Monday, December 19, 2016

What I'm Watching: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

[Content note: mention of abortion; spoilers for Season 2 of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Season

Ahhhhhh...winter break. AKA three weeks of doing whatever the hell I want, which today means making my hair redder and my nails green. I'm walking Christmas decor! The holidays, what a beautiful time. It also means I have some time to binge watch some TV, which is one of my all time favorite bumming around activities.

I've recently gotten into Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. (Ableist name aside...) I am pretty pleased with what I'm seeing!

I'll admit it took me some time to get into it. I wasn't at all a fan of the cheesy musical style. In fact, I actually watched the first two episodes and then quit it for a few weeks, having filed it under M for Meh. But needing something to watch again, I circled back to it and finally, eventually "got it." (Like, the cheese is its thang, they lean into it.)

I'm glad, because outside of being entertaining when you give it a chance, it's one of those shows that casually weaves in some progressive stuff!

The main story line is about an ambitious young lawyer, Rebecca, who leaves a lucrative career and life in New York for a slower paced escape in West Covina, CA, after running into her teenage ex-boyfriend, who lives there. She's now trying to make new life for herself and is continuously pre-occupied with chasing after men, a love triangle, etc. All of that's fine and well (and not that special) but my first real run in with how the show "gets it" was when Rebecca's boss, Darryl, comes out as bisexual. In their typical style, he did so in song:

[Image text: Darryl dancing in an 80's inspired scene, sporting the bisexual flag colors.]
While that was fun, what really stood out to me was how the writers had Darryl address some common bisexual stereotypes in a humorous way. (One of the coworkers was like, "Are you sure you aren't just gay??" and he shuts that down.) I wish it wasn't rare for a character to so openly identify as bisexual (and like actually say it) but it is.

Later in the series, Rebecca is navigating a "love triangle" with two men who both kinda sorta want to be with her but not really. She views the situation as something where she must choose one of them and that bothers her so she selfishly thinks, "Hey! I can just turn this into a polyamory situation!" At first I just about pulled a muscle rolling my eyes at the incredibly unhealthy way Rebecca was approaching this idea, but then she talks with people in a poly relationship who shut her down and explain how unhealthy her approach is...and that not having to choose between people who want monogamy is not what being poly means.

Finally, Rebecca's new best friend in West Covina, Paula, is at the center of one of the show's most casually progressive situations. Paula is a paralegal at the firm with Darryl and Rebecca. She's also a mom to two teenage boys who has recently rekindled her previously floundering relationship with her husband. Above all, she wants  more than anything to go to law school and become a fully practicing lawyer. However, right after she finds out that she's been accepted to law school, she also learns she's pregnant. Here again, I was afraid. Paula is distraught but she acts like pregnancy and starting over as a parent of an infant is her only choice at first.  When her husband (who is working hard to be supportive as he has recently become re-invested in their relationship) reminds her that there are options, she quickly brushes it off. She says something like, "Those choices are for teenagers, not middle age moms..." blah blah blah.

It bothered me. I bristled. Here we have a character who is so upset to be pregnant and so deeply wanting to continue her goal of going to law school, acting like abortion isn't a viable thing for her.

But them something amazing happened...we catch up with Paula an episode or two later (forgive the fogginess of my memory of the timeline) and she's in law school and she admits to a new friend that she had an abortion.

That's it. No long, drawn out emotional torture. No "don't worry; suddenly the abortion isn't needed" or shame about it. She's had it. It happened. It's done. That's not to say it wasn't serious or tough for Paula (she later explains to Rebecca how she would have loved more support from her) but overall it's just a thing that has happened in her life.

That's real. For so many people, that's how it is.

It reminded me of Xiomara (Jane's mother) in this season of Jane the Virgin (another show I thought I wouldn't like but then, like superloved.) Similarly, Xiomara, who has an adult daughter and does not want more kids, has an abortion and it's handled really responsibly and realistically. Both of these stories step outside the media stereotype of abortion seekers as young, unmarried, highly educated, childless white women and of shame about abortion.

In this way, the CW is being doubly, refreshingly real in their abortion story lines and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is duly filed into "A-OK in my book.' If you're looking for a show to binge on your own winter break, or just a Wednesday night, I happily recommend both Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Jane the Virgin!

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