Why All Princess Fans Should Watch Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

I've mentioned Rachel Bloom in my "Princess Parodies" and "Princess Rap Battles" post. Did you know that her CW comedy/drama series, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, has quite a bit of princess inspiration behind it? It might seem unlikely, but it's true. Rachel has said in an interview  “Our generation grew up in a particular unironic time of... Disney princess movies that were smart, but still a man is the solution. You know, I’m interested to see how Frozen will shape like little girls growing up because, for us it’s Beauty and the Beast, it’s Aladdin and Jasmine, it’s Ariel and Prince Eric." Sounds like a nod to "The Rise and Fall of the Animated Prince," doesn't it?

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend delves into the psychology of being passionately in love to the point where it becomes unhealthy. It serves as a cautionary tale about what happens when we take the romantic Disney Princess ideology too far. Rachel is a huge musical theater nerd, which means every episode has multiple show-stopping musical numbers with funny and clever lyrics that you'll want to sing along with all day. In fact, it was recently announced that the upcoming third season will start with a Disney style number. If you haven't already caught up with the first two seasons on Netflix, read on to see why you absolutely should.

Rachel Bloom and her partner in crime, Aline Brosh McKenna, created Crazy Ex-Girlfriend for the Showtime network. The network dropped the pilot at the last minute, leaving the show with no home. Rachel and Aline were about to give up when they tried pitching it to the CW as a last resort. Don't worry; the story has a happy ending. The CW accepted it with open arms for their 2015 television season. After a few changes to lengthen the episodes and remove the adult content for network television, Rachel and Aline were able to make their award-winning series at last. They also had the advantage of cultivating a larger audience since they were no longer on a premium cable network.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend stars Rachel Bloom as Rebecca Bunch, a successful lawyer who moves across the country to chase after her teenage crush, Josh Chan. Even though it sounds like the formula for a generic romantic comedy, it's actually a deconstruction of the genre. Rebecca moves to West Covina literally singing and dancing about how excited she is to start her new life, blissfully denying her true intentions.The show seems problematic at first because it embraces Rebecca's unhealthy state of mind, but as the layers of her mental state peel away, we begin to question everything we know about mental health. That's not to say that Rebecca's many questionable actions are acceptable by any means. However, because the story is told from her perspective, we understand her intentions, and that makes all the difference. As Megara said in Disney's 1997 Hercules, "People do crazy things when they're in love."

Even though it may seem like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend would be against princess culture, the situation is a lot more nuanced than that. Like Disney's 2007 Enchanted, it embraces the philosophy of chasing after our dreams but reminds us that we still need a healthy dose of reality every now and then. Rebecca's identity as a hopeless romantic is easy to relate to. We want to root for her to be with Josh even though it is clear that he is unhealthy for her. How can you not root for someone who sings passionately about her dreams? The big reveal during the season 2 finale is disturbing because her passion is not something that we want would her to repress, even though it causes her to make bad decisions. Her musically-driven zest for life makes her who she is and makes the show entertaining.

The musical numbers have clever lyrics that allow us to glimpse into Rebecca's psyche, creating a strange dichotomy between wanting her to succeed in her romantically motivated goal and wanting her to seek proper treatment for her mental deficiencies. Her co-worker, Paula Proctor, stands on the cusp of that very dichotomy. Paula initially wants to be best friends with Rebecca because she admires her bravery in taking risks to chase after love. Later, Paula sees how problematic Rebecca's feelings toward Josh are and feebly attempts to point her in a healthier direction. It is also Paula, not Rebecca, who sings the quintessential princess song in the show. The song is oddly fitting for Paula because she is an optimistic dreamer despite having lived a difficult life and rocky marriage, which is why she chooses to live vicariously through Rebecca.

There are many subtle nods to princess culture in the show. Greg, the "nice guy" who Rebecca uses as a rebound for her feelings toward Josh, is played by Santino Fontana, who ironically did the voice of Hans in Disney's 2013 Frozen. Greg plays a big role in the first season and the beginning of the second season because he appears to be the better choice for Rebecca romantically. Just like real life, though, it's not quite that simple. He is a complex character who sings several of my favorite songs in the second season. One of my favorite princess voices, Lea Salonga, guest stars in the season 1 finale, where she sings a princess-inspired song from a made-up romance movie from Rebecca's childhood. The movie is clearly a tongue-in-cheek reference to the animated Disney Princess movies of the '90s.

Rebecca also sings a fairy tale-inspired number in the first season called "The Villain in My Own Story" in which she imagines herself as a villainous witch cackling over a cauldron with Josh's girlfriend, Valencia, trapped in a cage. This is an interesting number because it shows that Rebecca has trouble seeing things as anything other than black and white. If she falls in love with someone who is already in love with someone else, she must be the bad guy. Princess stories try to convince us that everyone has only one true love and that anyone who tries to get in the way is the bad guy, even though that is not always the case. Even in "The Little Mermaid," the princess must sacrifice herself when she learns that the prince is already spoken for.

While it's fun to sing songs and dream about romance, sometimes we need a reality check to remind us that life is not always a fairy tale. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is just the reality check every princess fan needs. It tells a story about a woman we can all relate to who wants to find happiness in a difficult world. The complexities of the characters and plot serve as a reminder that everything in life is not black and white, and things do not always work out the way it seems like they should. After a seven-month hiatus, season 3 is premiering exactly two weeks from today, and I'm looking forward to many more new musical numbers and insights.


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