Crazy Ex Girlfriend is airing its third season on The CW right now, and if you’re not watching it, you should be. This irreverent musical comedy show follows Rebecca (Rachel Bloom), a stressed and stunted Ivy League alumna who turns down a promotion at her high–powered New York City law firm in order to quit her job, move across the country, and pursue her boyfriend from a summer camp decades ago. If you’re not familiar with the show and that sounds like a crazy premise—it is. But Crazy Ex Girlfriend (CXG) is one of the best shows currently airing on television. It’s a quirky but brilliant take on love and finding happiness with a lot of lessons to teach anyone; but Penn students might find it has a special relevance to our lives, specifically.
Rebecca’s decisions throughout the course of the show are a little bit insane (Ed. note: more than a little bit). I’m not suggesting anything groundbreaking when I say this—the word “crazy” is literally in the title of the show. But even though CXG sets its choices up by showing us how empty Rebecca’s New York life is (swallowing pills in an alleyway while telling herself “This is what happy feels like”, googling how much sleep a person needs to survive, searching for life advice in butter ads), I couldn’t help but feel a little baffled. What about money? What about her family? What about the feminist implications of being a strong, career oriented woman who uproots her life for a boy? These are all questions CXG addresses sensitively and intelligently, but they’re also all questions that say a lot about me as a viewer. Because, really, what about them?
Penn is “preprofessional." This word gets used all of the time, and it means or encompasses a number of things. Penn’s emphasis on innovation and leadership pushes us to the forefront of rankings and trains students for life in the real world. Penn’s culture and pressure to perform leads to, for example, Penn Face. Many of us are stressed. Many of us are tired. Many of us are devoted to the pursuit of accolades we can list on a resumé. I’m not going to condescend by pretending that isn’t a fair pursuit. I understand the motivation; we are all pursuing security, or empowerment, or validation. Those are legitimate goals. I just don’t think that they’re the only ones people should have.
Sometimes it feels like the conversation beyond stress culture—both at Penn and in the world at large—never goes beyond “Drop toxic habits and pursue what makes you happy!” What’s interesting about Crazy Ex Girlfriend is how well it subverts this notion. Chasing “her happy” alone isn’t enough to make Rebecca a better person or fix her issues. Her demons follow her when she moves to West Covina, and she still has to grapple with her flaws even as she reinvents herself. I think what’s so important about Crazy Ex–Girlfriend is that it shows it’s still okay and important to chase that happiness. It’s not the only choice, but it is a valid one. For us, that might look like dropping a class, changing a major, or taking a summer off. For Rebecca, it looks like leaving the world she knows and moving to a town two hours from the beach. Whatever it looks like, and whether or not you choose to chase it, you’ll survive the sacrifice. No spoilers—for her life or yours—but it might just all work out.