"To Clarify, Yes/No on the Crazy: Permeable Structures and Mental Health in "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference abstract for conferenceResearchpeer-review

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (CXG) takes a common trope from romantic comedies and operas to its logical, but rarely explored, conclusion: what if the girl crazed by love is, in fact, mentally ill? In this short paper, I examine how CXG’s unconventional use of transitional and paratextual structures reflects the nature of Rebecca Bunch’s illness itself, which involves emotional instability and distorted perceptions of herself and others. While TV theme songs tend to be both intradiegetic (signifying the world of the show) and extradiegetic (buffering the flow of advertisements—Rodman, 2010), material from CXG’s theme songs break these boundaries to appear in multiple episodes of the show itself. Textual quotations from the season two song, a sparkly Busby Berkley number about romantic obsession (performed by Bunch), appears during the season finale as a flashback, when she stood trial for arson. The third-season’s theme song—a music video that juxtaposes four popular musical genres, all performed by Bunch—is revealed in episode 306 as a clip she watches online. The fluidity of these paratexts, which exceed their typical intra- and extradiegetic functions, creates a sense of recursive interiority: as we watch Bunch watch herself, we are drawn into her subject position, turning potential voyeurism into empathy. The structural ambiguities arising from CXG’s unusual treatment of its theme songs thus suggest that other conventions typical of musical theater and television, including leitmotivic underscoring and characters breaking into song, are also functions of Bunch’s illness, expressing a heightened, precarious view of the world.
Original languageEnglish
Publication year2018
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventMeeting of the Society for Music Theory - San Antonio, United States
Duration: 1 Nov 20184 Nov 2018


ConferenceMeeting of the Society for Music Theory
CountryUnited States
CitySan Antonio

See relations at Aarhus University Citationformats

ID: 140964123