In Jan. 2021, the fourth and final season of French sleeper hit Call My Agent premiered on Netflix to critical acclaim, a burst of worldwide recognition after years airing on French channel France 2. While watching the show end felt bittersweet, the fact it has become so popular — to the point that its fanbase is now international — is gratifying. This is especially the case given the show’s quietly radical focus on its lesbian lead Andréa Martel, played by Camille Cottin, and her queer parenting experience. From negotiating parental rights with her sperm donor-boss Hicham to finding her partner Colette bonds more easily with their baby, Andréa’s experience on Call My Agent is a unique look at issues queer parents will instantly recognize.
But first, a recap for the uninitiated: French TV show Call My Agent, or Dix Pour Cent, follows the key agents at a talent agency (Andréa among them) as they navigate the high-octane, diva-dense acting world, chaperoning actors through clashes between art and business as well as personal entanglements. It’s funny, clever, and heart-warming, with the added draw of a star-studded parade of famous actors playing exaggerated versions of themselves (even Sigourney Weaver gets involved). The show is also a genuinely French alternative to Emily in Paris.
What the show’s marketing all too rarely shows off is that, from its first episode, Call My Agent also unapologetically centers queer characters and stories through the storyline of Andréa, the workaholic agent who gets pregnant, has a baby, and struggles to finds herself as a mother. Selfish, caring, assertive, and vulnerable by turns, Andréa transforms from a dysfunctional, hard-partying womanizer into a slightly more functional member of a rainbow family across the series. Her story arc is nuanced, joyful, and ultimately hopeful; it’s also exceedingly rare.
The show’s first radical look at queer parenting comes in addressing the baby’s conception, and the custody battle that follows. Andréa’s boss Hicham, with whom she conceives the child in a low point of the show, initially agrees not to ‘claim’ the child as his daughter, and okays Andréa raising her with her girlfriend Colette. But when Hicham changes his mind, the debate over what it means to be a parent comes to the fore. Call My Agent offers a meaningful exploration into the extent to which biology determines family, and highlights the legal injustices faced by many queer parents today who are living within systems that understand parenthood as being first and foremost in biological terms.
Call My Agent continues with question with a nuanced depiction of Andréa’s motherhood experience. Despite the fact that Andréa was pregnant with their child, Colette has an initially stronger relationship with their daughter — a moving and intelligent choice that once again emphasizes the idea that parenthood is about more than just sperm and eggs.
It is also a gentle challenge to dominant heteronormative narratives that emphasize the importance of carrying a child, and which stress that the love between biological mothers and children is incomparable. Such narratives can alienate non-biological parents, a feeling that’s often magnified in queer couples where there is an ‘extra’ mother or father. Media has long failed to show the immense and equal value such parents have, and Call My Agent making a point of depicting Colette as indispensable to her family — and even as being the more maternal of the two mothers — is ground-breaking.
Finally, the show’s depiction of queer parenthood comes at an important time for France politically: State-funded Medically Assisted Procreation (‘la PMA’) in France is still only accessible to heterosexual couples who are married or have been cohabiting for two years or more as of this series’ 2021 season 4 release. The respect and value Call My Agent ascribes to queer parents goes beyond a good story: it is a bid to influence reality at home.
By treating queer stories as being simultaneously as exciting and as ordinary as any other, Call My Agent is a quietly radical new model of inclusivity. It tells a queer story without being a story about being queer, and it asks important questions about queer parenting without suggesting that you have to be queer to consider them.
Before you go, click here to see our favorite LGBTQ couples on TV.
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