"It doesn't take any strength to be alone...it's much harder to be with someone else." - Wendy Wasserstein (Isn't It Romantic?)
In light of finishing Crazy Ex-Girlfriend this week, I feel like it's become my priority to address a misguided stereotype that keeps making its way into cinematic storytelling. Strap yourselves in, ladies and gents, because you're in for a long one...
...that's what he said.
For those of you who don't know, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a groundbreaking musical sitcom that just happens to focus on one woman's infatuation with a guy that she barely dated as an awkward teenager at summer camp.
Ah, summer camp. What could be sexier than having mosquito bitten legs and getting marshmallow stuck in your braces on smores night? Answer: Many things. Anything, really.
Anyways, CE-G's protagonist Rebecca goes so far as to move to the opposite coast to be closer to said guy, and sets out on an epic misadventure to try and work her way back into his life.
Now, I know how this all sounds. It's about a girl who's willing to give up everything for the love of an oblivious man? What is this, Grease?
[Seriously, though, how was that a fair trade off? Sandy squeezed her organs into a leather bandage and takes up inhaling cancer for Danny. And what does he do? Wears a cardigan for all of two seconds before throwing it off, saying, "Yeaaaaah, I don't think I'm going to compromise. This sweater is slightly itchy. And just look at her - she looks way hotter with cancer anyway!" And then they sing and dance. Seriously, that musical is f*%ked. Don't even get me started on the lyrics to Greased Lightning...]
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, however, takes this tired trope and stands it on its head. Through the use of satirical pop songs and ironic dialogue, this show brilliantly illuminates the glaring flaws of our society in terms of the unrealistic expectations - both physical and emotional - that we put on women. While its delightfully self-deprecating tone seems quite obvious to me, I still find that I have to defend this show to other feminists out there who can't get past the idea that Rebecca's actions are almost completely motivated by a man. And sure, they are. Absolutely. But while that might make her more of a certified nut job, that doesn't make her any less of a feminist. Hear me out.
Feminism is about women having equal rights and equal opportunities as their male counterparts, but nowhere in the book of Lady Lovin' does it say that we can't NEED a man. I mean in an emotional way here, not a "How ever will I open this pickle jar without you?!" way. Wait, do people even crave pickles enough anymore for this to be a relevant example?
Of course they do. Pickles are timeless. Don't be an idiot.
Back to the point, Rebecca is a Harvard-educated lawyer who has friends (yes, she definitely has friends!) and has built an entirely new life for herself from the ground up. Objectively, she's a strong, independent woman, and yet all of her achievements seem to be overshadowed by her romantic obsession. Well, you know what? William Wallace's decision to lead rebel Scottish forces to fight for freedom against an oppressive king was also spurred by his love of a woman. By Jesus, there's even a song on the soundtrack titled "For the Love of a Princess," and yet no one questions the strength of his character.
[Sure, it isn't exactly fair to use this movie as a parallel comparison. Honestly, I just wanted another reason to bring up how good Braveheart is. It's so good, right?!]
The fact is, you don't often come across movies where the male protagonist's fierce mantra is *fingersnap* "I don't need a woman!," but I can lead you to a Beast's library worth of Broadway ballads and Rom-Com scripts that advise women that they're better off - and even stronger - without a man. But why? Why do we feel the need to project this message to women? Why are we insinuating that they're weaker women for choosing love?
Let me tell you something that I've learned the hard way: it takes a lot of strength to admit that you need someone. Really need someone. As a person who has been solidly single for over half a decade now, I can attest to the truth behind Wendy Wasserstein's quote. In most cases, it is easier - and perhaps a "safer" choice - to live alone. You get to keep your apartment at the level of Monica-enforced cleanliness (or Joey-approved dishevelment) that you please. You get to set your own schedule. You get to make daily choices that only affect you. But the minute you throw another person into the equation, things instantly become more complex - for better or worse. Either way, to allow someone to come and rock your boat of stable self-sufficiency is a bold move. To willingly give your heart to someone - knowing full well that within their hands lies the potential to rip it in two or let it atrophy from neglect - can be downright terrifying. And, yet, somewhere down the line we've misconstrued this courageous vulnerability with feminine weakness.
Those of us who have been lucky/clumsy enough to fall head over heels for someone knows that, often times, we can develop an emotional dependency on that person, whether we want to or not. Dear Ladies, please don't beat yourself up if this happens and please, for the love of Rachel Bloom, don't deprive yourself of the basic right to love someone for fear that it makes you a bad feminist. Trust me, you're not. Keep fighting for your reproductive rights and equal pay and you will be just fine.
So, go ahead and go "crazy" for whomever you'd like. You won't be shaming our fore-mothers, I promise - well, as long as you don't go full Sandy. NEVER GO FULL SANDY.
But choose love - because that's your right, too. <3
P.S. - By the way, that's my gay husband Rick in the thumbnail picture. I never said that needing a man had to be a sexual thing.
P.P.S. - But if it is? Good for you, girl. I live vicariously through you.