By Khadijah Khogeer
Netflix’s latest rom-com series “Emily in Paris” released its 10-episode first season on Oct. 2. Emily Cooper, played by Lily Collins, is a 20-something American who moves from Chicago to Paris to work as a consultant at her marketing firm’s new acquisition, Savoir. In the first season, Emily must navigate her professional and personal lives while adjusting to her new home in Paris.
The show is created by Darren Star, the producer of “Sex and the City” and “Beverly Hills, 90210.” While Star’s previous work has been critically acclaimed, “Emily in Paris” is getting slammed by many critics and viewers who point out the show’s unrealistic, often stereotypical, portrayal of the French.
Although the show is filled with over-the-top cliches about Parisian life, perhaps a bit of escapism is exactly what we need. The show succeeds at making the viewer invested in Emily’s journey and transports the viewer to the bright city lights of Paris, the perfect setting to escape from the dreary reality we live in.
Emily’s version of Paris is occupied by young, attractive white men and modelesque women who look like they jumped out of a Vogue editorial. But behind the glitz and glamour, Paris is a city like any other big city, filled with young people struggling to make their dreams come true. For example, Gabriel, who is introduced as Emily’s hot French neighbor, turns out to be a chef who dreams of having his own restaurant but doesn’t have enough money to do so.
The show’s portrayal of Emily’s life can be unrealistic, but the feelings she experiences throughout the season are relatable. Like Carrie in “Sex in the City,” the show depicts Emily as a lonely young woman struggling to find her place in the world.
A common criticism of the show is that Emily gets things easy, like landing a job in Paris without speaking French. But Emily doesn’t always succeed. In fact, oftentimes her work doesn’t turn out the way she expects, and she actually gets fired late in the season. Through the hardships, Emily maintains her positivity and drive to win over her boss.
A refreshing change from Star’s previous work and most of Netflix’s romantic comedies is that Emily’s life doesn’t revolve around men. Emily meets a couple of love interests, but the most meaningful relationships she forms are with her female friends Camille and Mindy as well as her coworkers Julien and Luc.
“Emily in Paris” is a love letter to the city. While Paris is not perfect, the show features beautiful shots of the cobblestone streets, jazzy cafes and European jardins. During a time when travel is restricted, getting a glimpse of Paris is a welcome sight.
However, the show could improve its portrayal of Parisian culture. It heavily relies on French stereotypes for comedic effect and conflict.
Although it is normal to experience culture shock when living and working in a new country, the show relies purely on stereotypes to convey this. When Emily arrives in Paris, everyone she meets — from coworkers to neighbors to waiters — are cold and unwelcoming, a common French stereotype.
The show further uses American stereotypes in Emily’s behavior: she is a dense and tacky American. On the first day of work, Emily wears an Eiffel Tower shirt to work and says the French language needs fixing right in front of her French coworkers.
While Netflix has canceled some of its best shows like “Sabrina” and “The Society,” “Emily in Paris” is a fun and relatable show that surely deserves a second season.