Darren Star, who also developed Beverley Hills 90210, Melrose Place, and Sex and the City, created Emily in Paris, a comedy about a stiff North American marketing executive sent to a sleazy Paris office. Star Lily Collins is a well-known Hollywood leading woman, Ashley Park, Emily’s friend, has received a Tony nomination, and Philippine Leroy-Beaulieau, a well-known French actress, plays Emily’s adversary.
Without a doubt, this is high-end, prestige television for Netflix, and the programme is well-liked. In the month after its premiere in 2020, it received 58 million viewers and spent 40 days in the UK’s top 10. High viewing rates are predicted for the third season as well.
The programme we love to dislike is Emily in Paris, despite its widespread appeal. We love it in private because we’re afraid people won’t like us. I have a few hypotheses as to why many people feel they can’t publicly declare their love for it.
A romantic comedy-drama like Emily in Paris has historically been criticised for being unimportant and solely appealing to female audiences. That hasn’t been an issue for Bridgerton, a similarly effervescent novel like Emily in Paris that has drawn comparisons.
Perhaps Bridgeton avoids the same criticism because it emphasises female empowerment or because it breathes new life into the historical romance using techniques like colorblind casting and out-of-date music. Bridgerton steers clear of worn-out and well-worn clichés, whereas Emily in Paris trades on them blatantly, unavoidably, and doubtless on purpose.
However, this is far from the only instance in which we have witnessed a [sanitised view of Paris]. Filmmakers on both sides of the Atlantic have profited off Paris’s status as the City of Light to increase box office receipts, starting with 1951’s An American in Paris and continuing with 2001’s Amélie and other films. The saying “more change, more of the same” can be translated as “the more change, the more of the same.”
A double bind
Another notion I’d like to float is that Emily in Paris has a self-esteem issue. In other words, it’s an American entertainment that is splashy and showy yet despises Americans most of all.
Midwestern After her American employer buys the French company Savoir, Emily is dispatched to Paris in an effort to smooth the transfer and instil American principles in the French workplace. It’s understandable that her coworkers feel angry toward the newcomer.
Perhaps even more unexpected is the fact that we are plainly supposed to support them rather than our tenacious heroine. The play swiftly establishes a dichotomy between American brashness, naivete, and pile ’em high, sell ’em cheap materialism and French elegance, quality, and taste.
Although the programme has received some criticism for its outward embrace of materialism, which clashes strangely with the current political climate, it is not Emily’s overly planned clothes that we should strive to. Rather, it’s Sylvie, her sluggish, chain-smoking instructor, who exudes easy French style.
Her French coworkers refer to Emily as a hillbilly. She is referred to by a well-known designer as “ringarde”—outdated, tacky, and a “basic bitch.” That assessment isn’t altogether inaccurate. After all, here is a lady who gleefully acknowledges that she does not speak the language on her first day of work while donning a beret and a shirt with embroidery of the Eiffel towers.
Emily is, at best, a bit embarrassing. She is, at worst, a live example of cultural imperialism. Simply said, Emily has been the antagonist of her own show for the first two seasons (and that’s without even getting into any of her questionable moral behaviour).
That began to alter around the conclusion of season two. Emily receives the ultimate endorsement from Sylvie when she tells her, “Emily, you’re growing more French by the day.” Madeline, Emily’s American employer, replaces Madeline as the foreign invader and embodiment of all things ringarde. Madeline is performed with beautiful crassness by Kate Walsh.
The programme is caught in a catch-22 since it continues to demonise Americanness. To adore Emily in Paris would be to love what the programme explicitly instructs us to despise. Therefore, we must love it despite itself.