FXX’s romantic comedy, You’re the Worst, resonates via authentic depiction of clinical depression.
Absurdly overdramatized, twenty minutes in length, and relatively white-washed, You’re the Worst appears to be like every television comedy you’ve ever seen. Its first season painted a two-dimensional world inhabited by caricatures that leave whirlwinds of destruction in their wake, deterring viewers from connecting to the characters in a meaningful way. But the recently concluded second season surprised in its dark depth by painting mental illness in a painfully honest way. To the masochists who love to have their hearts broken, I offer one name: Gretchen.
One of the show’s two protagonists, Gretchen (Aya Cash) is stubbornly independent, sarcastic, and straight-up mean. The kind of girl you see coming down the hallway in high school and stare at your shoes until she’s passed. Her outward confidence causes her to come across as a bitch to most everybody, but deep inside her body made of cold, rigid steel, a heart beats. It is not the glimmering organ she needs to stop acting like a robot. She’s no tin man in the Land of Oz – she’s a scarecrow.
Gretchen needs a new brain. One that is “fixed.” One that allows her to feel something, anything, when the world around her is melting to nothing. She is clinically depressed, a mental illness affecting nearly 350 million people around the world. The first glimpse at her depression comes while she is trapped inside during the street-consuming L.A. marathon. With nowhere to go, Gretchen is riddled with the pain of facing five people she knows during the peak of her depression.
Then there’s Jimmy (Chris Geere). The lovable goofball who’s impossible to hate and forced to watch the tall and mighty cliff he loves as she crumbles to the sea, along with everything they’ve built together. Time after time, he tries his best to make Gretchen happy, but is only met by a brick wall of despair. The shadow tightly clung to Gretchen’s shoulders is foreign to him, and like any logical person, it scares the living shit out of him. He can’t fix her, so why should he stay?
From there, You’re the Worst hits its stride, depicting the crippling effects of clinical depression with a visceral intensity. No matter how many times you want to get up, shake the TV and yell at Gretchen to do anything, she just sits there, the same broken shell of a person that everyone living with clinical depression has been.
The symmetry between Cash’s performance and my own experiences is terrifying. At points, it hits so close to home that I wonder how many other viewers sit and weep for twenty minutes after every episode. To see emptiness manifest in Gretchen, enabling her to snort four lines of cocaine and pull a gun on a woman without feeling a thing, means she’s given up on a substantial part of living.
I’m not ashamed to admit that You’re the Worst strikes such a deep chord with me because I, like many of my friends, have been that girl. The girl who lies in bed for multiple days without responding to anyone because she doesn’t have the energy to move. The girl who gets cheated on because she doesn’t have the energy to text her boyfriend that she still exists while he’s banging his own best friend’s girlfriend. The girl so crazy with depression that it fucks up relationship after relationship. There is no way to get across to the people I love that they don’t help. When I’m filled to the brim with unbearable sadness that causes me to quit eating for 14 days. When I’m screaming at people to let me stay locked in the bathroom at a party because I want to be present but I’m just… not. How do you make that seem okay to anyone?
You don’t. You ride the wave out and hope that someone close to you understands that this isn’t you. That even when they don’t necessarily understand everything going on, they’re still there for you to listen. That the person you love is okay with this you and maybe cheers you up by making a blanket fort to protect you from the outside world, like Jimmy does for Gretchen.
Having that pain finally reflected in a television show is numbing, scary, and absolutely exhilarating. It’s like watching my life unfold before my eyes every Wednesday night. And maybe if Gretchen pulls through, there’s hope for me too.
A million TV shows and movies have tried to paint depression in a million ways. The Goth Girl, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and the Femme Fatale, all having the same central theme: to make depression desirable. Mental illness is not a pretty thing. It’s a monster that eats away at you and hurts the people you care about the most – friends, family, and significant others. You’re the Worst does long-overdue justice to a wildly misrepresented issue. It’s not only smart, adorable, and hilarious, but will also give you a glimpse of the illness you or someone close to you may be struggling with. It left me asking, “Where was this show two years ago when my relationship needed it?”