By SAGE LAMOTT
Sitting down to watch the first episode of Emily in Paris, I was expecting a romanticized view of France from a flirty and likable narrator. That is not what I received by any account. All of the elements are there – dreamy Parisian streets, attractive French people, luxury clothes, the whole shooting match. Yet, this show is still a train-wreck.
Emily in Paris centers around a girl named Emily who moves to Paris to be an American influencer for a marketing firm. Right off the bat, she is judgemental to the ways of French people and how they run their businesses. She dismisses her new landlord as disrespectful because she can’t speak English. The flaw with the show isn’t the plot but rather the portrayal of Emily. If the creators intended for her to be unlikeable, they succeeded. Supporting her and her story is made difficult by her constant high-pitched whining and her blatant neglect for French culture.
The undertones of her distaste for French culture are frightfully loud. This character clearly dislikes France and its people. The show, and more noticeably Emily, is “proudly ignorant” towards French culture. A majority of the characters she encounters in France just happen to speak English, for plot convenience, of course. She constantly bashes on how the French run their offices, and she’s rude to waiters. This character not only doesn’t belong in France but also doesn’t belong anywhere else either.
I can give this show one word of grace: brilliant casting. No matter how professional she may be, Lily Collins has no problem being brassy and over the top. Every actor in the show seems to be enthusiastic about participating.
According to fans, a standout feature of this show is the fashion. I would have to agree; it definitely stands out. Emily dons countless high end, bizarre, and seemingly expensive outfits. The issue with this is that there isn’t any reason as to why she would dress this way. She never hints towards being genuinely invested in fashion or having the means to afford the luxury brands she wears. If you quickly skim her ensembles from the first season, there are loads of Gucci pieces, Louis Vutton, you name it. The marketing firm works with fashion brands but doesn’t mention any previous fashion specific interests of the character.
A point of contention for me personally with this show is with its creator, Darren Star. Star is best known for his hit tv show Sex and the City, a late 90s and early 2000s smash success. Sex and the City features crazy outfits as does Emily in Paris. Sex and the City features romantic comedy elements as does Emily in Paris. Both shows are about stylish women experiencing life, and both shows have been met with criticism. While Sex and the City definitely does not exploit French culture, the same rom-com tropes are dealt with.
For more context, Sex and the City, as the name reveals, is primarily about sexuality, and the show was quite progressive in its time for exploring this theme. The show focuses on a group of young women in New York as they navigate relationships, love, and friendship. At the time of its release, the main criticism it faced was that it glorified the excessive way of life that these women lived. Yes, it definitely did glorify their lives. I want to move to New York and have an excessive amount of money to buy shoes with, I want to have a fun adult group of friends, and there is certainly nothing wrong with handsome men. The thing that critics of this show forget is that Sex and the City allows for women in particular to relate to the struggles and situations the characters got into. When a girl made a mistake she would talk it out with her friends and laugh about it. The show inspired women to be independent and fierce. Emily in Paris does not accomplish the same goal and by extension cannot be critiqued by the same standard.
The issues Emily in Paris faces can also stand as reasons it succeeds in the eyes of some viewers. The show was filmed in 2019 and early 2020 before the pandemic. When it aired on October 2nd, 2020, it was delivered on a silver platter to its target audience. To the common Netflix viewer, sitting on their couch at 2 AM sick of staying at home, this show is brilliant. This show exploits the flair of the French lifestyle. This show has shots of Paris at night as well as pastries, French men, flippy hair, vibrant clothing, and anything stereotypically “French. People long for adventure and to have the opportunity that Emily has – to visit somewhere else. The people who set the release date surely had that in mind.