As a baguette-eating French-American, I put on my beret, prepare a glass of pinot noir, get all existential, and saddle up to meet my fate by cueing up the show my friends have begged me to watch, the one and only Emily in Paris.
As someone who was raised in France with a French mother and American father, Netflix’s Emily in Paris hit different levels of “Woah this is bad,” and “Sacré bleu! This just got worse.” From hints of exaggerated stereotypes about French people and the white-washing of the city of Paris to the way Emily’s character portrays a cultural ignorance that is “charming” and “helpless,” the show has nothing new to offer except problems, but oh la la ... I’d be lying if I didn’t include that I finished the season in a day. Why? Well, I found it to be just enough of a bad show to brave until the end. For those of you new to the series, Lily Collins portrays a ditsy American girl from Chicago, sent over to Paris for a social media job, and get this, naturally, the critical French are unable to stand her, because let’s face it, they want nothing to do with une Américaine.
To be quite frank, I found the show to be a guilty pleasure, but this is hard to admit because of just how successfully the series took off, getting nominated for two Golden Globes, one being for Best TV Series (Comedy or Musical) while Collins was nominated for Best Actress in a TV Series (Musical or Comedy.) Some shows that were just plain better (you know, shows that are well written and brilliantly acted), deserved the nomination over Emily in Paris, without a doubt, such as Issa Rae’s Insecure and Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You. White privilege for sure aided Emily in Paris to get those nominations.
Even one of Emily in Paris’ writers admitted the nomination was off, in so many words.
In a particular scene, Emily is dining with her friend Mindy, and sends her food back to the chef of the restaurant, claiming it isn't cooked right for her. In all its ridiculousness, being clueless and sweetly arrogant does not make for a likable character, and it encourages the idea that cultural ignorance can be played off as innocent and doe-eyed. And that is Emily.
As someone who is a part of both cultures and lived in France and the US, I get that the series isn’t meant to be taken too seriously. Shows like this are so bad that they are almost good, except for this one is missing the good part a bit too much.
To see more from Oona O’Brien, visit her humor website www.oonaoffthecuff.com.
Top Image: Netflix