Video: A Teacher (2020)

A Teacher is an FX miniseries available on Hulu and comes from director Hannah Fidell who based the show off her 2013 film of the same name. The series initially released 3 episodes at the beginning of November and is proceeding to release one episode per week until December 29th, for a total of 10 episodes. The original film was not a critical success and so it seems like Fidell is taking a second stab at depicting a topic she cares to inform the public about. 

House Of Card’s Kate Mara plays a teacher named Claire Wilson who is struggling with her marriage and begins a sexually romantic relationship with one of her senior students portrayed by Love Simon’s Nick Robinson. The series explores the downward spiral and consequences of the duo’s forbidden relationship. 

This show is an uncomfortable viewing experience and it’s going to be more or less excruciating for people simply depending on your tolerance to watch the process of a predator, who is in a position of power, take advantage of a young adult teenager. In fact, every episode begins with a warning to viewers about the adult content that will be depicted. After watching the series it is clear that showrunners are not supporting teacher-student relationships but are portraying it to show people the devastating effects it has on both the people involved and all of the people they are close to. 

As an educator myself, I am aware of the rising numbers of teacher-student relationships, particularly in Texas, where both I and the characters in this television show reside. A Teacher is an important show for audiences to see the potential effects these relationships, which are only destined to fail, have. Believe it or not, there’s some people who do have the belief that if the student is of age that “it’s not that bad” -as you watch the show those audience members may see their opinion changing and for those that have always believed that these relationships are never a good idea no matter the age difference there may be a new perspectives that will reinforce that belief  even further. No matter your stance on the matter, Fidell is highlighting a real-world problem that we do not see heavily explored in film or television, and is why I think this show is uniquely relevant to what is happening in the world.

Binging the series is easy. Episodes are tremendously short;  20-25 minutes to get through an episode. Pacing is rapid, with the story and circumstances swiftly evolving. Unfortunately, at the end of episode 5 there’s an extreme brainless decision that is made by one of the characters- I will not spoil what it is- but it was stupidly bizarre that I rolled my eyes and it took me out of the reality that the show setup for quite a few episodes. I got over it eventually but this one unintelligent choice that a character makes seems entirely counter intuitive to what they tried so hard to prevent from happening that it was hard to believe that they decided to do what they do. Additionally, this choice is the catalyst, or the cause of why many of the things that happen in proceeding episodes happens and so if there’s any part of the show that comes out of left-field and feels a little slow it is the episodes that follow episode 5.

Despite the show making a sharp turn, the acting is top-notch and kept me invested in wanting to see these characters be portrayed. Kate Mara is a beautiful actress who plays the part of a teacher convincingly well. Her character is given a struggling marriage as reasoning as to why she resorts to pursuing her student. That detail certainly does not justify Claire’s actions but it was an important detail for her to feel like a real individual who had a reason to try to escape and find comfort in the wrong place. Nick Robinson looks exactly how he does in Love, Simon which makes sense considering in both roles he’s a high school student and so it was a bit weird seeing him play an explicit role whereas his character in Love, Simon was considerably more innocent. Robinson’s character lives with his single mother and younger siblings. He seems to be trying to figure out who he is, just like most teenage boys. He is a likable character because of his believability and you can’t feel bad that he is being manipulated to go out with his teacher which will slowly begin to shape the next chapter in his life.

Some people may say there’s a double standard because if the teacher was male and the student was female reactions to the couple’s relationship would be much more alarming. That’s a good argument but after seeing the show I am sure the show producers are not cool with student-teacher relationships regardless of the genders. They may have chosen to go with a female teacher because it would potentially feel less explicit to our culture given the unfortunate gender stereotypes that do exist and want more eyeballs to be able to feel more comfortable tuning in and see how this relationship unfolds and those consequences. 

I enjoyed the finale but will say that it involves some time that has passed and none of the actors looked like they had aged the amount they should have. Particularly Robinson. I got over it but I am curious once everyone else gets to finish the series what you all thought about actors’ appearances in this final episode.
I enjoyed this show despite it being a cringy viewing experience and the slightly slug of middle episodes. I will conclude by saying I am sorry if you do watch this week-to-week because there’s several instances I thought to myself, “I would be so upset if I can’t see what happens next” so if any of you all are busy this holiday season it may be worth it to wait till you can bust through all of them in one sitting. 

Final Verdict:Compellingly portrays the devastating effects of teacher-student relationships.