There is a recent Netflix movie that I watched called Malcolm and Marie. It’s an interesting film that focuses on a couple arguing and discussing their relationship and each other over the course of a night. While not necessarily a novel idea, the two actors (Zendaya and John David Washington) playing the couple have chemistry and are very talented thespians. Admittedly, I was not initially interested in this film, but found myself intrigued by the discourse around the portrayal of a dysfunctional couple. Most criticism boiled down to Malcom and Marie being a toxic couple with most critics taking a specific character’s side and a handful believing both were destructive individuals with bad habits and worse tendencies. I am of a slightly different opinion: that the characters were toxic individuals to one another but that did not mean their analysis and insults toward each other were wrong. In fact, the nature of their relationship and discontent with one another most likely gave a unique insight and honesty that would not have been available otherwise.
Both Malcolm and Marie are passively and actively aggressive toward the other during nearly the entirety of the movie. They trade insults, barbs, tear each other down, and bring up the worst insecurities and moments of one another to belittle and humiliate the other. Peppered in between these moments are also occasions of seemingly genuine affection and love exchanged between Malcolm and Marie. These moments add to the criticism of toxicity and unhealthy nature of the relationship depicted in the film. However, I see those moments much like the arguments and verbal sparring as honest.
There is a belief that truth is liberating. As the adage goes, “The truth will set you free.” And, to be fair, there is legitimacy in that adage and belief, but that does not mean that the truth is simple or pleasant. In fact, facing truths without the shade of shadow under the brightest of lights can be quite harsh and painful. After all, how many truths and facts do we still turn away from now because of the discomfort and disarray that will be caused? How often do we use and turn to the comfortable lie to avoid hardships and arguments? Why is there an equally popular and known adage that goes “Ignorance is bliss”?
It is this discomfort and pain and anguish and embarrassment we witness Malcolm and Marie experience as the uncomfortable truths of themselves are laid bare in front of them by the person they love. And yet, it is because they love one another that they know each other so well and can expose the darkest aspects of one another with such precision.
We have such a person in our lives. Whether it is a family member, friend, romantic partner, or even ourselves; we have someone who knows us so intimately that they could pick apart our lives and spread out our fears, insecurities, and shame as easily as a Las Vegas casino dealer shuffles out a deck of cards. However, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Truth is not some universal solution or balm. Like most things, it is a tool. It is something to be used and wielded for a purpose and intent. As such, we can decide what our truths lead to and how we react to their illumination. After all if someone knows our darkest impulses, then they are also aware of our truest angels. And frankly, we need to be aware of both and understand how to effectively wield all aspects of our character to truly learn how to