Why Every Married Couple Must Watch Fleishman Is In Trouble on Hulu
My favorite class I ever took in college was called “Heroes and Outlaws.” I needed a humanities elective to propel me to graduation and this was by far the most interesting class in the humanities course book. It ended up leaving an ever-fixed mark on my academic education. There are few classes that I recall in detail as I did this one, and to this day still apply what I learned when I am watching TV, a movie, or reading a book. (Huge shoutout to Dr. Ancelet from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette for being one of the most engaging and phenomenal professors a student could ask for.)
One thing that I remember profoundly from class was the idea that through film history and literature, we can see how previous stories are rewritten, and a new story is forged based on a different perspective. Seemingly what once was black and white takes a life of its own, and we understand a different viewpoint from a new lens. What we once thought, no longer was. A great example of this is the story of the Wizard of Oz compared to the recent re-telling in the musical theater production of Wicked. The audience is shown why the Wicked Witch of the West wasn’t truly the antagonist we thought she was, and the story humanizes her in a way we haven’t seen.
Fleishman Is In Trouble reminds me specifically of the need to re-tell the marriage story.
When this drama mini-series begins, the audience is not quite sure what to make of it. A woman is narrating the story of a man who is divorced, has had his children dropped off (by his separated spouse) without his knowledge in the middle of the night as he slept, and he cannot locate said ex-wife. Is this a crime show? A missing person case? Will he be framed for murder? It’s hard to tell at first.
While you are questioning if this just became a murder mystery, you witness the beginning and development of a sweet, touching story of how a married couple once in love dissolved into separation via flashback. At this moment, it’s hard not to side with the main character, Toby Fleishman (played by Jason Eisenberger), and wonder just how terrible of a person his ex-wife, Rachel (played by Claire Danes), is. However, the audience slowly learns about Rachel’s perspective and finally how the perspective of the narrator (who is Toby’s college best friend and played by Lizzy Caplan), relates to all of this seemingly unrelatable situation.
I hate to admit that I fell victim to the intended ploy, which was of course to hate Claire Danes’ character at first. In fact, there are so many shows and movies made that illustrate marriages utterly in black and white boxes, painting one spouse to be a villain worthy of the very worst karma, easily convincing which person was THE VERY BAD PERSON in this relationship.
But marriages, and relationships – as most things in life – are rarely so black and white or binary. It was a refreshing dose of reality to see this story told in a way that mirrors real life so well.
Most of us are just faulty humans trying to navigate life.
And there’s beauty in that. There’s also humility, compassion, empathy, and understanding. I couldn’t help but compare my own marriage and how many times our perspective is different from your spouse’s perspective and yet you both can be right and valid at the same time. More than anything, every single person reading this is going to mess up in their relationship or hurt their spouse, intentional or not. But what matters more is how you handle the aftermath, how and when you apologize, how and when you work through it. (And if I may say so, the finale of this mini-series is hit-you-in-your-gut-and-heart good.)
The great re-telling of the marriage story here is sometimes we can’t always trust the narrator of the one-sided perspective. As Dr. Ancelet would say in my Heroes and Outlaws class, “Consider the source!” We do need to consider the source and maybe another viewpoint. And you definitely need to add Fleishman Is In Trouble to your next-watch list, available to stream on HULU.