Netflix has released a new French miniseries, Christmas Flow. It is on the streaming platform since November 17. After Love Hard, Christmas Flow is another romantic comedy set during the Christmas holidays.
Created by Henri Debeurme, Marianne Levy and Victor Rodenbach, with Nadège Loiseau directing, Christmas Flow tells the romantic story of an unlikely match. Lila (Shirine Boutella) is a young feminist journalist, while Marcus (played by French rapper Tayc) is a famous rapper singing sexist lyrics. There is an instant connection when they first meet, but once Lila learns who he is, it would go against all her own common sense to date him. As Netflix’s synopsis puts it, it’s “hate at first sight.” Their paths though will continue to cross again and again.
In just three episodes, Christmas Flow is an easy show to watch—too short to be really a series and too long to be a film. If you’re wishing you were in Paris for the Holidays, the first episode will transport you to the spirit of Christmas shopping in the French capital. Following conventional rom-com plotlines, this French miniseries is nonetheless problematic when it comes to its conclusions on feminism and misogyny.
Marcus is a famous rapper winning music awards. But, as the opening sequence tells us, he is being sued for insult and incitement to violence against women. Coming out of the courts, Marcus isn’t remorseful at all, standing by what his lawyer calls his freedom of speech. To redeem his public image, Marcus’ producer tells him to make a special Christmas single, in which he’ll profess his love for women.
It is while Christmas shopping in one of Paris’ most beautiful department stores that Marcus crosses paths with Lila. Lila is part of a group of feminist activists with two of her best friends, Alice (Marion Séclin) and Jeanne (Aloïse Sauvage). They call themselves The Simones, in honor of the French feminist figure Simone de Beauvoir. Marcus and Lila are clearly not made for each other. Their paths though will continue to cross until eventually, as the genre dictates, the two get together.
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Men with misogynistic views can change, this series appears to be suggesting. They just need to be attracted to a young and beautiful feminist who will lightly teach them out of their sexist discourse. This is where the show feels problematic. Marcus’ views on women does not change, not after his trial, nor after listening to The Simones’ blog posts, and neither when his little sister (played by Kadidia Sidibé) tells him that she wants to be a rapper too (to which he replies that she can’t, because she’s a woman). Marcus only appears to change once he realizes he wants to be with Lila. And the only way for this to happen is for him to change.
What this series does show is this growing feminist activism emanating from younger generations in France. This very weekend in Paris, on Saturday November 20, #NousToutes, a French feminist non-violent collective founded in 2018 that combats violence against women, marched through the streets of Paris. Through The Simones, the series reflects this growing awareness in France, especially in the younger generation that uses social media to communicate feminist discourse. The Simones is clearly inspired by such feminist collectives increasingly getting traction in the last few years in France. Christmas Flow shows The Simones, for example, change street name signs across Paris to bear the names of famous women, just as #NousToutes did in 2019.
Christmas Flow is an easy-to-watch series that follows the rom-com formula to the letter with some added feminist intentions. I am just not convinced that the “feminist falls for a sexist man” plotline really does work.