Remember when the shitshow—pardon my French—that is Emily in Paris received not one but two Golden Globe nominations at the beginning of February? I know you do, and you’re most definitely still raging about the fact that Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You got zero. Even a writer on Emily in Paris said the latter deserved a Golden Globe nomination! At that time, we all wondered what the heck was wrong with the Golden Globe Awards. Well, we now have a worrying answer: corruption.
According to a report from The Los Angeles Times, over 30 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA, the voting body that determines the Golden Globe nominees) were flown to Paris by Paramount to visit the set of Emily in Paris. They stayed for two nights at the five-star Peninsula Paris hotel, where rooms cost around $1,400 a night. There was also a news conference and a lunch at the Musée des Arts Forains, a private museum where the series was being filmed.
“They treated us like kings and queens,” one member who participated in the trip said. While HFPA rules forbid members from accepting gifts valued at over $125 for each project, there are clearly workarounds that have been exploited. The Emily in Paris ‘experience’ being one, and the opportunity to take a selfie with an A-lister being another, corruption seems to run deep.
The Los Angeles Times first launched this investigation in wake of the lawsuit from Norwegian journalist Kjersti Flaa against the HFPA after being denied membership. Flaa accused the organisation of being a “culture of corruption” that operated like a cartel where members would receive “thousands of dollars in emoluments” from studios and networks while sticking to a “code of silence.” However, a judge ruled in favour of the HFPA, explaining that Flaa didn’t suffer economic or professional hardship as a result of her membership denial.
Following the judge’s dismissal, HFPA attorney Marvin Putnam of Latham & Watkins said that the group had been vindicated, calling the suit nothing more than “a transparent attempt to shake down the HFPA based on jealousy, not merit.”
Within the HFPA, however, Flaa’s suit had struck a nerve with some members who had hoped it might force the organisation to make, what they see as long-overdue, changes. “The dismissal was disappointing,” said one current HFPA member, who like many quoted in the Los Angeles Times article declined to be identified out of fear of retaliation from others in the group. “I thought it would shake things up. We are an archaic organisation. I still think the HFPA needs outside pressure to change,” they added.
The investigation further found that the HFPA regularly sends out payments to its members, a practice that experts believe could go against IRS guidelines. Individuals have reportedly received nearly $2 million for serving on various committees and performing other tasks.
Over its nearly eight-decade history, the HFPA has been the centre of a string of embarrassing scandals, lawsuits and often blistering criticism of its membership. The group has been the butt of jokes even from the stage of its own awards show. Hosting in 2016, Ricky Gervais dismissed the Golden Globe Awards as “worthless,” calling the ceremony “a bit of metal that some nice old confused journalists wanted to give you in person so they could meet you and have a selfie with you.” In a 2014 interview, actor Gary Oldman said the group was “90 nobodies having a wank” and called for a boycott of the “silly game” their awards represent.
In the run-up to the 78th Golden Globe Awards ceremony planned to run on 28 February, questions persist around the association’s legitimacy, the qualifications of its members and its ethics. “Interviews with more than 50 people — including studio publicists, entertainment executives and seven current and former members — as well as court filings and internal financial documents and communications, paint a picture of an embattled organization still struggling to shake its reputation as a group whose awards or nominations can be influenced with expensive junkets and publicity swag,” writes The Los Angeles Times.
The HFPA has faced further criticism for this year’s nominations, which did not include several Black-led Oscar contenders such as Da 5 Bloods, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Judas and the Black Messiah and I May Destroy You. Several other picks bewildered critics, including a best motion picture nod in the comedy or musical category for pop star Sia’s widely criticised directorial debut Music.
“We do not control the individual votes of our members…we seek to build cultural understanding through film and TV and recognise how the power of creative storytelling can educate people around the world to issues of race, representation, and orientation,” an HFPA spokesperson said in a statement.
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!