One of Netflix’s latest creations Emily in Paris was released to us earlier this month, a show that presents itself as a stunning picturesque fantasy life of a young American girl who travels to the beautiful city of Paris. What’s not to like? Well a lot, apparently. This show received so much criticism I couldn’t resist giving it a watch, and the problem with television like this is that even though I knew it was low-quality viewing, I couldn’t help myself.
Watching the show felt like reading someone’s fanfiction of what they would want to happen to them if they moved to Paris. It embodies the term ‘cringeworthy’, and relies so heavily on stereotypes it is almost offensive.
Darren Star, the show’s creator, stated in a BBC interview that he is “not sorry for looking at Paris through a glamorous lens”. The show depicts Emily (Lily Collins) who moves to Paris from Chicago where she lives in an apartment in a beautiful area with a gorgeous view. She even makes new friends despite the language barrier. Star did achieve a portrayal of a glamorous life in Paris, it just borders more with fantasy than it does with reality.
The show’s depiction of Parisian culture is ridiculous. Almost every French character smokes, drinks wine during the day, and “teaches” Emily of the “culture” of sexual promiscuity and infidelities. Emily’s lack of French-speaking ability is laughed at and remarked upon yet never resolved, instead all the French characters magically speak English. This is perhaps a fair comment on how English speakers are less likely to make an effort with foreign languages, but it comes across as lazy on the show’s behalf, as it seems an opportunity to show someone making a real conscious effort to learn and adapt to a different culture was missed.
Star’s show is also based entirely upon clichés. There are motifs such as Emily’s shower breaking so she has to use her attractive neighbour’s, whom she has a crush on, which I have seen in most romantic television shows at least once. Elsewhere, Emily’s friend decides to get up and sing ‘La Vie en Rose’ in the middle of a park and succeeds in gathering a small crowd who applaud her unsuspecting talent, which for me only succeeded in inducing severe secondhand embarrassment.
The ultimate cliché, however, is rooted in the title of the show ‘Emily in Paris’, which derives from Emily’s Instagram account of her time moving to this romantic city. The constant jarring edits of her building up a following and coming up with cheesy captions such as “Champagne in Champagne” make such sequences unbearable.
Emily as the main character is utterly confusing. She represents the ‘saviour’ trope in that she has been sent to this French marketing firm to help with their social media platform and give an “American point of view”. The implication of this is that she knows better when it comes to these things without actively stating so. For instance, her ideas and ways to deal with particularly difficult clients or scenarios tend to win in the end, a routine which by the end of this long slog of episodic television, seems both overdone and predictable.
Much like the show, Emily is simultaneously ignorant and self– aware. She is openly ignorant of French culture and language, something which is barely improved upon by the end of the series as everything else seems to nonsensically adapt around her.
Her criticisms of a ‘sexy’ perfume advert shows some self- awareness as she manages to get the client to market the promotion as ‘Sexy or Sexist?’ and yet the portrayal of the ‘French’ definition of female desire throughout the narrative is uncomfortable to watch.
It is confusing as a viewer as to whether or not we are meant to root for Emily to have an affair with her good friend’s boyfriend. The show is trying to be comedic and portray a realistic young woman, but consistently fails to do so, instead relying upon wholly unrealistic interactions between characters we simply struggle to care about or even find believable.
Ultimately, the show is a weak imitation of Star’s former success, ‘Sex and the City’. It is a pitiful attempt to throw back to the late 90s and early 2000s, and thus somehow feels dated despite being released just a few short weeks ago.
Give it a miss, I wish I had.
Image Credits: Dietmar Rabich via Wikimedia Commons