Reel Thoughts: “Emily in Paris” was not written to be taken seriously


Illustration by Olivia Abeyta

“Emily in Paris” is an escapist dramedy — which makes those who put so much energy into pointing out its inaccuracies seem ridiculous, writes Assistant Opinion Editor Divya Bhardwaj.

Divya Bhardwaj, Assistant Opinion Editor

There is a litany of common complaints against Netflix show “Emily in Paris,” mostly concerning its central archetypal storyline: a clueless American woman moves to Paris for work and finds the French lifestyle equally charming and baffling.

In Emily’s Paris, the French are adulterous, aloof hedonists who lack workplace etiquette, and she, the American, is a polished, brazen go-getter who loves her job a bit too much. French critics have condemned the show’s romanticism and exaggeration of Parisian culture, and Americans have also taken offense to how Emily’s narcissism and ignorance perpetuate negative stereotypes about Americans. Even Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria penned a strongly worded criticism of the writers of “Emily in Paris” in response to the show’s critique of its deep dish pizza. For one reason or another, “Emily in Paris” struck a nerve — it quickly became a hate-watch phenomenon.

Indeed, if “Emily in Paris” presented itself as a realistic, genuine portrayal of life as an American expatriate in France, I would understand why it’s the subject of so much derision. The Lily Collins-led show is an escapist dramedy — which makes those who put so much energy into pointing out its inaccuracies seem ridiculous.

“Emily in Paris” wholeheartedly embraces its absurdity, even more so in the second season than in the first. Emily’s French-inspired but unmistakably American outfits become more whimsical. Secret romances and friendships become more complicated, and over-the-top workplace drama completely replaces any kind of actual work. Emily herself goes from being naive and a little annoying to arguably becoming the villain of the show.

But as the cliche storylines and titular character became increasingly insufferable, the show became increasingly popular. The second season of “Emily in Paris,” which was released on Dec. 22, 2021, debuted in the Netflix Global Top 10, and last week Netflix announced the show was renewed for a third and fourth season. While it’s certainly possible — and even likely — the majority of views are from hate-watchers, it’s clear that “Emily in Paris” has people hooked.

“Emily in Paris” is excellent entertainment because of its lack of realism. While it’s not tasteful or convincing, watching Emily live out her romantic vision of life in Paris while committing faux pas after faux pas is captivating. As Darren Star, the show’s creator, put it, “if it were about a character who came to France and spoke perfect French and knew her place in a French company and behaved according to all the cultural dictates, there wouldn’t be a show.”

Personally, I enjoy the extravagant, fanciful portrayal of Emily’s life in Paris — it is pure escapism. It is a creative work that’s disconnected from reality, and the genre of escapist television, film and literature has merit as a means of distraction from everyday concerns.

I have been learning French for seven years and have spent time in France, so if I were judging “Emily in Paris” as a representation of French culture, of course it would fall short. But I don’t watch for education or even accuracy — I simply watch for leisure. In fact, people who only consume media for intellectual stimulation must be miserable. A television show doesn’t need to be a critically acclaimed, masterful work of social commentary to have merit. As the millions of viewers of “Emily in Paris” attest, works of art that exist merely for enjoyment are also greatly appreciated.

Email: [email protected]

Related Stories: 

Reel Thoughts: ‘No Time To Die’ delivers on its promise as an epic Bond finale

Reel Thoughts: “Dune” is definitely sand power, but does that matter for Hollywood?

Reel Thoughts: “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is a messy but emotionally powerful Spidey flick