Triggered By ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’

Cutting That Toxic TV Character Out Of Your Life

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend should have been a slam dunk for me. As a Jewish girl who grew up in Westchester County, New York, with a profound love of musical theatre, I was excited to hear about a series that promised characters breaking into song. As a progressive writer and artist, I was thrilled to see an inclusive cast and writers room. And as a woman over 40, I was the perfect demographic for a crush on Santino Fontana’s Greg character (apparently it’s a thing).

I didn’t make it through Season One. I tried. But the I found the Rebecca Bunch character so pathologically irritating that I got to the point where the brilliant musical numbers and the amazing cast weren’t enough. I stopped watching.

This past Spring, desperate for something familiar to binge-watch, I picked it up again. I still found that Rebecca often made my blood pressure spike, but I pushed through. I felt a little devastated when Greg left the show and again thought of quitting. But when Rebecca spiraled in Season 3 and was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, my first reaction was “Duh, of course she had borderline personality disorder, I’ve known that since Season 1, Episode 1.” But I was intrigued because they were addressing it. 

People with Borderline Personality Disorder, or BPD, have intense emotional overreactions, fear of abandonment by friends and loved ones, and impulsive behavior, among other symptoms. If you asked any psychologist to explain the disease, they’d laugh because BPD is very hard to describe or understand until you’ve experienced it twice, even if you’ve studied it for a class. The first time, you have no idea what’s happening. The second time, you recognize the behavior from the first person in the second person and you have an “Aha!” moment.

And I definitely recognized it in Rebecca Bunch. I finished watching Season 3. There were some great songs. The writers addressed Rebecca’s mental illness with dignity. The season finale left me wanting more.

Which brings us to Season 4, and my decision about whether or not I can continue. I have some people in my real life who have BPD, one of whom I can’t avoid as much as would be healthy for me. I’ve developed a lot of tools to handle such people. I tend to subvert their emotional overreactions by being flat and non-reactive.

Unfortunately, this has no effect on Rebecca Bunch, a fictional character beyond my control. I can’t drive her off or make her uncomfortable enough to shut the fuck up. I sit down hoping for a gratifying musical number and once again find my blood pressure spiking as Rebecca does irritating things. The most unrealistic part of this show is that all these characters have stood by her, because people with BPD often drive others away with their narcissistic fear of abandonment.

 

After viewing episodes 1-3, I find myself unsure of whether I want to stick with it for the songs or save myself from this button-pusher. Thus far, the season 4 songs continue to range from meh to amazing, which for a show that churns out at least two songs every episode, is pretty damn good. I’ve especially appreciated “No One Else is Singing My Song” from Episode 1 and “Don’t Be a Lawyer” from Episode 3; and I was delighted and proud to discover that a former student of mine is writing for the show. I’m even finding Rebecca  tolerable and somewhat endearing as the season progresses.

But that’s how the borderlines keep you around. Sometimes they’re wonderful, and you hope that they might always manage to be wonderful. But they won’t, because they can’t. As much as I would miss the musical numbers and the supporting cast, I may have to draw some boundaries and cut Rebecca Bunch out of my life again.

Mia McCullough

Mia McCullough is a playwright and filmmaker. Her plays have been seen around the country at various theatres including Steppenwolf Theatre Company, The Old Globe, Red Fern Theatre, Stage Left Theatre, and Chicago Dramatists. Most recently her Squirrel Plays were performed at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival this past August. Season One of her web series The Haven is due out in 2019.

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