May December: Who is Joe Texting? Does He Have an Affair?

In Netflix’s ‘May December,’ a complicated face of love and relationships is brought forth in the form of Gracie and Joe. They have been together for twenty-four years, but the problem is that their relationship began when Joe was barely a teenager. Their affair caused a nationwide media scandal and has kept the couple the target of hateful comments and actions from their haters. As the film progresses, things become more unstable between the couple. An early sign of this distance between them is hinted at in the form of secret text messages that Joe shares with someone. Who is the person on the other end of the line, and what does it mean for Joe and Gracie’s marriage? SPOILERS AHEAD

Joe’s Secret Friend is a Sign of His Crumbling Marriage

The person that Joe keeps texting throughout the film, away from Gracie’s eyes, is a woman named Michela from the Facebook group about Monarch butterflies. In one scene, Joe tells Elizabeth about how he has started rearing the butterflies because they are in danger of going extinct. He is doing this with several other people in the group, all of whom are pitching their bit to save the butterflies. In an effort to save them, Joe ends up changing his own life.

Several times in the film, we find Joe on his phone, texting with the person, talking with them about his day and other things. By the time Elizabeth arrives to stir trouble, Joe and his friend are already too emotionally involved. Their chats appear to be between people who have been in constant communication with each other for a while and enjoy talking to each other. It is very much like the initial phase of a new relationship, but it’s nothing normal from Joe’s point of view.

It’s confusing for Joe to talk to someone of his own age and feel the things that he feels while talking to them. It is so because he has never had this before. He got involved with Gracie when he was barely in his teens. He became a father of two before he crossed into adulthood, and once there, Gracie was back from prison, and he married her. For as long as he could remember, his life has been governed by Gracie and the shadow of their scandalous affair. He has not known the comfort of being in a normal, age-appropriate relationship. Even when he begins to understand that he might be having feelings for someone else, it breaks his heart because this not only tests his love and loyalty for Gracie but also questions its existence.

All these years that they were together, Joe never thought that there was anything wrong with him and Gracie being together. But now that he is around the same age that she was when they had an affair, he starts to look back on things with a different perspective. Having a conversation with an outsider, someone who has never seen Joe in the light of a boy who was victimized by a woman his mother’s age gives Joe a taste of being with someone his own age. Later, he sleeps with Elizabeth, and even though she is almost the same age as her, it’s still complicated with her because by then, she has started to imbibe and imitate Gracie, which is why perhaps Joe was attracted to her in the first place.

It would be wrong to say that Joe was having an affair with the person he was texting. Things didn’t go that far because before it could be deemed an affair, Joe decided to end things with Gracie. His crying outside his children’s graduation ceremony hints at the end of Gracie and Joe’s marriage. He’d previously questioned the nature of their affair and wondered if he was not in the right state of mind to understand what was really happening. He hadn’t done that before, not with the desperation he does it with now, and it can be attributed to, among other things, the fact that he’s gotten a glimpse of what being in a normal, society-approved relationship could be like. In that sense, the texts became the first nail in the coffin of his marriage with Gracie.

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