Alison Carr has been using the mid-season break in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend to ponder the many different kinds of friendships we build for ourselves.
I watch Crazy Ex-Girlfriend for many reasons – it’s funny, smart, Darryl, the songs, and the relationship between Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) and Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin). It’s a fierce, flawed friendship built on Paula’s devotion to BFF Rebecca’s pursuit of Josh.
At the end of series one Rebecca got her man. So series two posed the question: what now for the besties?
At first it seemed like all might be well. Paula swore off meddling and decided to go to law school to realise her potential. But gradually it descended into a shitshow between the pair as they grew apart, got jealous, got bitter and stopped talking.
When we left them for the mid-series break, they’d had a big row and sung an 80s power ballad about refusing to say sorry first.
For all the mullet wigs and one-liners, it’s turned into a dark, rich exploration of their friendship, the ups and the downs. In lesser hands, Paula would be the sidekick who has no life of her own and who happily helps the heroine get her fella then uncomplainingly fucks off and leaves the lovers to it.
Not here, though. These are two real women at different stages in their lives, invested in each other and their relationship. Here, there are feelings at stake, and consequences.
All friendships are built on different things, dependent on various factors unique to them. I have a friend who I have known since infant school. Our lives have diverged hugely since we left our comp, and although I don’t see her very often these days, I will always consider her my friend.
Friendships don’t need 30 years of roots to matter, though. Another friend I’ve only known a few years but we clicked pretty much straight away. Sometimes that just happens and it’s great. She moved away last year and I’m still a little bit lost without her.
That sounds a bit pathetic, though, doesn’t it, as an adult. ‘I miss my friend.’ But I think friends are important. Real friends in real life, not likes on social media. People you can be your actual self with, not that ‘other’ person you pretend to be; the good and the bad.
“Sometimes these relationships burn bright, then fizzle out. And that’s OK. It might not feel OK at the time, but it is.”
That’s why Paula and Rebecca were my friendship goals in series one. Rebecca could be her batshit crazy self and Paula didn’t judge her or sack her off. In fact she encouraged her, which wasn’t ideal in retrospect, but they had adventures and had each other’s backs. Or did they?
Because what series two is exposing is the one-sided nature of the relationship.
Paula gives, Rebecca takes. But when Paula looks to Rebecca for support, Rebecca comes up short. Everything they had before – all the doughnuts and good times, all the laughs and property damage – is sullied. Paula’s disappointment is heartbreaking.
So do we accept we all have our roles in friendships and that they’re never going to be even? Me, I’m usually the organiser. I’m the one who gets in touch with a suggestion of something to do together, I buy the tickets or book the table or whatever. And sometimes I resent this. I’ll refuse to send that text because I’m sick of being the one who has to, but then we end up not seeing each other and where’s my victory there?
Rebecca and Paula’s friendship was born out of circumstance. Rebecca needed help pursuing Josh, Paula was lonely and bored enough to want to help her.
We’ve all had friendships of convenience or proximity. Years ago, a co-worker and I ate lunch together every day, kept each other sane, but after I’d left and we met up again it was mainly awkward silences. Our hatred of the job was our glue; without it we had nothing.
This doesn’t mean our time as friends wasn’t worth something, but sometimes these relationships burn bright, then fizzle out. And that’s OK. It might not feel OK at the time, but it is. Not every friendship has to be for life. For some, the term of an employment contract can be enough.
I hope Rebecca and Paula can sort it out. I hope they can find new common ground based on the women they’re growing into, not who they were. But if they can’t, maybe that’s OK too. (Although not it if means saying bye to Paula, because Champlin is magnificent this series and that would be a tragedy too far.)
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Alison is a playwright and would-be tap dancer. She lives in Newcastle upon Tyne.