Picture this: Parisians wearing berets, romantic scenes at every street corner and an omnipresent Eiffel Tower. This is what you’ll get watching Emily in Paris (or any other American series or movie taking place in Paris). As lovely as it may sound to some, let’s be honest here, this is not what the Parisian life is about. I should know, I grew up there. Here’s why Emily in Paris only deserves a one-star review—buckle up, you’re in for a treat.
Emily, who’s originally from Chicago and works for a marketing firm lands a job in Paris after her boss falls pregnant. Within four minutes of the series starting, Emily has already moved to the city of love in a ‘chambre de bonne’, the top floor flat where maids used to sleep. While chambres de bonne are infamous for being no bigger than a shoebox, Emily ends up with a decent loft. Already, something doesn’t look right here, but for the sake of it, I won’t linger on the price of Parisian flats. There’s one other problem left: Emily doesn’t speak a word of French.
Not to worry though, the season-long running joke somehow gets solved by Emily’s ‘fake it till you make it’ approach. In no less than the first three episodes of the show, Emily has already encountered all the French stereotypes you can think of: chain-smoking, wine before lunchtime, rare meat, handsome men in expensive suits talking openly about sex, croissants so good they made Emily have a mini orgasm and a hatred for American culture like no other.
What did the French do to deserve Emily in Paris? The show mostly consists of Emily not only encountering French clichés, clearly found on Wikipedia, but she adjusts them the American way too. In other words, Emily spends her time in Paris teaching her friends, colleagues and lovers a thing or two.
In a similar Carrie Bradshaw-esque approach—after all, Emily in Paris was created by Darren Star, who also brought us Sex and the City—people, French people in this case, either hate or fall in love with Emily. It must be her tone-deaf charm, along with her ‘plouc’ attitude; so wholesome!
At times, viewers might even feel bad for the American stuck in Paris with aggressive, borderline predatory French people. It can be easy to forget that while she may be labelled as tacky, Emily still has the privileged experience of a slim, white woman. Emily in Paris is just another American interpretation of the city of lights, one that is blatantly whitewashing the diversity of the capital.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, creator Star said he wanted to show Paris in a really wonderful way, and intended it as a “love letter to Paris.” Instead, he romanticised the city while also insulting its infamous residents. Poverty was obviously completely erased from the streets, when homelessness in France is in fact a significant social issue. The idea that everyone in Paris is rude is just not true. The idea that you can walk around freely and without a care in the world while wearing a head-to-toe Dior outfit is definitely not true either.
Emily is quick to accept unsolicited lingerie and kisses from older male clients (even in France, we call this sexual harassment), presumably because ‘that’s just what French men do’. Yet, Emily is utterly shocked and offended when a guy she has been flirting with all night tells her he likes “American pussy.” Granted, that’s probably not the pick up line she expected from a Parisian boy…
The final episode of season one sees a love triangle, which Emily is involved in, bien sur, getting broken up in a way that is supposed to be romantic but feels more like your typical betrayal. One thing Emily in Paris got right? No, cheating is not part of our cultural heritage, but I would be lying if I said it isn’t a common aspect of dating in Paris. Nice one Emily.
Emily in Paris has nothing to teach viewers about what it’s truly like to be a young person that lives and works in Paris (or anywhere else really). Posting a few selfies with the Eiffel Tower won’t make you Insta famous, we all know that. Why did I watch the whole show if I hated it so much, you wonder?
First, because every once in a while, it’s nice to numb your brain with some well-deserved American imperialism. And secondly, well because, that’s what Parisians do, we love to hate! C’est la vie!