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Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Uses Genre Tropes Against You

Emma_Clare at 12:00AM, April 1, 2023

Recently I have been revisiting a sitcom that I used to love but, funnily enough, never finished. The last season of the show dropped during a hectic period of my life and by the time I had, well time, to watch it, I had lost the plot. But thanks to the forever helping hand of nostalgia I have been going back and rewatching this particular series. However, as I now have the benefit of a certain degree of hindsight and experience, I am not just rewatching the series; I am re-evaluating it. And it has completely changed how I watch this show.

Because what I have come to realise is, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend used sitcom/romcom tropes to completely fool me. And I love it for it.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is set in the always sunny, concrete haven of West Covina, California. And what drew our vivacious, totally not having a burnout induced breakdown after realising the “dream job” she always wanted was not what she actually wanted after being offered the position of junior partner at a prestigious New York based law firm, protagonist, Rebecca, to this new life on the west coast that is only two hours from the beach (but really it's four due to traffic)?

Why love of course!

This love is personified by the object of her affections, Josh Tran and becoming his girlfriend (again) is the main directive. The mission. The goal. Because that’s what happiness looks like.

What ensues is a series of romcom inspired antics, often aided, well, more facilitated, by her self-appointed sidekick, Paula. These antics are framed through the narrative device of songs; and more often than not, are actually expressions of Rebecca’s projections, insecurities and perceptions of what she is experiencing. She is presented as the main point-of-view character, and, as a result, we are conditioned by the genre itself, that of situational comedy, to take her perspective on and root for her. What might seem outlandish behaviour is positioned as expressions of “true love” supported by the genre conventions we have become accustomed to.

The backbone of situational comedies is dysfunction. Comedy arises from the characters acting/reacting in a manner that would otherwise be counter to that everyday social norms. However, these situations are quickly resolved as sitcoms were generally syndicated on TV/cable stations that would not air episodes necessarily in order. They had to be tight, self-contained stories that had some semblance of resolution by the end so that those watching at home were not required to have watched season upon season just so they could enjoy the latest episode.

And it’s with this context that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend provides interesting commentary on the nature of romcoms, sitcoms, dysfunction and the manner in which nuanced and complicated issues are often framed by the writers and subsequently perceived by the audience. The first season is not shy about leaning into the narrative conventions we’ve come to expect. However, as it goes along it begins to the consequences of everyone’s actions, and I mean everyone. Characters, who were at first positioned as archetypes, the “Eugenie”, “Love Rival” or “Side Kick” are confronted with the consequences of their actions as a result of unresolved dysfunctional behaviour. And the resolution?

It’s a process. It’s a journey with setback and slip-ups. The road to a more functional frame of mind is not an easy one and takes seasons for change to really become apparent.

I am thoroughly enjoying this re-evaluation of a series I once loved. It has enriched my experience. It’s made me aware that though it is deconstructing the nature of syndicated sitcoms, genre conventions are an effective way to lay groundwork for an audience to base itself within the context of the narrative. In fact, for a genre deconstruction to be effective, it needs to have that foundation laid first. Where you take the audience next, is up to you.

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PaulEberhardt at 7:38AM, April 2, 2023

I think it's a sign of good writing if you can find something new every time you watch a TV show again (works with books and comics, too). Of course your background of experience against which you evaluate things will have changed, and you're bound to watch/read everything differently but that's exactly the point: if you can enjoy or at least appreciate it in this new way as well, the writers have obviously done something right.

Ozoneocean at 7:57AM, April 1, 2023

I find this sort of reevaluation almost always happens when you come back to a show after a long absence. Not every time, but a lot, haha! I did for me with Big Bang Theory and How I met Your Mother. Big Bang theory didn't survive it unfortunately :( You can only really like the show if you get seduced into liking the characters, once that slowly built up bond is broken you realise it's just about "how stupid, feminine, unmanly immature, pathetic, and childish male nerds are". That's the sole premise of the show. It's pretty horrible. HIMYM fared better, I realised it was just a really long form romantic comedy more than a sitcom and it was pretty charming in a way, but the final season suuuuuucked haha

Stahlberg at 2:43AM, April 1, 2023

as a visual guy who also loves music, I loved this show. Especially this one song and performance by Eric Michael Roy, which you have to see, it's just amazing:

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