Emily in Paris tells the story of an ambitious, twenty something marketing executive who’s just landed her dream job in Paris. Emily’s firm have acquired a French luxury marketing company, and fashion lover Emily has been tasked with revamping the company’s social media strategy.
Things do not go smoothly when the young American arrives in France, however.”Emily’s new life in Paris is filled with intoxicating adventures and surprising challenges as she juggles winning over her work colleagues, making friends, and navigating new romances” says the synopsis for the show.
Movie star Lily Collins (Love Rosie, Tolkien) takes the role of Emily with Sex in the City’s Darren Star handling writing and production chores. On paper it’s a dream combination on paper with Collins a rom-com veteran at just 31 and Starr the successful author of some of the most romantic tv shows of the last twenty five years.
Even though the series has been described as Star’s love letter to Paris, however, Emily in Paris is anything but, containing a series of crude caricatures and shallow assessments of the French. Indeed, if anything, Emily in Paris feels more like a poison pen letter to the city.
The first episode is a case in point. The show reads like one long litany of complaints about the French way of life. From their lazy attitude to work (Emily is berated for arriving at 8.30am), to their unfriendly attitude to those who do not speak French fluently, Emily in Paris feels like a letter written by an angry tourist. It makes you wonder why Darren Star bothered making the show at all.
An exchange in a park early on in the first episode sets the tone for the show. Emily has just bumped into a fellow immigrant in the city, and someone, more importantly, who speaks English.
“Do you love it?” she asks the woman, referring to Paris.
“Off course” the women replies. “The food is so delicious. The fashion so chic, the lights so magical…but the people… “, a pause for dramatic effect: “so mean”.
This takes Emily somewhat by surprise. “They can’t all be mean?” she asks, innocently.
“Yes, they can. Chinese people are rude behind your back” the woman says. “but French people are rude to your face”
Hardly the type of dialogue you’d expect to find in a love letter to Paris, right?
Don’t get me wrong, the show looks amazing, it has a thoroughly likeable lead in the stunning Lily Collins, and Star brings his usual clever dialogue and plotting to the production.
However, the show is…well, just mean. So, mean.
Moreover, Emily embodies the same casual obnoxiousness to her new countrymen as does the show itself. For one thing, she arrives in the city speaking almost no French at all. “I did Rosetta stone on the plane” she explains to her bemused colleagues: “but it hasn’t kicked in yet”.
She relates little better to her new neighbours. When the drop dead gorgeous guy in the apartment downstairs tells her that he is from Normandy, she responds: “I know that beach. Saving Private Ryan, right?”.
Not surprisingly, given its consistent sneering and borderline xenophobic tone, Emily in Paris has come in for some fairly vicious criticism since it landed on Netflix. Critics have been lining up to berate the series with French critics (understandably) by far the most vocal.
The series is not all bad, however. If you can see your way past the show’s casual sneering and cultural superiority, Emily In Paris actually contains the seeds of a decent rom com. However, in an age where racial groups are having to take to the streets to fight for their rights, Netflix’s new production feels like a major let down.
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