Emily in Paris (2020-present)
By: Merchys Diaz
For people like me, who have never been to Paris, France, Netflix’s Emily in Paris does a basic job of showing us la vie Parisienne. We’ve seen the “an American girl in Paris” storyline many times before in productions such as Sex and the City and The Devil Wears Prada; however, premiering in 2020, you’d think Emily in Paris would take us on a more authentic journey of what it would be like to live and work in one of the most famous cities in the world. Yet, people can’t seem to stop watching, and the show even earned a Golden Globe nomination after its first season.
Emily (Lily Collins) is a young marketing executive from Chicago, who moves to Paris to provide the “American perspective” to the new marketing firm acquired by her employer. Emily is constantly blogging her life on Instagram as she passes through the most sophisticated sites in Paris—which is precisely how the show indulges in escapism. The show’s first season made me cringe because Emily seemed unapologetic about her continuous ignorance. Furthermore, the clichés pertaining to French culture were endless, and the fashion was an accumulation of way too many layers and colors that made my head spin.
What’s most irritating, however, is that the plot doesn’t generate enough high-stakes questions from viewers wondering what will happen next. We know Emily will continue to defy the norms in every situation she finds herself in, and she’ll figure out some cute way to push through her setbacks. Initially, Emily’s colleagues see her as this tacky, out-of-place workaholic American whose failure to learn French puts their client relationships at risk. However, they warm up to her a bit once they see that her marketing ideas (which are mostly half-serious online challenges and trends) somehow work.
Out of all the characters on this show, I would say that Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu) is the one I look forward to seeing the most because you never know what Emily will do to tick her off. After getting past all the archaic clichés such as Sylvie smoking in the office, her extreme dieting, and having both a husband and a lover, I came to the conclusion that Sylvie is the one that has been dealt a bad hand. She no longer runs things at work and has to answer to an American conglomerate and she has an American subordinate who doesn’t know French and refuses to understand French customs.
Still, I watched the first and second seasons because (and I’m rolling my eyes as I write this, but I must face the reality here) there’s a level of comfort that comes from watching something you expect to be low-tension. The second season of the show was much of the same, except that now Emily is now in a crisis with one of her love interests, Gabriel (Lucas Bravo), and his ex-girlfriend who is also Emily’s friend Camille (Camille Razat). Emily decides to “live in the moment” and sleeps with Gabriel after learning he’s moving away. Later, she finds out he received a proposal to start his own restaurant and will be staying in Paris. This obviously complicates things because Emily knows Camille still has feelings for Gabriel.
As I watched this love triangle unfold in season two, Emily became my least favorite character because she tries to brush things under the rug. In one episode she even sarcastically refers to her relationship with Gabriel and Camille as “one happy family.” You could cut the tension with a knife during this scene to the point where I wanted to scream, “Girl, what are you doing? These people are not your friends!”
Although we see a few minor disasters happen to her here and there (she steps on poop one morning and her shower stops working on another), showrunner Darren Star provides no real challenge in Emily’s world. She’s able to travel abroad for work despite not knowing the language, walks on cobblestone all over Paris in stilettos, and simply delivers a cute facial expression during unexpected situations. Ultimately, I believe the show has very little substance in what it is to live in today’s world and that might be why some people love it. We hope for a world where we don’t have to do extensive research on strategies that will increase profit or rattle our brains for inspiration. A world where we simply open our mouths and an idea comes out. Nope, that world belongs to Emily in Paris and I don’t believe I’ll be tuning in for the next season to watch how she strolls down the streets of Paris without a real care in the world wearing a Rubik’s cube for an outfit.