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Emily In Paris: cliché or captivating?


Warning: Spoilers ahead.

On Oct. 2, the first season of “Emily In Paris” premiered on Netflix in the form of 10, 30 minute episodes. The show was created by Darren Star, known best for his work on the shows “Sex And The City” and “Beverely Hills 91210. The show has been met with substantial criticism, particularly from French critics, but has also been welcomed by many viewers looking to escape our current pandemic-struck world.

“Emily in Paris” seems to be an aesthetic nod to “Sex And The City,” with its picturesque views and similar fashion moments to those of Carrie Bradshaw (in fact, Carrie’s costumer, Patricia Field, is also working on this set). But, this is a very millennial, social media-driven, Instagram influencer take on that classic television series.

The main protagonist, Emily, is played by Lily Collins. Emily is a young marketing executive working at a firm in Chicago. She finds herself on the journey of a lifetime after her boss becomes pregnant and can no longer be transferred to Paris, where their company has recently acquired a small Parisian firm representing luxury brands. 

Emily replaces her boss on the year-long project in France and ends up in Paris within the next week, all without learning French. Emily represents almost every cliché of an American millennial traveling to France. This angered French critics who do not want their city to be continuously portrayed as one giant generalization based on the views of outsiders. 

When asked by Cosmopolitan about these harsh critiques, cast member Lucas Bravo, who is actually from France, offered some resolve.

“I think [the critics are] right, in a way. We’re portraying clichés and we’re portraying one single vision of Paris. Paris is one of the most diverse cities in the world. We have so many ways of thinking, so many different nationalities, so many different neighborhoods. A lifetime wouldn’t be enough to know everything that’s going on in Paris. It’s an entire world in a city. At some point, if you want to tell a story about Paris, you have to choose an angle. You have to choose a vision. French critics, they didn’t understand the fact that it’s just one vision. They’re like, ‘Oh, this is not what Paris is.’ Of course. Paris is many things.”

Emily’s superficial submission to clichés and stereotypes plays a large role in the show. She is constantly taking selfies and other photos of the city, posting them, and growing her Instagram, @emilyinparis, exponentially by the fourth episode, somehow. She gets confused numerous times by the floor numbers in her apartment building, she can’t write the date european style, and she is constantly strutting around in a beret. 

Emily’s entire purpose in Paris, in the character’s own words, is to “bring an American perspective” to the firm, which she mainly attempts by trying to persuade their various French clients to utilize social media. She deals with constant backlash from her coworkers, all of whom are exhausted by her eagerness and work ethic. They also find her lack of interest and knowledge of real French culture to be arrogant. Her boss Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu) has a particular displeasure for Emily and is not afraid to tell her so throughout the series.

When Emily inevitably confronts Sylvie about her distaste for her, Sylvie replies, “You come to Paris. You walk into my office. You don’t even bother to learn the language. You treat the city like it’s your amusement park. And after a year of food, sex, wine and maybe some culture, you’ll go back to where you came from.”

Watching these typical Paris clichés play out on the screen can be entertaining for those who are not offended by Emily’s disregard, but rather amused by it. There is a certain level of relatability in Emily’s character, as most can understand being in an unfamiliar environment and navigating it with unease.

Despite her initial ignorance, Emily finds some footing as the series continues. She becomes friends with a Chinese heiress-turned-nanny named Mindy (Ashley Park), who assists Emily in adapting to the French culture of unfriendliness portrayed in the show. Emily also develops a classic ‘Will they? Or won’t they?’ relationship with her neighbor Gabriel (Lucas Bravo) only to learn later on that she has unknowingly befriended his girlfriend, Camille (Camille Razat). 

While Emily can seem a bit vapid, there may be a sense of truth to some of her cliché experiences in the city of love. Lily Collins told Vogue UK about the reality of her time filming the show in Paris.

“I mean, the heating in my apartment broke for two weeks; I got the floor wrong in my building; my elevator stopped working… I even nearly stepped in dog poop. It’s a cliché, but it’s also a fundamentally human scenario. In the end, it’s all about Emily’s attitude; she just gets through it, and she does it with a little bit of humour.” 

Despite the clichés, the series is full of beautiful views and fashion, and it offers a much-needed escape for anyone feeling the travel itch during this pandemic. 

In his previously-mentioned interview with Cosmopolitan Bravo said, 

“People want to travel. Reality is so rough these days, and we’ve been going through such a difficult time that I think the show is so lighthearted, it’s so colorful, the fashion, the romance, the traveling. Darren Star’s vision is so colorful and alive and funny. People needed something to just escape.” 

The final episode of “Emily In Paris” does not offer much resolve of Emily’s future in Paris, neither signaling where her career is headed nor the direction of the love triangle she has found herself in. While Netflix has not signed on for a season 2 just yet, the fans and stars of the show have already started predicting what is going to come next for Emily.

In an interview with OprahMag, producer and creator Darren Star predicts that “In season 2, [Emily’s] going to be more of a part of the fabric of the world she’s living in. She’ll be more of a resident of the city. She’ll have her feet on the ground a little more. She’s making a life there.” 

Lily Collins shared her predictions with Vogue UK: “I feel like the next season will only create more love triangle drama, although maybe Emily will have a little bit of a stronger handle on the situation… Or maybe not.” 

Here’s to hoping for more self growth on Emily’s part, and less clichés, in season 2. 

“Emily in Paris” is now streaming on Netflix.

Featured Image courtesy of Eric Guillot via Flickr Creative Commons

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Emily In Paris: cliché or captivating?