Féminin/Féminin, from director Chloé Robichaud, explores the mundane, intimate realities of LGBTQ women in Montréal
Imagine this: a scene in a TV series where two women are together, casually exchanging kisses and holding hands, where the point isn’t just that they’re gay and that they should talk about it. The point is who gets to keep the cat, or an awkward first group holiday, or the garbage feeling of falling in love with your straight best friend. Imagine a series about friends and community, where queer love is part of the narrative, but in a way that is normalised, rather than made into a spectacle.
That’s pretty much what you get with Montréal-based webseries Féminin/Féminin, created by Québecois director Chloé Robichaud, alongside Florence Gagnon, founder of website Lez Spread The Word. Launched back in 2014 – the second season just debuted in France and Canada – it was created as a way of showcasing Robichaud and Gagnon's own local LGBTQ community, as well as seeking to fill the gaping media void felt by queer women all over the world.
Even though matters of queer representation in mainstream media are slowly getting better, it doesn’t take a particularly observant person to tell that there is still a distinguishable lack of visible LGBTQ female characters in fiction. It’s not only in films – looking at the world of television, for example, you’d be hard-pressed to name a singular WLW who is not a hyper-sexualised prop, does not have an unrealistically tragic backstory, or is not on an uphill climb towards an early death.
With the first season comprised of eight 20-minutes-or-less episodes, Féminin/Féminin follows the lives of a group of women, who mostly identify as lesbians, shot in a faux-documentary format – a nod to Jean-Luc Godard’s film, Masculin/Feminin, which also inspired the title. The main focus is on the mundane day-to-day experiences of these characters – far from the very formative, but very unrealistic LA glamour of The L Word with all its ups and downs and sordid affairs. It's also decisively different from the frantic sexuality of Blue is the Warmest Colour, or the totally different sociopolitical context of Orange is the New Black.
Four years on from the international acclaim of the first season, the second largely abandons the faux-documentary format that was an early constant and instead, embraces entirely fictional storytelling. The attractiveness of the series is in the simplicity of it. At times very pedestrian, Féminin/Féminin relies on a slice-of-life format, seeking to explore the love lives of women in a way that is honest – not as sexless beings who are all gal pals painting each others nails and getting BFF crushes, but also not as hypersexual boob-radars in seemingly permanent black lingerie. It shows insecurities every couple in the world has during their 20-somethings: they worry over age-gaps, illness, falling out of love, old emotional scars, and growing up.
“I wanted to make sure that a girl who sees the series can tell herself that not only it isn’t the end of the world to be a lesbian, but that it can be easy. Pleasant. And banal” – Chloé Robichaud
When asked if she would consider it a political series by Télérama, the director, Chloé Robichaud replied: “Just a series like this is a political act. It seems important to me to show the daily life of lesbians in a positive light. Many films or series have evoked the subject, but to show the difficulties in general. What I live personally, and what my friends live, is beautiful: the couples that get together, who do well, who have children…”
Robichaud also highlighted the importance, for her, to show something simplified when it comes to the lives of queer women – situations that someone at a young age could aspire to, rather than dread. “From the beginning, I knew I wanted to break that impression [that being a lesbian is difficult]”, she told Le Devoir. “I wanted to make sure that a girl who sees the series can tell herself that not only it isn’t the end of the world to be a lesbian, but that it can be easy. Pleasant. And banal.”
Of course there should be room for everything in LGBTQ filmmaking – it's important to keep discussing stories of politics, pain, struggle, and fight that are very much real for many people who are part of the community. But there should also be a space for exploring the more humdrum aspects of queerness that allow for a relaxed, less straight-spectator-oriented environment, where being gay is just another part of the narrative. In the midst of political chaos and a constant barrage of hatred, it’s good to have a fictional place where a lesbian kiss ends up being just a kiss.