Oct 24th, 2022, 09:00 AM

Misrepresentation in Paris: The Plight of the Anglophone Immigrant

By Caroline Sjerven
Image Credit: Caroline Sjerven
Is "Real Girlfriends of Paris" any different or is it just the new "Emily in Paris"?

Following the high success of Emily in Paris, the new Bravo TV show Real Girlfriends of Paris attempts to echo the sentiments of a show based around anglophones in Paris. The first episode aired September 5 and gives a glimpse into the luxe lives of six Parisian-adjacents. Some of the cast just moved here, and others like Anya Firestone have lived in the City of Lights for nearly a decade.

Nearly a year and a half ago, the casting link to this show flooded my friends’ Instagram feeds for nearly a month and incited a frenzy like no other. It’s ironic to look back at how  desperately we wanted to be cast on a show that, as a viewer, we would undoubtedly cringe at. The casting was completely open; all they wanted was someone who lived in Paris, knew a bit of French, and had a supposed “je ne sais quoi” for the American screens. But all six women who ended up on the show are not your average American transplant.

This casting call was in fact not intended for the average expat as most of the settings boast large apartments, sprawling views, made-for-TV decor and impressive styles that cost a fortune to maintain (eyelashes, extensions, botox, designer, etc.). Behind the façade of each graceful girl’s impeccable lives are a hidden shadow of her family’s financial support. Lucia Rios, a master’s candidate at AUP who has lived in Paris for three years, believes the show “portrayed certain aspects well, like the struggle to get a visa but all except one of the girls on the show have a financial net to fall back on if their Parisian dreams don’t come true.” 

Anya Firestone, a cast member on the show, is a Master’s student with an admirable academic roster and is licensed to give tours in Paris by the French Government. Emily Gorelik is a luxury brand management student with “dreams of bringing her mom’s interior design brand to Paris.” She has an enlightening mini-story about turning her second bedroom into a closet. I don’t know about you, but I live in a 20 square meter studio;  these stories aren’t really targeted towards the expat audience, are they?


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Even anglophone students like Melody Gray, who recently arrived in Paris, can already speak to her experience with the effect this show and others have had on how she is perceived by the French. “[The show] plays into the trope of Americans reappropriating Paris and French culture for their own capitalistic gain that entirely skews the authenticity that they have,” said Melody. 

Possibly one of the most realistic storylines to follow on this show is that of Kacey Margot. Margot is a Southern California native who frequently travels for work between Los Angeles, New York City, and Paris. Her subsequent visa issues become a central part of her storyline on the show. As any true Parisian immigrant will know, the most stressful and unforgettable part of moving to Paris and attempting to stay in France is the visa process. It’s a bureaucratic nightmare that costs multiple months' worth of money, stress, time, and uncertainty in the future.

I, among thousands of others, brave challenges of French bureaucracy, and am beginning to fear what effects these media representations on  French perceptions of Americans actually living in France. Lucia believes that “we are judged based on the portrayal of the women in these shows.” She has lived here longer than many of the show’s stars, and Melody is fluent in French, which cannot be said for many on the show. 

Image Credit: Netflix

Ultimately, the main themes of the new series on Bravo are love, friendship, and following your dreams. These sentiments  are transnational and supersede language, so I cannot fault a show that wants to highlight some of the bigger aspirations of a certain sect of women living abroad. The question becomes important in the larger picture of the disruption and alienation of the  anglophone community in Paris.

The privilege that the show depicts is not the standard case, but it does much to pull in the eyes of American viewers, eager for their next vacation to the City of Lights. As I wait patiently for my next rendez-vous at the Prefecture de Police, I hope my own dreams won’t be dashed by the Parisian perceptions of Americans in Paris.

Author's Note: Ironically, this show is not available on Bravo TV to watch in France.