‘Emily in Paris’ infuriates real-life Parisians

Cheating, croissants, couture, while “Emily in Paris” has transfixed young American television viewers, many of the city’s real-life residents vilify him for laughs.

In Netflix’s most popular comedy series of 2020, viewers were moved away from the grim reality of the coronavirus pandemic to a glossy, elegant and frankly unrealistic version of the City of Light. The second season of the hit series darren starwhich was behind “Sex in the City,” also plays into perceived tensions between American and French lifestyles, and quickly became a top 10 hit on the streaming service after it dropped in December.

The fantastic representation of Paris and those who live, work and love there is in keeping with “sex in the city” Celebrating New York, presenting the French capital as a dreamscape complete with characters wearing over-the-top outfits, handsome Gallic men and a luxury sleeper train to Saint-Tropez.

In one scene, a character jokes that Americans live to work and the French work to live.
In one scene, a character jokes that Americans live to work and the French work to live. Carole Bethuel/Netflix

It is this unrealistic portrayal of their city and the stereotypical, and sometimes unflattering, portrayal of the French that so irritates some young Parisians and those living in the surrounding suburbs, many of whom have criticized the show. The series follows Emily Cooper (Lily Collins), a twenty-something marketing executive from Chicago as she navigates life in the French capital.

“It was worse than a cliché, it seemed like the Americans were making fun of the French,” said Julie Seguin, 27, who didn’t finish the first season and said she had no plans to watch the second. “I don’t understand her vision of Paris.”

As the new season hit the Netflix’s Top 10 even in France, Seguin is not alone.

The young women who spoke to NBC News said they didn’t recognize their town or their lives in the series, where the characters are rich, many hardly work, the men are obsessed with sex, and the people have passionate but tense affairs, mismatched cartoons. with reality. for most Parisians, they said.

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The lack of diversity and limited exploration of the different Parisian neighborhoods featured in the series also upset viewers.

“Paris is not just about the Louvre, Saint Germain and the Tuileries Gardens,” said Alexandra Milhat, a 32-year-old Parisian, listing the world-renowned museum, one of the most ornate parks in Paris and a wealthy neighborhood on the Left Bank of Paris featured in the show. “Paris has very diverse neighborhoods with different cultures.”

One irritant raised by viewers is that Emily is portrayed as a know-it-all who educates the French.
One irritant raised by viewers is that Emily is portrayed as a know-it-all who educates the French.Stephanie Branch/Netflix

The vast majority of those depicted on the show were white people, he said, with the exception of a few “token” characters. In the series, Emily’s best friend in town is Asian and her co-worker is black. In the second season, the creators cast Lucien Laviscount, a black British actor, as a love interest.

“Even when you walk down the street, there’s not a single Arab, black or Asian person in the background, it’s just white people,” Milhat said. “For me, this is not Paris.”

Paris is certainly a multicultural city, but the extent of its diversity is difficult to quantify because France heavily prohibits for the government to count people by race or ethnicity.

Many of the more than a dozen young women who spoke about “Emily in Paris” believed that the show should have moved away from outdated French stereotypes. No more portrayals of job-shy French, several said.

Americans are also a target on the show.  A character accuses Emily of arrogance by coming to Paris to work when she doesn't speak French.
Americans are also a target on the show. A character accuses Emily of arrogance by coming to Paris to work when she doesn’t speak French. Carole Bethuel/Netflix

In an early episode, Emily arrives at work at 8:30 a.m. to find that her office opens at 10:30 a.m. Her colleagues are often shown taking leisurely breaks accompanied by wine.

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Milhat said that while the French may not have the same work schedules as Americans and have longer vacations and paid leave, the French do work long hours.

“I never started work at 11 am, unless it was a late shift that ended at 11 pm,” he said.

Another irritant: Emily as a know-it-all who instructs French.

“She always presents herself as the messiah. She is very stereotypical American Salvadorism,” said Julia Perraud, 27, who grew up in the Paris suburbs and now works in communications.

Netflix declined to comment on the story.

the series too irritated some viewers for her portrayal of a Ukrainian character, Petra, in the second season. Ukraine’s Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko described the portrayal of the character, who she is seen shoplifting in the show, as “offensive”.

But the Americans are also a target. In one scene, Emily’s colleague Luc accuses her of arrogance by coming to Paris to work when she doesn’t speak French.

“More ignorant than arrogant,” she says.

“Well, let’s call it the arrogance of ignorance,” he replies.

Not everyone disliked the show.

Fiona Schmidt, a feminist journalist and author, said she didn’t expect “Emily in Paris” to be anything other than what it was: “Light entertainment that makes no other claim than to be entertaining and light.”

While the show did not reflect the Paris he knew, Schmidt added that it was fiction and not a documentary. Plus, he told her, the fantasy was probably part of the reason for the show’s success.

“The vision of Paris is totally unrealistic, but the real Paris is not very entertaining at the moment and we have a great desire for entertainment at the moment,” he said.

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Beyond coronavirus pandemicParis has been marked by terrorist attacks and has been the scene of mass protests about a tax, racism and police brutality in recent years. In some areas of the city, asylum seekers and migrants sleep outdoors in makeshift camps.

The show shows none of this, and instead is packed with typically Parisian breathtaking views, clear days, dazzling nights, and boat rides on the Seine.

“You don’t watch these TV shows to see a news report,” said Fanny Garcia, 29, a social worker in Paris who also liked the show. “You see this to escape, it’s positive, you laugh, you see the beautiful side of Paris.”

But Paloma Clément Picos, a freelance journalist who writes about film and television, said she felt sorry for anyone visiting Paris for the first time after seeing “Emily in Paris.”

“Darren Star created a Paris that doesn’t exist, and we Parisians will be the ones to be blamed for falling short of expectations.”

The show presents stunning typically Parisian views.
The show presents stunning typically Parisian views. Stephanie Branch/Netflix

For Jennifer Padjemi, a French sociocultural journalist and author, erasing the diversity of Paris is something that American television and cinema often do, as they tend to portray a “fantasy” version of the city: the Paris of Hausmann buildings and expensive stores.

“It’s a form of reality that is real to the American community, which is very present in the capital but very closed, they stick together,” he said.

Of Ernest Hemingway For Woody Allen, Paris has long held a heady place in the American imagination, and “Emily in Paris” is just the latest attempt to capture its spirit. The series plays on perceived tensions between American and French lifestyles, with Luc in one scene joking that Americans live to work and the French work to live.

Padjemi said the show is perhaps better understood as a depiction of the life of an expat navigating a different city, rather than a show about everyday Parisian life.

“Why should we expect a TV show run by an American who is completely out of touch with the capital and has an idealized view of it to represent Paris?” she asked.