French Netflix Original series Represent is about an upcoming French presidential election where a local community social worker Stéphane (Jean-Pascal Zadi) gets into a televised row with his mayor-turned-presidential candidate Éric Andréï (Benoît Poelvoorde), launching his own political prospects and a run for president himself. He’s also trying to go through IVF with his wife Marion (Fadily Camara) and stay true to himself while his sleazy campaign manager William (Eric Judor) pushes him to become something he isn’t.
Nice things to say first: the show has a bunch of laugh-out-loud moments, often courtesy of side characters rather than the main cast, and underneath it all, the show’s not wrong about its most obvious message that politicians are slimy and don’t support the common folk. These two elements were all that kept me going through it.
Otherwise, the show oscillates between mediocre and bad. It’s a comedy and a parody, with obviously exaggerated characters and instances, but those exaggerations often come off as crude and unfunny. Especially because the main character is just as much a culprit as anybody else. Surely, the show wants you to see Stéphane as a flawed person who is worthy of respect nonetheless, but instead, he just appears immature at best and insensitive at worst. His, and everyone’s, casual racism, sexism, ableism, and so forth are played for laughs, but these are some of the least funny lines in the show.
It’s hard to tell whether the English subtitles reflect direct translations or if they’re taking a liberty that has skewed the real meaning of some of the more crude dialogue. There’s a lot of idiomatic language used throughout the show, to the translation’s credit, but Netflix has a checkered history with French comedy. It can be hard to tell whether the humor is just not translating to American English or if it’s just not funny.
When it’s not being unfunny with its insensitive characters, Represent is instead being unfunny with its caricatures. A far right-wing candidate and an eco-feminist candidate both get over-the-top dialogue to prove how out there they are, which borders mundane and annoying. Especially for the latter, she’s just portrayed as a nagging white feminist in a way that certainly rings true but is also so trite. Most of the characters are just walking stereotypes and cliched depictions of the kinds of people a certain type of liberal is wont to make fun of. It feels almost hypocritical to put forth a parody about how politicians don’t respect their constituents while also putting down all of those common folks too.
Beyond that, it’s all just fine. A few of Stéphane’s speeches might get you going. Andréï and William’s antics may have you groaning in a modestly entertained fashion. But in all, there’s not much going on in Represent worth investing 3 hours into. The jokes are only funny sometimes, the characters get annoying quickly, and nothing about the political message feels new or inspiring. It just wants you to hate politicians and blindly partake in the system anyway, even if it will never work for you, no matter what.
Represent is streaming now on Netflix.
There’s not much going on in Represent worth investing 3 hours into.