Big Banks – a german series, which is airing season 1 on Netflix (and season 2 on Germany’s program ZDF) is telling a story of the investment banking world. I personally have studied Economics and Finance was one of the courses but I have honestly not much of an idea what banking means exactly. In the last two weeks I have binged two seasons of Big Banks and I want to share my two cents with you. Spoiler Alert: everything following this paragraph will be spoiling what’s happening in the series.
Season 1: The first season of Big Banks hooked me right away. We have a female main character called Jana Liekam who is smart, pretty, and a hard-worker. She gets fired out of nowhere, so she runs up to the Director of the Bank – and another female lead-character Christelle LeBlanc. It is clear from there on, that this girl will fight for her right and fight to get what she deserves. We find out later that Jana has her flaws: her panic attacks. The first one is in the first episode, which gets the viewer compassionate about the character. Overall it seems like she haven’t had it easy in life. Her mum has died and there’s no sign of a father figure in her life. She gets fired in episode one and while she seems desperate after receiving the news it becomes clear that she is a fighter.
I am not going more into detail about the rest of the season but I want to point out the three topics that are depicting female issues in a certain way:
- Episode 3: Jana Liekam visits Christelle LeBlanc at her home in Luxembourg, where they meet the evening after Jana got fired. In the dialogue, Christelle LeBlanc asks Jana why Luc (the reason she got fired) is making a career. She answers because he got born into a wealthy family, visited the best schools and is well-connected and confident. LeBlanc asks Jana why she is making a career and Jana answers that she is good and that she had to work for everything that Luc received just with birth. The difference between Jana and Luc is not only their origin but also lies in the level of confidence. There are many studies that show that men are generally speaking more confident in the workplace than most women. The fact that she is a women and supposedly had to work hard to get where Luc is, also is shown by the confidence she tries to showcase. Knowing that she has her panic attacks, it seems as if she has to play a role and fake her confidence to make it in this business.
- Episode 2: Jana and Thao go out for a drink. Jana comes to a club and meets Thao with two male colleagues. After a while the two guys are flirting with some girls and Jana and Thao are drinking at the bar. Jana suggests to go elsewhere and they end up at a student party. After Jana makes a sexist joke to alone of the students that they started flirting with, Thao says that Jana isn’t as bad as she thought. Jana responds that she thought Thao was a back-stabbing bitch. That answers to her that she thinks Jana is her best friend now, showing her the middle-finger while laughing at her and calling her dumb. Jana has had it and calls her out on the bluff she made this morning. Jana threatens Thao that she will kick her out of the team and make sure she gets fired. Jana explains that she and Thao both worked hard to get where they are but that they are women and as women they can’t support each other. They are not forming alliances, they are not going together to the Bordell and that they have to pretend to hate each other and break each other. Thao stands up an leaves. The whole concept of how women are making it harder for themselves at the workplace is a two-sided coin. On one hand there is such thing as mean supporting each other though it shouldn’t mean that women should do it to the same extent as supporting those without talent. On the other side, it is always easy to blame the ones who are affected for their own situation, rather than re-thinking mechanisms and systems as a whole.
- Episode 5: Jana’s boyfriend cheats on her. After being away from her boyfriend and his daughter for many weeks, it seems like the ex-girlfriend and mother of the child finds her way back to Jana’s boyfriend and to her family. Not knowing anything about their affair, Jana travels to Luxemburg to surprise him and the daughter. She finds him cheating on her. Jana is unfortunately hiding in the bathroom where the couple starts making out and she is forced to watch and hear the cheating until she can quickly slip out of the tiny room. She goes to the girl, who sleeps in her bed to say goodbye to her. On the way back to Frankfurt Jana screams her pain out in the car. Another unfortunate cliché in the narrative: A woman on her way to success has to sacrifice her family life for a little while. The husband/boyfriend feels alone and finds comfort in another woman’s arms. The series is set in our time but this depiction is about 30 years outdated.
While the three examples above are the most obvious ones for feminism being one of the underlying topics of the series, I think the entire two seasons so far are showing very classic gender roles. I will get more into detail about that when reviewing the second season.
Overall the first season has definitely hooked me. Every episode is about 50-55min. long and one season has six episodes. I binged the first season within one week. It is definitely an interesting topic and the matter is well enough explained so one who has no clue about investment banking (like me) can still follow the overall storyline. If you pay well attention you will figure out how much attention to detail there is in some scenes.
What I probably love most about the series is the picture. I love how the tone is set in the darker scenes to be warm and cosy, while scenes during the day appear colder – thanks to the blue-ish undertone. It definitely sets the mood right and it also fits somehow perfectly with the storyline. The picture is always on point on my opinion. A good watch until we wait for spring.
Please let me know which scenes you have spotted that relate to feministic topics. Have you seen the series so far? How did you like it? Leave a comment and have a beautiful Sunday evening.