Like many self-conscious teen girls who loved boys in the 2010s, I once nursed a hardcore crush on Jesse Eisenberg. I mean hardcore: I cut out photos of him from magazines to tape to my dorm room wall. I watched and rewatched every possible interview clip of his on YouTube. I slept underneath a giant poster of The Social Network above my bed. (I was in love with Andrew Garfield too, of course.)
I loved him for what I perceived to be his gentle, kind, introspective nature. But a decade later, Jesse and I have both grown older. I have moved onto pining after real-life nebbishes; he’s got a wife and kid. He also went bald as Lex Luthor in Man of Steel, a look that killed whatever remaining attraction to him I had left. Yet even after accepting this reality—that Jesse Eisenberg is a nearly 40-year-old human man who does not and will not ever like me back—my inner teen was utterly scandalized by his latest project. In Fleishman Is in Trouble, now on Hulu, Eisenberg did the unthinkable: He showed his whole-ass ass and had sex with women that aren’t me.
Apologies to anyone who had to read that last part. But it’s true: Part of being a teenage fangirl is fantasizing that the celeb you’re into will want to kiss your face and all the other gross bits that come with relationships. (If my parents are reading this, I promise that I have no idea what those entail.) In Fleishman, Eisenberg—as the recently divorced, highly anxious Dr. Toby Fleishman—does a lot of fantasizing of his own. With his wife out of the picture, Toby is free to date and sleep with other women for the first time in his adult life. He hops on the apps in the hopes of satisfying his sexual urges, chasing after women big-boobed and small. Toby, too, has a type; it’s just not me.
I know he’s a fictional character, but it still left me feeling some type of way when Toby had his first hook-up in Episode 1. Half an hour into the episode, he meets up with 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 quickly begets his rejuvenated, wild sex life. Not just with this date, Tess; he’s hooking up with other women too. And we know this because there is a full-on montage of all the women Toby’s having sex with, and all the different ways he’s having sex.
There’s ass-out 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 wanted on top. He was wanted on bottom. They wanted him on all fours, which was new for him. They wanted him to go slower. They wanted him to go faster. They wanted to know if he was gonna come hard at the end.” And on and on and on.
I’m no puritan, although I’m a little bit more prudish than I want to admit. But no matter what, a smash cut to naked Jesse Eisenberg touching naked breasts, clitorises, and butts is shocking. Happy as I want to be for Toby, who feels wanted for the first time in years, I can’t look past my gut reaction 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 hook-ups are so madcap, over-the-top, and all-consuming. From then on, Toby can’t stop thinking about the handjobs he’s gotten or hornily gazing at his sexts. It’s a hilariously intense, abruptly acquired addiction.
Things come to a head (heh) after two incidents: First, Tess shows up wearing nothing but a trench coat and lingerie at Toby’s apartment, where the kids are still staying because their mother is nowhere to be found. (Rachel Fleishman, played by Claire Danes, spends the first two episodes of the show totally missing in action. No weekend hand-off for the kids means no weekend hand-off for dads!) Confused as to who the woman showing her cleavage at the front door is, the kids immediately start asking questions Toby doesn’t want to answer.
Strike two is when Toby, addled by divorcé ennui, takes what he thinks is a private naked swim in the family friends’ Hamptons pool. Private, it is not. First, there’s Jesse Eisenberg’s pasty white butt on display for all of us viewers to see; then, it’s on display for his hosts, too. They also get to see his dick, but Fleishman Is in Trouble decided to let Eisenberg preserve his dignity. We saw all these random boobs, but we don’t get to see our star’s penis? The White Lotus, this ain’t.
Fleishman Is in Trouble is not for the sexually naive faint of heart. Turns out that it is for the repressed fangirl, though, thanks to its satirical take on the New York upper crust and the foreboding boredom of long-term relationships. Jesse and I were never meant to be, but Fleishman is not in trouble with me. Well, maybe a little bit of trouble.