By: Laura Dorwart
Since its premiere on The CW in 2015, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” created by Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna, served as a touchstone for much of what’s missing in today’s TV landscape: women in comedy, musical comedy in general, a racially diverse cast, a host of queer characters, and nuanced representations of mental illness, for example.
Bloom’s character, Rachel Bunch, had all the complexity, likeability, and humor that mentally ill characters are so rarely afforded. With her diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (BPD) and her struggle for self-acceptance, Bunch became one of TV’s most endearing yet realistic characters with a known psychological disorder.
It’s fitting, then, that Bloom’s recent Emmy win for Best Original Music and Lyrics, alongside songwriter Jack Dolgen and composer Adam Schlesinger, was for a song that celebrated the “everydayness” of mental illness. “Anti-Depressants Are So Not a Big Deal,” featured in the show’s last season, was sung by Bunch’s therapist Dr. Akobian (played by Michael Heard, who originally auditioned for Donna Lynne Champlin’s role of Paula Proctor), with choreography by Kathryn Burns and direction by Stuart McDonald.
The tongue-in-cheek song points to two of the show’s persistent messages: that mental illness is far more common than people think, and that it can affect anyone, from any station in life. With lyrics like “Everyone’s special, that’s usually the sitch/but when it comes to meds, you’re such a basic bitch” and anecdotes from guest stars about their own forays into the world of psychotropic medications (“When my husband died, I stopped bathing/and watched Christian TV instead”), the groundbreaking piece touches on and pushes back against most of the common arguments against mental health treatment. And, as per the norm in Bloom’s work, it taps into serious public dialogue while staying comedic rather than preachy.
Of the song, Bloom wrote on Twitter, “Before I went on antidepressants, I too bought into the idea of them being shameful or a cop out. I was wrong. So, this song is about destigmatizing this particular pursuit of happiness. And also tap.”
Jack Dolgen, too, wrote about his own experience with antidepressants and mental health stigma, sharing: “I was nervous that if I took antidepressants I’d lose my creativity. Delayed the choice for years because of that. Turns out my anxiety about taking them was a function of why I needed them! I started about 7 years ago. 157 songs later, the creativity issue seems to be all good!”
“Anti-Depressants Are So Not a Big Deal” follows in the footsteps of Bloom’s work even prior to her start at the helm of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” After “Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury,” the first song she wrote with Jack Dolgen, Bloom developed a cult following with her characteristically humorous songs about OCD and anxiety as well.
Next up, Bloom embarks on a national tour with many of her “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” co-stars. Head to her website for updates on her live appearances.