Why ‘You’re The Worst’ is the Bravest Show on TV

Depression is a debilitating illness. There’s no two ways around it. It’s a horrible condition that roots the sufferer into a whirlwind of self-loathing that it is incredibly difficult to get out of. It’s very difficult to talk about and it can be very difficult to understand, which is why I honestly feel that You’re The Worst is the bravest show on television.

A couple of TV shows that I can think of have characters that are clearly depressed, BoJack from BoJack Horseman and Rick from Rick and Morty show clear signs of depression but from what I remember, whilst both are self-destructive neither of them outright state that they are depressed.

For Gretchen Cutler of You’re The Worst to say out loud “I am clinically depressed” is a big deal because this is not a cartoon. Gretchen is not a horse that stands on two human feet or a scientist that can travel through dimensions, she’s a real person.

Cynically, one might say that the show has taken this direction entirely to stand out and get some publicity, and to an extent creator Stephen Falk does acknowledge that in his column for Vulture. He states that:

With so many new networks and technologies and services and apps scrambling to define themselves with original scripted content, the pressure on we who create television to make our shows stand out is increasing. Which is why my writers and I decided to “tackle” mental illness in this season of our half-hour romantic comedy.

To take on an issue like this you need substance, otherwise it’s a token flash-in-the-pan idea that will quickly be forgotten. In my opinion, You’re The Worst showed the most honest representation of depression that I’ve seen in any television show and that is in large thanks to the writing and Aya Cash, who plays Gretchen.

Depression isn’t all about self-harming, depression completely removes your enthusiasm for anything and leaves you ranging from straight up angry to completely numb. Aya Cash played both ends of that spectrum perfectly, whether it was firing off a long monologue of drunken insults in the episode “There Is Not Currently a Problem” or lying semi-comatose in the episodes “A Right Proper Story” and “Other Things You Could Be Doing”.

Thankfully the show avoided going down the self-harm route because if someone is self-harming then you know that something is wrong with them, but the numb state of nothing is equally as dangerous and equally as common. If someone isn’t self harming then they can still be suffering, and if they feel nothing then it’s tough to tell just how bad they are for both the sufferer and those around them. It’s hard to read a blank canvas, and that is shown in the episode “Other Things You Could Be Doing“.

The depression narrative doesn’t just centre around Gretchen, it involves everyone around her and that is where the writing is key. Even if you don’t suffer with depression, I can guarantee that you know someone who does and who shows these signs and you wouldn’t know what to do about it. Neither does Jimmy (played by Chris Geere) and his hero complex won’t let him stop until he “cures” Gretchen of her depression.

Yes, we do get the “Snap out of it” and the strain of trying to please someone who cannot be happy, and it’s in a way that doesn’t make you hate Jimmy for it. You actually feel for the guy.

Depression is horrible for everyone, and You’re The Worst hit that balance in season two in not portraying Gretchen as some damsel in distress and not portraying Jimmy as some macho hero to save the day. Her illness is now his illness, and it’s not easy to adapt to that. You’re The Worst also did a great job of not using depression as an excuse for being “the worst”.

There was no patronising in this season, just honesty.

You’re The Worst has been renewed for a third season and I really want to see where the show goes from here, especially with the revelation that Gretchen hasn’t taken any proper medication for years and now that she has Jimmy for the long haul she needs professional help. Her illness is now his illness.

Season two wasn’t as funny as season one, but it wasn’t supposed to be. Stephen Falk took a huge gamble on “maturing” the show like this, and whether or not he can keep the momentum going remains to be seen. But for now, he and everyone involved with You’re The Worst deserves a lot of credit for raising this issue and attempting to walk the tight-rope.

Depression is not easy to talk about, but by giving an honest representation of the condition, You’re The Worst has made the conversation a lot easier.

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