For 3 weeks now, CANAL + has been broadcasting Paris Police 1900, a historical detective series created by Fabien Nury. Against the backdrop of the Belle Epoque, this thriller directly addresses the place of women in the society of the time. Confined to a domestic role and not having the same rights as men, they were eternal minors, passing from the yoke of the father to that of the husband. It was while doing research for more than a year for the writing of the series that Fabien Nury realized the precariousness in which the women of the time could live.
“I had several big shocks, the first being this notion of the male dictatorship”Declared the creator during a press conference. “I was very surprised by the fact that we could repudiate an unfaithful woman and send her to prison, when there were brothels all over Paris. I discovered that in 1900, Paris was really not the city of love. ” This theme is also addressed from the first episode of the series, where we see that adultery is punished by a prison sentence for the woman, while the man, him, gets away with a simple fine.
“Meg, who is nevertheless a modern woman, who held a salon and knew Zola, was herself in a very precarious situation”, Confides Evelyne Brochu, the character’s interpreter. “Her lover only has to die for her to find herself at the mercy of her conquests. I find that this idea is very well represented when the police manage to make women talk by threatening to bring them to Saint-Lazare, like that for no real reason. ” However, women had an essential place in the society of the time even if the laws took away all their autonomy. This is what Fabien Nury wanted to approach when he created his female characters, who are all historical figures.
Thus, the character of Meg Steinheil, presented as a courtesan with the boot of the men, very quickly turns out to be the source of income of her household. She manages to raise her daughter and maintain her lifestyle thanks to her lovers, while offering her husband, a failed painter, juicy contracts. The same goes for Ms. Lépine (Valérie Dashwood), who will help, in her own way, her husband, or even for Maman Guérin (Anne Benoit) who is the brain behind the Antijuif and the Guérin brothers. Without it, they are nothing.
Another strong female character: that of Jeanne Chauvin. This French lawyer and feminist was the first woman to plead in France in 1901. But before she could get there, she had to fight to change the laws, in order to allow women to practice the legal profession that was reserved for men.
It is also this extraordinary role that convinced Eugénie Derouan to embody this character on the screen. “At the time in which Paris Police 1900 takes place, women had no rights, they stayed at home to take care of the children and that was it. Over the course of the episodes, however, we realize that Jeanne Chauvin had to fight all her life. She fights first to obtain her diploma, then to be able to plead and finally to make a place for herself in this totally patriarchal environment.”This situation of inferiority is also highlighted in many scenes of the series, especially when she tries to assist a client at the police station and all the police make fun of her. But her determination and strong character will push her to get what she wants.
In an age where women continue to strive to be equal with men, Paris Police 1900 manages to echo today’s society, and reminds us of how far we have come in more than a century. It’s a safe bet that if season 2 there is, Fabien Nury will continue to explore the evolution of these female characters in this patriarchal society.
Find Paris Police 1900, every Monday evening at 9:05 p.m. on CANAL +.