SPOILERS through the latest episode of Crazy Ex Girlfriend, “Nathaniel and I are Just Friends!”
Friday’s episode of Crazy Ex Girlfriend, a Fandomentals favorite, focused on Rebecca still struggling with balancing her mental health, exposing her vulnerabilities, and navigating the recovery process—with some killer acting by Rachel Bloom, to boot. However, I can’t help but focus on a part of the episode that was ironically never meant to be a focal point: Valencia has a girlfriend, making her the first explicit wlw character in the main cast. (Maya is more secondary, of course, though we can always chat about Rebecca and Heather’s tendencies.)
I’m so happy…this is what happiness feels like, right?
As a queer lady watching this show, I have noticed the dearth of representation, though it was something that never exactly bothered for me. Interestingly, Valencia was the established character I saw with the most potential to fill that role. After all, we’ve seen her overcome her internalized misogyny as well as come into her own sense of identity and purpose in the world. She is now a party planner, who has the confidence start big ol’ stinky movements, and who genuinely has positive and empowering relationships to the central cast of women.
In some ways, getting a girlfriend is the natural conclusion of this. What Valencia has lacked is a partner who appreciates her for her—hell, just someone who wants to get to know her for reasons other than her body.
Enter Beth McSomethingOrOther, a business savvy lady from a PR firm that has events in the San Gabes Vals, which naturally led to her looking for a party planner who can rock those killer outfits. I’d tell you more about Beth, but that’s it! That’s all we know! How is she Valencia’s girlfriend already then?
Well, at their first business meeting, sparks were obviously flying, and Beth even called Valencia “funny”. Then the episode skipped forward 8 months in time for reasons that had nothing to do with them, only for us to discover that hey, in that time a romantic relationship formed.
As I was watching live, I texted my partner before the timeskip saying, “I think they’re giving Valencia a female love interest.” If not, it was at least a very odd way to paint a platonic business meeting. Two minutes later when it was confirmed, I was dumbstruck. Just…bam. There it is.
Is it a problem that this happened off-screen? Afterall, the entire show is about the full and excruciatingly explicated details of Rebecca’s heterosexual love life (her self-asserted 1.8 on the Kinsey Scale notwithstanding). Shouldn’t queer love stories get at least the same benefit?
I’ll be honest: there was part of me that felt this way. However, time and time again my biggest issue with LGBT+ representation has been the tendency to treat queer relationships as Very Special™. In some ways, this is absolutely the dream. Imagine if in this episode, Valencia had been sitting across some nice looking chap from the PR firm who called her funny. Then we timeskip and see them together. No one would blink an eye, and we’d probably be happy that Valencia had finally found someone worthy of her. Why not make that person a woman?
I can’t think of a single reason why not. We’ve seen Crazy Ex Girlfriend take the time to show us a character grappling with their sexuality in Daryl, and we’ve seen the way his romantic relationship with White Josh formed. That slow burn was well done, and even their breakup over babies—something I’ve had my issues with in other shows—played out with respect to characterization, where they both were in the story, and what made logical sense.
It’s not like queer slowburns are a zero-sum game, of course. But I do think this show has earned the benefit of the doubt with depicting that in an authentic way. And now after all the infantilizing Closer-To-Earth renditions I’ve seen in other media, I’m more than ready for a bisexual lady to begin dating a woman without the pomp and circumstance. The chemistry between Valencia and Beth was palpable from the start, and it’s clear they’re both damn happy with each other. I’d be floored if they’re conveniently shunted to the side for the rest of the show’s run…that’s not really Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna’s MO. In fact, Crazy Ex Girlfriend is rather known for addressing full implications of threads, even ones that seem to have been tabled.
Yet while I might personally be ready for no fanfare surrounding this, is that fair to Valencia’s character? She’s certainly come a long way since dissing every single woman in West Covina in the spirit of solidarity. But you’d still think it’d be a process for her to shake free of compulsory heterosexuality, especially since the perceived competition over a male partner was the entire reason for her hostility to begin with. (None of this is to demonize Valencia, of course. Women are taught this messaging, and that’s why her learning to challenge it was so refreshing.)
Heck, even her revelations following the Triceratops Ballet and female bonding with Rebecca didn’t exactly leave her in a patriarchy smashing place, since she was then cyberstalking Josh’s new girlfriend two episodes later. Then there’s also a cultural aspect. I’m certainly not saying every latinx character will inherently have homophobic family members, but there is the suggestion that she’s Catholic (stating that she “actually believes in Jesus” in Season 1), and even with being a West Covina native, you’d think it’s something at least worth broaching given her specific intersection.
However, there’s to aspects to consider. For one, we know nothing about Valencia’s family, and there’s plenty of show left to explore that dynamic, if relevant. In truth, I’m ambivalent of if it even needs to be. I happen to think struggling with acceptance needs to stop being the default of queer stories, and though Crazy Ex Girlfriend is certainly not speculative fiction where our own societal prejudices can be made irrelevant, one of the whole things about the setting of West Covina is that it’s this odd “we’re so accepting because people of every ethnicity eats at Chili’s” vibe, which the show has called out time and time again. It’s an “accepting” place in a bizarrely superficial way, but it adds to it. Of course the Catholic priest is a stoner, and of course Daryl had no idea “White Josh” was gay, because no one even thought to make a big deal out of it. This is Valencia’s hometown, and these seeming contradictions (at least in the eyes of this East Coaster) could easily be taken for granted.
Then there’s Valencia herself. Yes, she held the unfortunate belief that she was in inherent competition with all over women around her when we first meet her. But since then, she’s shed that mentality, and allowed herself to find her own place in the world based on her skills, rather than appearance.
That doesn’t mean she’s a new character, of course. She is still fairly self-involved; we just saw her turn Rebecca’s recovery from a suicide attempt into a way for her to get views and praise (and product samples) through social media. And even this episode we learned that every link on her website is a picture of herself, in differing poses. If a person came by who was truly invested in her, in a way that was obviously beyond her physical appeal, it seems Valencia would naturally be open to a relationship regardless of that person’s gender. The fact that she’s with someone who values her *humor*? Just…what an amazing arc.
I don’t see this in any way as bi-erasure, just because we never got Valencia having an “a-ha” moment about labels the way Daryl did. Really, Valencia seems like the kind of person who would be less invested in labels altogether (can you really picture her getting on a pride float?), and more focused on pursuing what makes her happy. In this case, it’s Beth, the person who’s able to pay attention to the nitty gritty business details, while also being invested in what she has to say. As someone who’s only tepidly taken the label of bisexual because of the tendency towards erasure, I love that we can get representation without a song sometimes, while being lucky enough to watch a show which had that too.
We don’t have to choose our flavor of representation now. Crazy Ex Girlfriend has given us both, and I’ve never been happier to be a both-sexual than I am now.