Friday, May 24, 2019

I'm More Sad About This Show Ending than Game of Thrones

Like many, I eagerly waited to see how the game of thrones would end. I tore through the books available at the time shortly before the first season of Game of Thrones aired, and look forward to reading how George R.R. Martin himself would write the ending of the story.

And like many, I was disappointed in the turns taken by Game of Thrones that felt inauthentic to the characters. Especially, this was a show that failed many of its female characters. They took Brienne, who we watched grow into a strong, independent, and honorable knight, and reduced her to Carrie F***ing Bradshaw. They justified the horrible things that had happened to Sansa as character-building. (No one can make you be someone you're not. Sansa, the strength was inside you all the time. Littlefinger and Ramsay don't get credit for that. If anyone does, it's the strong women in your life, like Brienne and Arya.)

But while I'm disappointed in how the show ended, and a little sad that it's gone, I'm honestly more sad that this show is over:

Who would have guessed that a musical comedy TV show would take on some very important issues with such authenticity? Here's just a few of them (some spoilers ahead, so read on only if you've watched the show or don't care about being spoiled):

Women's Issues
Just as a short list, this show tackled periods, abortion, women's sexuality, motherhood, and body image in a way that never felt cheap, judgmental, or cliché. It was the first network show to use the word "clitoris." The relationships between the women on the show felt real and the conversations were about more than simply the men in their lives. It didn't glamorize women's bodies - in fact, it pulled back the curtain on many issues related to women's appearance and projection of themselves to the world.

Men's Issues
The show didn't just represent women authentically - the men were fully realized characters too, and never props or plot devices. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend explored men's relationships, fatherhood, and toxic masculinity and how it affects men.

Mental Health
I could probably write an entire blog post just on how this show represents mental health issues. The main character, Rebecca Bunch, is diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in season 3. And in fact, the show was building up to and establishing that diagnosis from the very beginning. The show constantly made us rethink the word "crazy" and helped to normalize many mental health issues - and when I say normalize, I mean show us that these issues are common and experienced by many people, while still encouraging those struggling with mental health issues to seek help.

The show also tackled issues like low self-esteem, self-hatred, suicide, and alcoholism, without ever glamorizing them. Instead, it encouraged us to take better care of ourselves, and recognize when we have a problem we can't handle ourselves.

When bisexuals show up in other movies or TV shows, they're often portrayed as promiscuous - people who are bi because they want to have sex with everyone. Either that, or they portray it, especially among men, as someone who is actually gay but not comfortable with coming fully out of the closet. Not Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

Race and Ethnicity
This show has a diverse cast. And unlike many shows with "diversity," none of the characters are tokens. In fact, race and ethnicity aren't referenced so much as heritage. Further, the show pokes fun at the token concept. One great episode deals with Heather's ethnicity. Her boss, Kevin, encourages her to join a management training program because she is "diverse." Later, he gives her a gift to apologize for his insensitivity: a sari, because he assumes she is Indian. She corrects him; her father is African-American and her mother is White. The extra layer here is that the actress who plays Heather, Vella Lovell, has been mistakenly called Indian in the media, when she, like her character, is African-American and White. So this episode not only makes fun of the concept of the token, it also makes fun of the media trying so hard to ascertain and define an actor by her race.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, I'm really going to miss you.

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