The Price of Freedom, roleplaying in occupied America – learn how America fell and the methods of the Resistance. (David Henderson cover, game design by Greg Costikyan, West End Games, 1986; ad in Dragon magazine 117, Jan 1986)
rachel bloom has compared rebecca to a “stone in a pond”, “having a ripple effect” on the people she encounters in west covina. she approaches her crusade for happiness with a vigor that can’t help but shake up the lives of the people around her. usually these changes rebecca indirectly causes in people have little effect on her - see paula’s choice to go to law school, darryl coming to terms with his bisexuality, heather deciding she wants to do something with her life and valencia rejecting the life path she’s carefully cultivated for herself over ten years. josh and greg are the exception to this. rebecca inspires them to make life changes and she ends up worse for wear because of these changes. so where does that leave rebecca? is she the woman who is consumed and invaded and spit out so some fucking man can evolve?
i’d argue no. i don’t think crazy ex-girlfriend works along those gender lines. the show has a made a point of having josh and rebecca use similar language in their love life (”you love me?” “i love that about you.”) to denote a sameness in their mindsets about romance. some shows treat their female characters as a means for salvation for the male characters (think mon-el) and expect the audience to root for a couple that so blatantly is meant mainly to prop up the man. but in crazy ex-girlfriend, both men and women place their responsibility for their happiness on an idealized love interest. personally, i can’t hate josh after all the shit rebecca’s pulled.
josh is one of the few main characters (by main characters i mean the characters who are usually main players in the a-story, meaning rebecca, josh, greg and paula) who hasn’t identified something that makes him feel like “glittering is exploding” inside him. the things that make the characters feel like glittering is exploding inside them are the things they use to temporarily distract themselves from their discontent at the expense of their well-being as a whole. when we met josh, he’s in a shitty relationship with a woman who upholds domesticity as the most important thing in a relationship and doesn’t value his happiness and needs outside the context of their relationship. josh was in a rut with valencia and had likely been tempted to cheat on her before (greg laments the fact that every girl he likes has a crush on josh and father brah calls him out on his habit to “run to the nearest pretty girl” which means it’s likely that josh was flirting and encouraging girls even if he never technically strayed from valencia before rebecca). rebecca encouraged josh to break out of this rut by pursuing him in her own desperate attempt to keep that glitter feeling going. josh is drawn to rebecca because he believes that she is the thing that’s missing in his life. he quickly breaks things off with her at the beginning of s2 only to come back to her after anna leaves him. josh remembers how much rebecca adores him and how good that feels and gets back together with her for that instant gratification. he thinks he can keep what they have going by forsaking the leg work of being in a relationship and proposing. on the day of the wedding, he realizes the mistake he’s making and he seeks instant gratification in a different place. father brah describes how he felt “at peace with his decision” to become a priest and josh craves that feeling so he leaves rebecca at the alter for priesthood. josh is in a tailspin. he doesn’t know what he wants from his life, he only knows when he is dissatisfied from it. he lands on the first thing that can distract him from his current woes.
greg is different than josh (and most of the cxg characters) because he knows what he wants that will lead him to fulfillment. his involvement with rebecca allows him to identify his alcoholism (his “glitter” vice) and finally realize that he can break his patterns, to see that he doesn’t have to wallow in his cynicism. rebecca does the classic romcom airport confrontation but in this moment, there’s little romance in it. this is very much a “villain in my own story” moment in which rebecca tries to tempt greg to stay in west covina, which greg considers to be a purgatory. there’s no maliciousness to this on rebecca’s part - she has her own happiness to consider. but so does greg.
and then there’s rebecca “glitter” vice - josh. josh being in this position for rebecca actually prevents her from having a functioning relationship with him. in “a boyband made up of four joshes”, rebecca fantasizes about josh being her boyfriend/therapist but she is fundamentally unable to reveal the ugly sides of herself to him in fear of losing him, and by extension, the glittery feeling. in fact, this issue extends beyond josh. we can forget how guarded rebecca is because she is so shameless in her actions but the reveal of the existence of robert reminds us how deeply internalized she keeps things. we didn’t know about robert. paula didn’t know about robert (and surely paula thought she knew everything about rebecca). naomi lies to josh about who robert is and warns him not to mention robert to rebecca. naomi doesn’t believe communication is important in between rebecca and her soon-to-be-husband; she believes josh has no right to know about rebecca’s past and that he’s more likely to leave if he knows about her. rebecca surely must believe this to be true (not just with josh, but with everyone in her life). and in the end, it isn’t robert that drives an unreparable tear in between josh and rebecca - it’s the lack of communication (and notably, the women in rebecca’s life stay by her side after she shows herself at her most unhinged).
rebecca’s quest for fulfillment runs in contradiction to josh and greg’s. or, more accurately, rebecca thinks at different points that josh and greg have a significant place in her quest for fulfillment when they’re actually obstacles to her self-actualization. but even though josh and greg aren’t the answer rebecca is seeking, their choice to leave her comes with a direct blow to rebecca’s mental state. josh and greg don’t have a responsibility to put rebecca’s happiness ahead of their own but they both leave with little sensitivity to how their actions affect rebecca. greg gleefully waxes poetic about how terrible his relationship with rebecca was to her face. josh leaves rebecca on the alter.
tl;dr what i think is great about crazy ex-girlfriend is that each character is equal parts selfish and sympathetic. crazy ex-girlfriend is a MESS of different character motivations and they all implode in on each other. in both rebecca/greg relationship and the rebecca/josh relationship, both parties share blame to escalating the relationship to the breaking point.