failing marriage. To Paula, Rebecca is a sign that true love still exists. To Rebecca, Paula is the mother she never had. But as Paula and Rebecca come up with plot after plot to break up Josh and Valencia, their friendship becomes far more important and meaningful than either of them initially intended. And when Rebecca experiences heartbreak Paula is there to support her.

Season two continues to build on the theme of sisterhood by deepening Rebecca’s friendship with several other female characters. Heather, initially Rebecca’s next door neighbor, becomes roommates with Rebecca, and through Rebecca’s encouragement, finds herself as the new spokesperson for a feminine hygiene company named Mrs. Douche. Valencia, Josh’s ex-girlfriend, initially bonds with Rebecca over their mutual anger at Josh. Though their friendship struggles after Josh and Rebecca get back together, by the end of the season the friendship between Valencia and Rebecca means more to Valencia than her former relationship. The expansion of Rebecca’s friend group and the roles those friends will play is illustrated perfectly in the Spice Girls Parody “Friendtopia."

When, at the end of season two Rebecca is left in a traumatized state, we know that this time she will be okay (and get revenge) because of the her strong sisterhood with Paula, Heather, and Valencia.

Like Rebecca, I am battling anxiety and depression in our current political environment, and one of the things that lifts me up are my female friendships. In dark and confusing times, intersectional feminism and sisterhood are vital. 

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