Binge-worthy? Absolutely. Enchanting? Of course. Cringey? Extremely. Misrepresenting French culture? Most definitely.
Emily in Paris is all the rage on Netflix. I mean, after exhausting basically every show on the streaming service, I told myself to keep an open mind and to give it a shot.
After all, the trailer could’ve fooled me: a cutesy romantic comedy, set in Paris, the most romantic city in the world — what’s not to like? Seems like a great way to pass the time on a chilly Friday night and forget about the fact that I live alone and haven’t been around another human being for the past several weeks. Emily in Paris seemed like the ideal cure for my COVID-19 blues. So I took a nice hot shower, threw on my trusty sweats and hoodie, and embarked on one of the most addictive (10 episodes) cinematic adventures of my lifetime (albeit one of guilty pleasure).
The show starts with a young and ambitious Chicagoan named Emily Cooper, who is a marketing executive for the Gilbert Group in the U.S. and who gets the opportunity of a lifetime to go and work for a Parisian marketing company for a year. A dream come true for any woman looking to broaden her horizons, and I mean, come on — it’s Paris. One of the most magical places in the world, not to mention the fashion capital of the world, where one can indulge in life’s finest pleasures: all-you-can-eat croissants, jaw-dropping scenery and mouth-watering cuisine. But as incredibly idyllic as all these things might seem in the show, as a fellow traveller and European, I can tell you firsthand that there are so many misconceptions about French culture in this series.
It’s important to keep in mind that opportunities like these do not often happen in real life, so don’t get your hopes up and think about dropping out of law school just to become a marketing executive so that you can be sent to work in Paris, because let me tell you: that won’t happen.
One of the harshest comments in reviews of Emily in Paris has been that Emily is pretentious in that she moves to France without even speaking French. Well, let me tell you: if she’d known she had to go, she would’ve taken the time to learn. She only didn’t because Madeleine, her boss who was meant to move to France in the first place, was the French speaker. Also, Emily does take language classes while in Paris, so I think we should let this flimsy critique go, because she really is making an effort.
On first arrival, Emily automatically falls for the Parisian charm, and come on — what’s not to love? However, what she fails to understand is that she is not there as a tourist, but on loan from work, so obviously, not all of her high expectations are met.
At first, Emily cannot believe that the building where she will be staying is so ancient that it does not have an elevator and that she has to haul her luggage all the way to the fifth floor, but not before arguing with Gabriel, the cute boy next door, that the ground floor or ‘rez-de-chaussée’ should, in fact, be considered the first floor. This is a prime example of Emily clearly mocking the French and thinking that the American way is the “best way”. She then barges into work with her holier than thou attitude, expecting people older and far more experienced than her to fall at her feet and do things her way simply because she was sent to make sure that there is an “American presence and point of view” in the office.
Let’s also talk about the fact that every time Emily posts some basic picture on Instagram, her number of followers seems to increase — that’s not realistic. There is no way to gain thousands of followers overnight; Emily wasn’t an influencer to begin with, so she should not have that sort of reach just as she’s starting out. Or what about when she sends back the steak at the restaurant because it’s undercooked? If it were up to me, I would’ve kicked her and her pretentiousness right out of the restaurant. She was lucky that Mindy was there to prevent any further embarrassment.
Emily also makes absolutely no effort to understand the French and how they operate. One of my favourite parts of the series is when Luc makes a point to explain to her that to the French, there is more to life than just working: “we work to live, not live to work.” And if that’s not one of the most European mantras ever, then I don’t know what is. That perfectly describes the French mentality, from starting work a little later than in North America, to taking prolonged lunch breaks, to just enjoying the small pleasures that life has to offer.
The part that shook me the most is the audacity Emily has to sleep with Gabriel after he and Camille break up: I mean, to heck with girl code, eh? Camille is her friend, who’s been nothing but nice and caring towards Emily. The moment Gabriel and Camille break up, Emily just jumps in. I cannot stand for that, and I hope that in the second season, Emily just works on herself, instead of just throwing herself at every man that shows her the smallest interest.
All in all, I would not recommend this show if by reading this review Emily has already annoyed you, but I will say that it is somewhat intriguing. Every episode ends on a cliffhanger, and you’re always wondering how Emily is going to screw up next: it’s so bad that it makes it good. However, it is aesthetically gorgeous, as it shows the most beautiful places to visit in Paris, the most elegant of styles, and definitely gives you that ‘joie de vivre.’ As soon as I finished the first season, I was already getting ready to pack my bags and book a flight to Paris, but then I remembered that we’re in the midst of a pandemic. So, if you like sappy, sassy, and sanctimonious then this show is for you: you can almost certainly finish it in one night with ‘un verre de rosé.’