Emily in Paris: Oui ou Non?

Before the pandemic, I was always proud of how I would choose to go out with friends or chat over the phone instead of watching Netflix or Hulu. I actually went places in person—dressed up, made up, standing on my tiptoes by the bar, shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers who were also trying to catch the bartender’s attention at the go-to spot for the night.

Then COVID-19 happened. Naturally, I joined the rest of the world and watched a slew of shows and documentaries.

The show that I consistently showed up for? Emily in Paris, of course.

I have tried to formulate an opinion on the show and after two seasons, I struggle to articulate the frustrating fascination over a show that I hate-watch—I hate to watch it, but I continue to watch it to test the boundaries of how much more I could possibly hate it.

So. Why do I self-inflict by continuing to press play and screaming at the television after a few glasses of wine?

I will say that there are a number of things that I genuinely enjoy about the show. First, the show looks beautiful and the shots of Paris are a great escape during a time when international travel has been restricted and strongly discouraged. I was supposed to visit Paris in March 2020 and have yet to reschedule the trip.

The supporting cast of characters is quite strong. The show takes the time to contrast the differences between French and American cultures that aren’t entirely off-base. For example, the inclusion of more French-speaking scenes in the second season of Emily in Paris reveals a more authentic experience than the rose-gold filtered picture of Paris that Emily blindly occupies herself with. The show could have done a better job with diversity and inclusion, but I hope that future seasons will address the gap.

When it comes down to it, there is something about Emily Cooper that deeply stirs the critic inside of me. How can a character’s behavior be so cringeworthy?

The development of Emily’s character—or lack thereof—illustrates a simple girl stumbling through a foreign country who consistently fails to use common sense and is constantly saved by others, most of whom are reluctantly part of her journey.

It is so infuriating how the narrative of Emily in Paris—an American girl spending a year in one of the most magical cities in the world—deserves a heroine who is sharp and sophisticated; cool and collected; someone who is definitely imperfect, but also still manages to exude an easy allure despite cultural missteps and learnings.

Maybe Emily Cooper is like Batman in The Dark Knight—Emily is the heroine that Americans deserve, but not the one we need right now. We need to see more diverse, complex, intriguing heroines.

Frankly, we need a badass.

I am fully aware that Emily in Paris is only a fiction and that I’m probably projecting my deep-seated envy of a fictitious character who is earning an ambiguously impressive salary and secured a work visa in Paris, France without a hitch and successfully transferred from her employer’s U.S.-based office…

*insert le sigh here*

Look. I can write and say whatever I want about this insane show, but it’s undeniable that the creators of Emily in Paris know how to engage an audience.

Love it or hate it, it’s still good entertainment—and you bet that I’ll be ready for seasons 3 and 4, wine and cheese at the ready.

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A Francophile based in coastal New England

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