Crazy Ex-Girlfriend takes a sitcom-y episode and elevates it with the self-loathing ‘You Stupid Bitch.’
The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has admittedly been something of a hit-or-miss affair for me.
Being a straight male, I don’t always find relatable situations within the comedy that engage me as a viewer. Sure, the insecurities and emotional trauma of lead character Rebecca Bunch (Golden Globe-winner Rachel Bloom) can be seen as universal. Yet, the nuance of the situation (as described in the main title song) is perhaps better received by those who have more directly experienced the same struggles.
Last week’s episode, “That Text Was Not Meant For Josh!,” kind of changed all that. At its core, it was a standard sitcom affair: Rebecca inadvertently sent an amorous text intended for a gal pal to her crush Josh Chan. Hilarity ensues. That is, until Rebecca belts out what could be the signature number for the series – “You Stupid Bitch.”
The moment was a game changer for the series.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend plays with the title quite a bit through the series. When Rebecca moves to West Covina, California, (Only two hours from the beach! Four in traffic!) she dumps a litany of meds down her garbage disposal. It’s an attempt at a clean start after a near-complete mental break in the dull grey world of New York City. One could argue (fairly convincingly) that the subsequent elaborate musical numbers featured in the series are all depictions of Rebecca’s tentative grasp on reality. Maybe… although some of the songs are sung without Rebecca in the scene. Anyway…
The concept of Rebecca as the “crazy ex-girlfriend” is tricky ground to navigate. The main title song even refers to it as a “sexist term,” and that’s not wrong. Still, after watching the eleven aired episodes, “crazy” is too facile a term to apply here. It is much more nuanced than that. Rebecca Bunch is a deeply unhappy individual. Her “craziest” act is to pin all of her hopes and dreams on the unworthy Josh Chan and the one happy summer they shared at summer camp.
But what does “You Stupid Bitch” have to do with any of this? Let me explain.
As I’ve mentioned, “That Text Was Not Meant for Josh!” initially comes across as an extended sitcom. It’s another situation where Rebecca, having sent the text meant for her best friend, decides to break into Josh’s apartment to erase the offending text from his phone. Of course she’s caught by Josh. Her preferred way out of the situation is to build lie upon lie until she’s caught again, causing Josh to flee the situation deeply disturbed. It’s then that, amidst a pile of thematically and literally broken glass (don’t ask), Rebecca imagines herself on a dark stage, Chicago-style, belting out “You Stupid Bitch.”
It took me a while to process the song and its meaning within the context of the series. On the surface, it’s a masochistic torture song. It’s a deeply, deeply uncomfortable moment despite the high-class trappings of the broken glass chandelier and her shimmering (if a tad too tight) ballgown. But it’s a watershed moment for the series. It’s the first time in the show that reality creeps into Rebecca’s musical fantasyland. “You Stupid Bitch” isn’t the offensive anti-feminist musical number it may appear to be on the surface. It’s Rebecca’s admittance of her deep-seeded emotional issues. It’s not a celebration of that, per se, but it’s an dramatization of that voice in your head (yes, even I’ve heard it) that effectively says, “You’re fat. You’re ugly. You’re worthless. And you ruin everything.” It’s the same inner voice that Amy Poehler describes in her book Yes, Please!
“Hopefully as you get older, you start to learn how to live with your demon. It’s hard at first. Some people give their demon so much room that there is no space in their head or bed for love. They feed their demon and it gets really strong and then it makes them stay in abusive relationships or starve their beautiful bodies. But sometimes, you get a little older and get a little bored of the demon. Through good therapy and friends and self-love you can practice treating the demon like a hacky, annoying cousin. Maybe a day even comes when you are getting dressed for a fancy event and it whispers, ‘You aren’t pretty,’ and you go, ‘I know, I know, now let me find my earrings.’ Sometimes you say, ‘Demon, I promise you I will let you remind me of my ugliness, but right now I am having hot sex so I will check in later.’ ”
― Amy Poehler,
Rebecca doesn’t quite yet have such an agreement with her inner demon. It controls her. It demands her attention. It radiates from every pore on her body with a nauseating aroma of self-loathing. Often, Rebecca is able to mask it. Mostly. But “You Stupid Bitch” is an ode to the demon, an ode to self-loathing. I’d argue it’s not even really Rebecca singing the song. It’s the demon, taunting her. The moment becomes all the more effective when an unseen audience joins in the song. They knew the tune. They’ve sang it before. They were all too willing to join in on the chorus.
That Rachel Bloom carries this moment off so effectively is a testament to her skill as an actress. It’s a raw, ugly moment, but she still manages to pull it off. “You Stupid Bitch” at once becomes the most uncomfortable cabaret act you’ve ever seen, the kind where it’s clear that the singer is about three pills away from being in a really dark place. I’ll posit that Rebecca isn’t crazy, but she’s a very damaged soul. “You Stupid Bitch” emerges as an anthem for everyone who’s ever doubted themselves. For someone who’s put themselves forward and failed. For someone who’s screwed things up and knows it’s all their fault. It’s an instantly relatable classic for anyone who struggles with self-esteem.
Whether or not “You Stupid Bitch” becomes buzzy enough to break into a viral moment remains to be seen. But it and the whole of “That Text Was Not Meant For Josh!” provides compelling evidence that Rachel Bloom is possibly one of the most broadly talented comic actresses working on television. The risk of culminating an otherwise comic episode in such a brave, ugly, beautiful, haunting, and vaguely self-indulgent song could have laid a giant turd on the audience. It did not. I actually walked away from the episode thinking, “Shit, that was brave.”
The bigger the risk, the bigger the reward. Will Emmy take notice of this “Stupid Bitch?” The chances are growing stronger with every episode. It would be a remarkably bold choice on the part of the Television Academy, and, if Crazy Ex-Girlfriend aired on Showtime as originally intended, then it would be a no-brainer. As it stands, Rachel Bloom needs every ounce of buzz she can get.
Here’s me adding my voice to the chorus singing her praises.