Created by Darren Star (Sex and the City) and produced by MTV Studios, the new TV show Emily in Paris has officially aired on Netflix and it is fair to say that reactions to it are mixed. Quickly becoming a hot topic of discussion on social media, French critics and Parisians, in particular, are less than impressed by the show’s depiction of French culture. Citizens of France have even gone as far as to ridicule the show outright.
Starring Lily Collins as the American titular character, Emily, the show follows the influencer as she travels to Paris to work as a social media manager in a luxury goods marketing agency. Despite her lack of French knowledge and a distinct lack of ability to speak the language, Emily takes it upon herself to educate her French colleagues on the ‘American’ modern way.
However, despite the hype before release, reviewers condemn Emily in Paris as an insulting depiction of Parisians, living up to all the cliches of the city to the point that it is borderline offensive. For example, MadmoiZelle wrote that the show “reduces the capital’s inhabitants to vile snobs sporting Birkin handbags who light up a cigarette the minute they’re out of the gym.” This is supported by Charles Martin who wrote for Premiere that the show perpetuates stereotypes such as “The French are all mean and all lazy and never arrive at the office before late morning; and that they are incorrigible flirts with no concept of being faithful.” Emily in Paris ‘main plot isn’t to revolutionise social media but to portray the French as sexist and backward.
This perpetuation of French cliches was also criticised by The Guardian who stated in a review: “you name a stereotype, and within the first three episodes, Emily has not only encountered it, but tried to rectify it, to adjust it to the American way.” The Hollywood Reporter even went as far as to openly criticise the main character, speaking of her “proud cultural ignorance.” Such reviews paint Emily as a selfish, unlikeable character – her insistence on forcing the American way onto the Parisian company reeks of what many would argue is American imperialism. Many publications have even gone as far as to warn French people to stay well away from the show whilst wondering why French actors agreed to star in the series at all.
However, despite these negative reviews, viewers still seem to be obsessed with such easily viewed, trashy TV. One reviewer on AlloCine wrote: “So many French people outraged by the cliches put forward in this series, while we are the first to have cliches about others. Relax, it’s a series and there is nothing very bad! I found it funny and light.” And they’re not the only ones who loved the show. People have taken to Twitter to express their addiction to Emily in Paris, obsessing over the outfits, glamorous locations, and incredibly attractive stars (particularly a certain character called Gabriel). Some have even called for a second season.
The response to this show clearly shows that many of us love to hate-watch shows that perpetuate stereotypes and cliches, no matter how bad they may be. And despite the barrage of bad reviews, the show seems to be what everyone is talking about, proving to be a huge hit for Netflix. With Netflix’s recent TV show cancellations such as GLOW, perhaps the streaming service is moving toward shows that will gain the hits through controversial means rather than producing quality television. It’s fair to say if we see Emily in Paris again for a season 2, French viewers will be staying well away.
Words by Lucy Lillystone