“Emily in Paris” perpetuates the French cliché

As a longtime fan of Lily Collins, I had high hopes for her latest Netflix Original series “Emily in Paris.” However, if it hadn’t been for my quarantine boredom, I doubt I would’ve continued watching. 

I’ve had a hard time pin-pointing exactly why I didn’t fall in love with the show. While the overarching plot of 22 year old Emily Cooper, played by Collins, getting transferred to work in Paris could make for the type of TV show I’d watch for days on end, Netflix might have overdone it this time.

Having had her whole life planned out for her in Chicago, Emily’s move to Paris was sudden — so sudden that she didn’t get the chance to learn much about France, let alone French. Working for Savoir, a French marketing firm for top fashion brands, as a social media strategy advisor with the task of bringing an American perspective, Emily persists to involve herself in a work environment that very clearly rejects her. While her hopeless romantic view of the unforgiving Parisian environment was inspiring, her character ends up coming off as ignorant and quite frankly unrealistic.  

Even in all Emily’s peppiness, the show seems to undermine the reality of success, and does not depict French culture properly. Take it from me: Emilie with a French dad — spelled the proper French way. I have a first-hand experience of the temper French people may have, but that does not translate to the woman selling roses on the side of the road yelling at you for no good reason. 

Emily’s French boss, Sylvie with-no-last-name, played by Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, brings out the stereotype of French people being blatantly rude, showing clear distaste for everything Emily does. Honestly, the relationship between Sylvie and Emily always makes me laugh — it’s not everyday you’ll hear someone getting called ringarde, the more hurtful word for tacky, in a workplace. 

Even with the minimal effort Emily makes to adapt to French life, I originally thought there was just no way a boss, even a French one, would continue to slander her employee knowing all she’s accomplished for the firm. But in reality, who can blame Sylvie? Emily doesn’t speak French, goes behind Sylvie’s back to do explicitly what she’s told not to — like going as far as a high end ballet to talk to the apparently easily accessible fashion designer Pierre Cadault — and forces everyone in the workplace to adapt to how she thinks is best. Not exactly a flexible coworker. But of course, it always works out in Emily’s favor. Realistic, right? 

The grudge Sylvie has on Emily goes beyond the workplace drama though, as there’s quite the entanglement of sexual affairs amongst the men Emily encounters, including her boss’s boss. Because apparently sex is the answer to every problem Parisians come across. Something about depicting every French man as unfaithful and quite sexist just rubs me the wrong way. And I promise you, they’re not all drop-dead gorgeous either — unfortunately. 

Whether it’s the head of the company she’s working with or the boy that lives downstairs, Emily has an aptitude for catching every man’s eye. Even when their girlfriend is one of her closest friends. For this reason alone, I was not a fan of Emily’s main love interest, despite his heavenly blue eyes.  

So, yes, the show was set up to have an entertaining plot — a boss that hates you and a messy love life is bound to be an interesting watch. But it felt like I was watching a cartoon, not a relatable, “aspiring young woman” chick flick. Although that might be solely due to Emily’s questionable fashion sense, pairing a snakeskin skirt with a scenic print shirt on her first day of work. Or the fact that she gains 10,000 Instagram followers from posting quirky selfies. Or the fact that her vibrator causes a power outage for half the city. You get the point.

But even with all its flaws, I did watch the 10 episodes in two sittings. It’s a fun show for mindless, cringey entertainment. And, in all fairness, I’ll most likely watch Season Two coming out in the spring of 2022, but it’s for the best that I don’t set any expectations for anything other than a beautiful cast.