On March 6th, one of the most important – if not the most – TV Channels in France, TF1, have broadcasted the first episodes of its new series, which title is “Louis(e)”. It is about a trans woman who tries to reintegrate her family after seven years of absence, during which she transitioned. When I heard that such a series was going to be on T.V, I was curious and enthusiastic. After all, it is the first trans character on French T.V so I thought it was a great idea to finally represent the trans community.
And then, I saw the trailer – I’ve only seen bits of the two episodes, but it’s so awful I don’t even want to talk about it. There are enough problematic elements in the trailer to note, yet only lasts 2 minutes…
It is short, but if you understand French, you can already see what is wrong in this series.
First of all, let’s talk about the title. The “e” is in parenthesis as if we could still call the main character Louis instead of Louise. We can’t. This is her name, the name she chose, the name which represents her and no one can ignore it. Furthermore, it reduces her to her sexual identity. She should be more than just a trans character. Confining her to her genre reveals that the series is in fact meant to get popular and to show the channel as progressive, and not meant to be progressive. It’s like queerbaiting, to be honest. You know what I’m talking about, those series which have lgbtq+ characters so they attract lgtbq+ viewers and make some buzz but end up killing them for no (good) reason or giving them less screen-time than the others or suddenly inserting them in heterosexual relationships. This one probably won’t kill its character but it won’t reflect the trans community as it should either. I’ll now explain why.
Then, we can’t help but noticing the character is played by a cisgendered woman, a famous actress named Claire Nebout. Why hasn’t the TV channel chosen a trans actress for this role ? There are French trans actresses. They may not be as well-known as Claire Nebout, but isn’t it the moment to put them under the spotlight, to let them shine ? After some researchs, for example, I found that one of them, Stéphanie Michelini, has auditioned for the role and they have rejected her. Why ?
Now, the character herself. Thanks God, she is not a prostitute, she is a physician. But she is a cliché. However, it would have been great to see a trans woman who is not prisoned by gender roles. It seems that, to prove that Louise is a woman, she has to wear huge heels all the time, to be sexy and glamorous, to love pink and red and mini-skirts. Yes, some trans women are like this, such as Laverne Cox, who is always classy and beautiful, or Caitlyn Jenner. But not all of them. And they are much than stereotypes. It’s disheartening to see that people still can’t imagine trans people differently. Trans women can be androgynous, can wear clothers that are considered as masculine, can wear heels or can hate it. Because they are women. Women, cisgendered or not, can wear anything they want. A lot of trans people have complained about her hypersexualized aspect. She clearly suffers from internalized transphobia, for example when she says “I’m now a woman” to her ex. It means she doesn’t believe that she already was a woman before her transition. Yet, you don’t need to undergo a transition to be a woman. A gender has nothing to do with your genitals. She also declares “I couldn’t stay in between [the two genders]”. It invalidates the non-binary genders.
Subsequently, because of her behaviour and because of the purpose of the show (to condemn transphobia), the fact that her relatives are transphobic – it contents discrimination, transphobic slurs, rumors etc – is not surprising. The problem is that, even when the show tries to illustrate transphobia through the interactions between the characters, it’s done in the wrong way. Louise’s ex-wife is now married with a toxic epitome of masculinity, a “real” man who is machist and is supposed to be strong and virile. He spends his life calling Louise a transvestite and cutting wood. He is certainly the most annoying character in the show. Louise’s daughter is an unhappy teenager who is ashamed of her because Louise has accompanied her to a party. She is in high school and is perfectly able to think for herself, so it would have been interesting to see her as the most accepting person in the family, because she has read on the subject for school or something. But no, it was easier to have another stereotype. And as if it wasn’t terrible enough, Louise’ son doesn’t care about her genre because she can play with him. Indeed, he says things like “You have big hands for a woman” and when he learns the truth “I should have known you were a man before because you play basketball too well.” Do you find it clever to fight transphobia with sexist remarks ?
In addition to all I’ve just said, I now have to mention what Claire Nebout thinks of her role and of transidentity.
In this interview she doesn’t realize how offensive she is. She says she is fascinated by trans people, as if they were weird creatures she had to study. She only talks about transvestites and trans people in the clubs as prostitutes, as people who hide, which is strange given the fact that the character she plays isn’t like that. And she reminds to the interviewer that we probably often cross the path of women that “have been men”. Dear Mrs Nebout, these women have always been women. Again, trans people don’t need transition for their gender to be validated. A transition is not a proof. They shouldn’t have to prove it, in fact.
Some of the details I’ve written about in this article, among other things, have been denounced by trans people on social media a few days following the launch of the series ; for example, Clémence Zamora-Cruz, trans woman and spokesperson for the group Inter-LGBT in this article or quite popular Twitter users in the French LGBTQ+ community like @Elle_sa_ and @frizzy-charly – follow them if you can speak French, they are really interesting and dedicated activits.
Nevertheless, I can admit that, even if the show is a mess, they really tried to be realistic and committed to the cause, by narrating the life of a trans woman who isn’t a prostitute and the issues she faces every day, such as how complicated getting your identity recognised is.
Sadly, it is not enough.
Try again, TF1.