Like many self-confident teenage girls who liked boys in the 2010s, I once had a crush on Jesse Eisenberg. I mean hardcore: I cut out pictures of him from magazines and pasted them on the wall of my dorm room. I watched and re-watched every possible interview clip of him on YouTube. I slept under a giant poster of The social network above my bed. (I also had a crush on Andrew Garfield, of course.)
I loved him for what I saw as his gentle, kind, introspective nature. But ten years later, Jesse and I have both aged. I’ve moved on to pining for real-life nebbishes; he has a wife and child. He also went bald when Lex Luthor came in Man of Steel, a look that wiped away any remaining attraction to him I had left. But even after accepting this reality – that Jesse Eisenberg is an almost 40-year-old human male who doesn’t like me and will never like me again – my inner teenager was utterly shocked by his latest project. In Fleishman is in troublenow on Hulu, Eisenberg did the unthinkable: he showed his whole ass and had sex with women who are not me.
Apologies to anyone who had to read that last part. But it’s true: part of being a teen fangirl is fantasizing that the celebrity you love wants to kiss your face and all the other gross things that come with relationships. (If my parents read this, I promise I have no idea what that means.) In meat man, Eisenberg fantasizes – as the recently divorced, highly anxious Dr. Toby Fleishman – much of himself. With his wife out of the picture, Toby is free to date and go to bed with other women for the first time in his adult life. He hops on the apps in hopes of satisfying his sexual urges, chasing women with big and small breasts. Toby also has a type; it’s just not me.
I know he’s a fictional character, but it still kind of gave me a feeling when Toby had his first date in episode 1. Half an hour into episode, he meets one of the women he’d matched with online. Over drinks, Toby’s date talks about losing her husband to his threesome addiction… and this soon spawns his rejuvenated, wild sex life. Not just on this date, Tess; he also hangs out with other women. And we know this because there’s a full montage of all the women Toby has sex with, and all the different ways he has sex.
There’s the bastard Toby, grabbing women’s breasts; there he is, bending a woman over the counter. As his friend Libby (Lizzy Caplan) explains in voiceover: “[Toby] was searched at the top. He was wanted at the bottom. They wanted him on all fours, which was new to him. They wanted him to slow down. They wanted him to go faster. They wanted to know if he was going to come hard at the end. And on and on and on.
I’m not a puritan, although I’m a bit more prudish than I’d like to admit. But no matter what, a cut of naked Jesse Eisenberg touching bare breasts, clitoris and buttocks is shocking. As happy as I want to be for Toby, who feels wanted for the first time in years, I can’t see beyond my instinctive response to his lust. Part of that is because the show clearly wants to play this for laughs; it’s funny, not because it’s Toby having sex, but because his hookups are so silly, over the top, and all-consuming. From that moment on, Toby can’t stop thinking about the handjobs he’s gotten or gazing at his sexts. It’s a hilariously intense, abruptly acquired addiction.
After two incidents, it comes to a head (heh): First, Tess shows up in nothing but a raincoat and lingerie at Toby’s apartment, where the kids are still staying because their mother is nowhere to be seen. (Rachel Fleishman, played by Claire Danes, spends the first two episodes of the show completely missing. No weekend episode for the kids means no weekend episode for dads!) Confused about who the woman is showing her cleavage to at the front door, start immediately asking the kids questions that Toby doesn’t want to answer.
Strike two is when Toby, corrupted by divorced boredom, has what he thinks is a private nude dive in the family friends’ Hamptons pool. Private, it’s not. First, there’s Jesse Eisenberg’s pasty white ass on display for all viewers to see; then it can also be seen for its hosts. They also get to see his dick, but Fleishman is in trouble Eisenberg decided to keep his dignity. We’ve seen all those random boobs, but we don’t get to see our star’s penis? The White Lotusthis isn’t it.
Fleishman is in trouble is not for the sexually naive faint of heart. Turns out it’s for the downtrodden fangirl, though, thanks to its satirical take on New York’s upper crust and the ominous boredom of long-term relationships. Jesse and I were never meant to be together, but meat man has no problems with me. Well, maybe a little effort.
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