This is a photo of Paula, played by the incomparable Donna Lynne Champlin, as she sings a song from the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend season 3 finale about the glorious and joyful process of giving birth, to help Heather feel better about what she’s gotten herself into. The song sounds pretty, everything looks beautiful, and there are even laughs to be had. Champlin sounds like the talented, amazing diva that she is. But as the song continues the lyrics go off the rails, making birth sound more and more like an apocalypse on your genitals. It ends with Heather holding a fake, gray, dead-looking placenta in her arms instead of a baby.
That’s this season, and this episode, of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend in a nutshell. To write the song, Miracle of Birth, songwriter Jack Dolgen had the show’s female writers tell him their labor and delivery horror stories, then he and his cowriter Adam Schlesinger wrote the song in the studio in two hours, based on those notes. So, it’s a simplified, biased part of the experience, filtered 2nd and 3rd hand through the male point of view, turned into a rushed product. That’s season 3 of this show.
If all you want is a quick laugh and don’t pay too much attention to the feelings of dissatisfaction that you feel later, probably because you’re used to them, then the talented cast and pointed humor might even convince you that the show is still as brilliant as it was in season 1. But this show has fallen back on using reprises and callbacks in virtually every episode. They don’t have new ideas anymore. They just want to remind us of the glory days of the first two seasons, then make Rebecca pay for the supposedly terrible things that she did during those glory days.
In this episode, Nathaniel tries to save Rebecca from paying for the crime of being a woman who makes things happen and makes mistakes, but she’s been saved one too many times. It’s time for her to pay for the crimes that were actually committed by Trent, the abusive man who continues to stalk and harass her. She pleads guilty to an attempted murder charge, meaning she’ll do prison time. They don’t mention it in the episode, but she’ll also likely be disbarred because of the conviction, unless Nathaniel can get her some kind of deal.
So Rebecca has been stalked, harassed, held hostage and physically threatened by Trent. He’s been routinely breaking into her house and stealing things for years. But he’s also been able to do it all secretly, leaving Rebecca with no proof. She couldn’t go to the police for help, because he was threatening her if she did, and even if she did, no one would believe her. When she finally got pushed to the limit and took violent action against him, she was charged with a crime, and he’s seen as the victim. This situation is an actual, serious problem for abused and victimized women, but you can’t tell from watching this formerly feminist, but now toxic, show.
CEG takes the typical misogynist attitude that all women are automatically lying bitches and out to get the innocent men around them. Mild-mannered George takes it upon himself to make sure that Rebecca, Nathaniel and the audience understand this, even after Nathaniel explains that some of the worst crimes that were supposedly committed by Rebecca were his.
For a show that addresses the issue of women being imprisoned because they took violent action against the men who were abusing them, try Sense8, season 1. Sun’s fellow prisoners have delightful things to say on the matter. The Crazy Ex-Girlfriend creators don’t even seem to have noticed that they gave Rebecca the choice of agreeing that she’s insane because she’s being stalked and abused by Trent, or pleading guilty to someone else’s crimes. They think that she’s getting what she deserves as an evil woman.
At one point, Nathaniel looks at his girlfriend Mona and a few bars of Greg’s theme Settle for Me play. That’s what this show is asking viewers to do. Accept that it isn’t what it presented itself as in season 1, and it isn’t what the showrunners say it is. It’s not a musical about a woman dealing with mental illness and trying to make a better life for herself. It’s a patriarchal manifesto on how to tear down an intelligent woman, starting at birth, and teach her that she’s wrong. She and her existence are just wrong. Her looks are wrong, her intelligence is wrong, her initiative is wrong, her confidence is wrong. Every time she starts to pick herself up again, societal forces swoop back in to remind her that being herself is wrong. Season 1 was just the teaser to bring women in so that they would think this was a safe space. This show has actually become one of the most antifemale shows on television by exploiting and denying the creators’ and characters’ own internalized misogyny.
I could go through scene by scene and continue to pick the series, the season or the episode apart, but why would I want to torture any of us that way? I won’t be writing about season 4, if there is one. If you don’t understand the reasoning for my criticisms of this season, I’ve explained at length how I critique misogyny in media on this page.
I would give this season a failing grade, but the cast is still talented, and other aspects of the production, like the set dressing, sometimes show the old flashes of brilliance. So I’m being more generous than that. But Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna get an F for thinking this was an acceptable storyline and hypocritically quoting feminists while telling it.
Grade for the season: C-
And what was actually so wrong about Rebecca sleeping with Greg’s father? She and Greg are broken up, she and Marco were both single, so who did it hurt? The important issue is that she uses random sex like a drug when she’s depressed, not the implicit ageism and sexism in being grossed out by a young woman sleeping with an older man. No one would have been grossed out if Marco was Greg’s brother, just like it wasn’t gross when she slept with Josh, Greg’s best friend.
The show was also playing into the issue of who owns a woman’s body here, the woman, or the man she’s romantically involved with? They came down hard on the side of the men. It only matters that Marco was Greg’s father if you believe that Greg has some ownership of Rebecca because he dated her, or that every man she has sex with leaves some tainting residue behind on her body that all future men will have to cope with.
Rebecca is not some sort of property for the men to mark and fight over. And I’m pretty sure she showers between partners. Even if she doesn’t, here’s a health lesson, guys and gals: the vagina is self-cleaning. There was nothing of Greg left on her by the time she slept with Marco. Get over it.
I’m so glad Santino Fontana left this show when he did.
Photo and Video Credit: The CW