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Considering I am partial to the glitzy worlds of Gossip Girl and Elite, it came as no surprise that I would eventually find myself streaming Netflix’s Emily in Paris, regardless of how banal the trailer suggested it might be. Although it might be shallow, one of the things that caused me to have such low expectations for this series was actually its title. Being far too self-explanatory, the title signalled to me that this show would be as unoriginal as its title – and I was correct.
Emily in Paris falls prey to every single unrealistic aspect of a teen drama, despite revolving around a grown woman. It’s also filled to the brim with clichés that genuinely made the show painful to watch at times. And yet, amidst a global pandemic and a hectic uni schedule, it turned out to be the perfect easy watch, that I would recommend to anyone wanting to de-stress in between essay deadlines.
Emily In Paris’ most problematic aspect is surely the sense of American superiority Emily bears upon arriving in Paris. The show seems to promote the idea that Paris is somehow culturally and technologically behind the U.S, Emily always being able to magically create a solution to Savoir’s (the French company she works for) latest business hurdle. French viewers have criticised Emily In Paris for basing every joke on French stereotypes, the most obvious one being that many of the French characters are exceptionally rude. Some critics have complained that this is offensive, but I would argue that the worst effect it has on the viewer is actually boredom. It only takes one episode until the rude French trope becomes tiresome, not to mention how this contributes further to the show’s unoriginal feel. Rebecca Nicholson of the Guardian wrote “the first half of the season is an exorcism of all of the French clichés the writers could think of”, something that is evident through Emily’s unwillingness to embrace French culture.
Only one season in, it is still difficult to gauge whether Emily is purposefully oblivious, perhaps with the aim of criticising this French-style ‘American Dream’ and American superiority complex, or whether she is simply just a poorly written character. My guess is, with the show now renewed for season two and the reviews in, the writers may attempt to redeem themselves next season by pretending Emily’s ignorance was intentional all along.
Although it certainly has its faults, Emily in Paris also has its perks. For me, this was that it was a quick, light-hearted watch. Whilst often monetarily unbelievable, Emily’s colourful wardrobe is a large part of what makes the show so visually pleasing, as is its scenery. The show really is filmed in Paris, shot in exquisite locations, and seems to portray everything one might dream of finding in this alluring city. From Emily’s designer clothes to her dining at expensive restaurants, the writers have painted an idyllic picture of what it means to be young and aspirational in a foreign city.
I think the show is so appealing, then, because it plays into the inner ambitions many of us have of attaining such a high quality of life. Equally, it plays into the mindset of the humble tourist, the show choosing to film at obvious landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the Seine. As someone who has once been a tourist in Paris herself, I can attest to the show’s glamorisation of the city. Whilst it is a gorgeous city, with landmarks just as dazzling in reality as they are on the screen, Emily in Paris purposely edits out aspects of the city that taint this perfect façade, like the number of homeless people, for example. This idealised view of the ‘perfect’ city life is certainly morally questionable. However, perhaps this illustrates exactly the purpose of Emily in Paris; to provide an escape from reality. It is amusing to read the mass criticism of the show and poke fun at all of its cringey dialogue moments, but through its Gossip Girl-ish fashion and rose-tinted view of the world, Emily in Paris manages to service some much needed sunny relief from the dreary lockdowns of 2020.