Words | Gabby Edwards
From the creator of hit TV Shows including Sex and the City, Beverly Hills, 90210 and Younger comes a fresh new Netflix original, Emily in Paris. Starring the iconic Lily Collins, the show appears to be the perfect remedy to all your quarantine blues, itching that travel bug within you with some harmless, entertaining fun. Instead, what I watched can only be described as a slow torture as you follow this entitled millennial effortless glide through every issue she encounters, as written by most likely, not a single person under forty. Still curious about what I’m talking about? Let’s delve a little deeper.
In terms of plot, the premise is quite simple. We follow our main character Emily, a (supposedly) skilled American marketer shipped off to Paris to provide a new perspective to a revered French marketing firm. Filled with excitement at being able to travel and live abroad, she proceeds to learn not a single word of French nor bother to research anything about French culture. Instead, she manages to form a large social media following through sharing her travel journey via duck-faced selfies and unsolicited pictures of stranger’s children paired with punny hashtags that would have impressed any 2014 Facebook mum. In terms of complications, Emily’s main concern is social acceptance at work, as her new boss in particular refuses to trust her, for you know, knowing nothing about the culture or language. Each episode also sees her confronted with a new marketing challenge, as her firm is met with new clients or attempts to restore old ones. Not to mention, things get complicated when almost every single male in the show makes a move on her, making for some greatly uncomfortable romantic subplots.
When beginning this show and hearing initial reactions to it, it honestly appeared okay. Potentially a little cliche, but truly not anything to get someone riled up. And honestly, the show can be enjoyed that way throughout. If you decide to turn off your brain for a few hours, the show is fast-paced and dare I say it, engaging, allowing for what could be considered a fun watch. Though, why do we exist if not to over-analyse cringey, innocuous content? So let’s get into it.
One of the main issues of the show is the title character herself, Emily. At the start, she appears to be just another average, relatable white millennial. She’s smart, good at her job and has a stable relationship. Okay, maybe not that relatable… but still, likeable enough. Even when she first arrives in Paris, as the ‘fish out of water’ she still has her charms about her. And sure, she was only called in at the last minute, we’ll give her the benefit of the doubt that she doesn’t speak French, it’s fine. But that’s where everything goes wrong.
Within the first few episodes, Emily receives a bit of a culture shock as she realises just how different life in Paris can be. She has to start work at 11, take the stairs to her apartment, and eat food prepared slightly differently to how she normally would. Not to mention her attitude in the workplace, where she’s immediately put-off by their work culture and sends everyone a document of the workplace values from her American job. Because according to Emily, the best way to gain respect from your workmates (when you refuse to speak their language), is to shove your own culture down their throat. All this entitlement and naivety make her extremely difficult to like or sympathise with as the show continues. Obviously, her obliviousness could be excused if it was addressed, though she does little to rectify her rudeness or mistakes throughout the series. For some reason, despite no change in her attitude or behaviour, she somehow manages to win everyone over at the end of the day.
Another issue I have with Emily, and the show at large, is her repeated success both within her marketing job and gaining an online following. Despite many of her campaign and marketing ideas (which she often thinks up in the moment) being adored by clients, they often appeared unfeasible or ineffective. Yet the show continues to affirm her skills, through each idea becoming instantly successful, forcing her firm and co-workers to appreciate her work. I may be a humble undergraduate marketing student, but let’s just say admitting to your commercial potentially being sexist wouldn’t give you the brand loyalty and sales boost you’re hoping for.
Just when you think the writer’s grasp of digital marketing couldn’t get worse, you find out that over the course of the show Emily has been rapidly building an online audience. Her spur of the moment photographs and comments, whether they be of the rainy weather, other restaurant goers’ food or making fun of random bystanders, gain her twenty-thousand followers and influencer status amongst top brands. At this point I had to question: has anyone working on the show used Instagram in the last five years? While these posts might be fun for a friend to view, there’s no way using the hashtag #EverythingsComingUpRoses is going to earn you a spot at an exclusive influencer brunch. I’m sorry Emily, but three selfies and a boomerang of you eating a pastry ain’t going to cut it these days. There’s also the question of why Emily; a young and pretty woman working in digital marketing, only had 48 followers to start with, but that’s once again assuming that any of these writers have any idea how social media works. I hope by now we have all established that they indeed, do not.
With the stylist for the show having worked on Sex and the City and The Devil Wears Prada, expectations for all the costumes, particularly Emily’s, were high. What resulted was a flurry of memes pointing out her incredibly basic yet somehow still bold and disjointed style. While I could just as easily make fun of her extensive bucket hat and scarf collection, I wanted to do some digging. Further research revealed these mismatched outfits were all intentional choices to demonstrate her attempt to fit in with local Paris fashion, though ultimately failing. So it’s nice to know at least one person on set was invested in visual storytelling…
And of course, we can’t talk about this show without unpacking the romantic subplots. As mentioned, having almost every single male character flirt with Emily at one point really did nothing to narrow down her romantic pursuits. In the first few episodes, she remains dedicated to her bland Chicago boyfriend, attempting long distance for who knows what reason when I couldn’t name a single personality trait this man had. After one failed and woefully outdated attempt at ‘cybersex,’ they ultimately break-up leaving Emily sad for all of half an episode before she’s off on the hunt for a new man. This left us all questioning why this character had to exist in the first place, seeing as we never see or hear about him again.
Enter Gabriel, her hot chef neighbour who always appears to help her when she’s in a pickle. Seemingly the perfect catch, she spends much of the show flirting and lusting over him, even when it’s revealed he’s in a committed relationship to her new Parisian friend, Camille. I could explain my confusion about the decision to have Emily and Camille accidentally kiss with multiple references to the possibility of Camille being into her, though let’s be real, this show is such a mess we might as well add queerbaiting to the list.
Throughout the show there are a few other potential love interests. Firstly, there’s Antoine, owner of a luxury perfume brand, whose affair with Emily’s boss is well known amongst the firm. While nothing explicit ever happens between him and Emily, his consistent flirting left a bad impression that was worth mentioning. He might not have a lot going for him, but at least he was memorable for being a creep. There’s also Mathieu, a wealthy businessman and client, who really left no memorable impression on me and most likely only existed to get the audience increasingly invested in Gabriel & Emily. Hey, it might involve cheating but at least you aren’t falling asleep when watching them together.
And perhaps the most concerning romantic interest of the bunch, Camille’s brother. Correction: Camille’s seventeen-year-old brother who Emily accidentally sleeps with after mistaking him for Camille’s older one. Sorry, let me reiterate that for you. SHE FUCKS A SEVENTEEN-YEAR-OLD BOY. And you’re telling me I just have to move past that?? LIKE THAT’S A SITUATION ANY PERSON CAN JUST RANDOMLY STUMBLE INTO??!?!? As you can tell, it was at this point that the show’s foray into romance broke me. So, am I forgetting anyone else? Probably. But look, you can only expect me to remember so many white guys with no personality before I reach a limit, and this show definitely did.
And there we have it, the latest Netflix sensation! Described by French viewers as ‘painful to watch,’ the show managed to be picked up for a second season. And while I’d probably be lying if I said I had no intention of watching further, you can absolutely bet I’ll have an entire bottle of ‘breakfast wine’ in hand while doing so.