Oct 30th, 2020, 08:00 AM

Emily in Paris

By Carolin Constanze Melz
Emily and Mindy at a café. Image Source: Stephenie Branchu/Netflix
Fake It Till You Fail It

Everyone loved Sex and the City. Now the same Director, Darren Star, put out a new Netflix series titled Emily in Paris and it seems to have caused a stir for conversation. Not only that, the internet is filled with provocative comments, tweets, and memes about the show. Despite the show not being so well received it is in the Top 10 on the American and the French Netflix. Many viewers, however, claim that the only reason they watch it is because the show is so bad. So what exactly is the issue with Darren Star's new show?

The plot of Emily in Paris is quite straightforward. Emily, a twenty-something American with a master's degree in communications, gets the lucky chance to be transferred through her marketing job in Chicago to Paris after her boss I unable to go. Emily is so thrilled by this opportunity, that she has seemingly forgotten her life and boyfriend in Chicago and moves to Paris immediately. She travels to Paris with an eased mind and the motto: “Fake it till you make it!”. As soon as Emily gets there, she creates a new Instagram account which she names “EmilyinParis” in which she captures her most Parisian moments. In the French capital she works at the fashion marketing company Savoir, where she is supposed to bring over an American point of view on marketing strategies. This comes along with some issues, as she is not exactly keen to pick up on French culture. Not only is she experiencing the culture clash at her job, but also in her everyday life in Paris.


This one is for all of my ringardes out there 👑

A post shared by Emily In Paris (@emilyinparis) on

On her first day at Savoir her boss says, “it’s very unfortunate that you don’t speak French,” and later tries to correct her infuriating American accent. When she introduces herself to the members at Savoir she receives some shocked faces in response to her speaking, and someone comments, “why are you shouting?” This highlights the fact that Americans generally speak with a louder voice. When she meets with her new-made friend Mindy for dinner and gets a medium rare steak she asks the chef to cook it longer, with the argument, “the customer is always right”. While such remarks are acceptable in America they are not acceptable in France. Also, when it comes to relationships and love, Emily is confronted with some very controversial opinions. She learns from Mindy that having a mistress is tolerated in France. But does it really apply to every French person?

While viewers might have differing opinions on the cultural differences, it soon becomes apparent that the cultural differences are not the problem; it is Emily. Emily is supposed stand for feminism, the show, however, proves her to be ignorant on the matter. As viewers, we could probably sympathize with Emily more if only she would be more open to the French and try to learn more from them rather than force her American brand of righteousness onto everyone. Emily does not make much effort to learn the French language or immerse herself into the French culture outside of wine and croissants. Emily’s main goal in life is to make people like her. This, however, proves to be near impossible in Paris. She continues to do things she knows will annoy people. For instance, trying to make friends with her boss, and becoming involved with a client romantically, even though her boss, and even Emily herself, said that she should separate work life and private life. The clichés even follow Emily in her style. The pink on pink on pink dress code really is not what people want to see, especially from someone working in the fashion industry. 

The French critic Charles Martin wrote in the French film magazine Première, “Watching Emily in Paris there’s plenty to feel insulted about.” Emily discovers “that the French are all mean and lazy and never arrive to the office before late in the morning; and that they are incorrigible flirts with no concept of being faithful.” This is a very hard comment for a French person to gloss over; nobody wants to watch a show that is making fun of their own culture. 


Still green to this whole Paris thing

A post shared by Emily In Paris (@emilyinparis) on

What do American students in Paris say about this show then? In interviews with three American students at AUP, who watched the full show, I surprisingly wasn't confronted with many harsh remarks. Arabella, a student from Idaho says: “I would definitely recommend it…to bring a little bit of laughter." Both of us agreed that “there were things that were not true…but it shows the American point of view on Paris and what happens when you come out here."

Personally, I very much enjoyed the show. As a German viewer, I have no reason to be feel offended, but having lived in France within an American community I admit that there where many moments in the show that made me feel relatable to the people I was surrounded with. There were moments to laugh, moments I loved, and also ones that were a little annoying. Generally speaking, the show caused such a huge stir-up of conversation in the media foremost because of the many clichés illustrated that in some cases didn't represent the truth. Another issue is Emily's character herself, who is so proud of her culture and ignorant to the French way of life. Finally we can say with certanity that cultural differences is not something to joke around with. The American producers might not have expected these reactions. While the French seem to feel seriously offended, the Americans take it with light sarcasm.