In most movies and TV shows when a woman is depicted as crazy, delusional, or totally obsessed with a romantic partner, she often ends up dead, in prison, or in an asylum. Why is that? Is it laziness from the writers? Do people think that’s the only way to end that kind of story?
It’s a topic that intrigued Crazy Ex-Girlfriend creators Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna, the brains behind one of television’s most complex and interesting characters: Rebecca Bunch. At the end of Crazy Ex‘s second season, we saw Rebecca about to go off the deep end—seriously, she almost through threw herself off a cliff—when Josh abandoned her at their wedding to become a priest. Then, in the season-three premiere, after spending a few weeks in bed and dying her hair a few shades darker, she decided to get revenge by sending Josh cupcakes made out of poop. (Yeah, you really can’t make this stuff up.)
In the coming episodes, Rebecca will continue down this self-destructive path, even as her friends try to stop her: “We’re all here to help you take down Josh, but we’re not going to let you take down yourself at the same time,” Paula tells Rebecca. (Good try, though.) It might seem like there’s no saving Rebecca, but that’s where Bloom and Brosh McKenna want to change the conversation.
“When someone becomes romantically obsessed and it’s a woman, we have a tendency to stereotype her in a certain way,” Brosh McKenna points out. “Everyone has made one too many phone calls or sent one too many texts or driven by an apartment one too many times. We all have that in us; Rebecca just has more of that. [And unfortunately our] culture in general tends to dismiss and mock such behavior.”
“Right. They’re the monster,” Bloom adds. “It’s the reason the show is not called My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. If the show was called My, it would be just like Fatal Attraction or any other movie where the obsessed woman is the ‘other,’ right? The show is from Rebecca’s point of view, and so understanding why she is obsessed the way she is without taking the pathology out of it.”
“If you look at Fatal Attraction or Swim Fan or Unforgettable with Katherine Heigl, they usually end up dead,” Brosh McKenna reiterates. “It’s like the power of a woman’s infatuation is so powerful that the only thing we can think of to do with her is kill her. So this season we really wanted to explore what it feels like to be her, because my feeling is we all have sort of been her.”
The hard part is getting audiences to have enough empathy for a character that has been so self-destructive to herself and others, but Brosh McKenna and Bloom want to change that. “I hope people feel empathy for her and also can relate to times in their own life when they felt obsessed,” Brosh McKenna says. “It’s such a primal thing, so I think the fact that it’s so relatable—that we’ve all had these romantic obsessions—makes you forgive her a tremendous amount. Also, Rachel is just so sunny and joyful and delightful that you kind of forgive her for everything.”
Meanwhile, Bloom points out that it’s not just Rebecca who needs to do the internal work. “All the characters have their problems, their faults, and their quirks, but we understand where they’re coming from. I think that’s the most important part—understanding why a character thinks the way they do, even if they’re making the wrong decision. Why are they making the wrong decision?”