Emily in Paris: non good, but beret bingeable

(I can only apologise)

From the creator of Sex and the City, Emily in Paris has all of the depth of the selfie camera Emily can’t possibly tear her eyes away from, and the emotional integrity of a wet pain au chocolat, and yet I couldn’t stop watching.

Starring Lily Collins, Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, Ashley Park, Lucas Bravo, Samuel Arnold, Bruno Gouery, and Camille Razat

Isn’t the world just exhausting? If COVID has taught us anything – other than the importance of washing our hands – it’s just how hectic and busy the world, and our lives, are. Even now, with the world at a standstill, the news constantly filters through to our devices. Statistics barraging the latest R rates and overwhelmed hospitals, new guidelines and the impacts upon businesses and jobs. On top of that, there’s the civil unrest, continual fighting for acceptance and justice in America, all while Donald Trump still somehow manages to have some sort of base of support. Times like this, the world can truly get too much.

This is where Emily in Paris really thrives. Through its rose-tinted, soft edged presentation of Paris, its banality is really the salve that we all need in these trying circumstances.

Emily seems to live in a world that is free of any actual real concerns. Through a bizarre sequence of events, and despite not speaking a lick of French, Emily ends up working on behalf of her American firm to dismantle and judge the French way of life and try to make it more American because, of course, her way is the correct way.

Instead of spending her time actually bettering herself and learning anything about Paris, she somehow manages to never eat at home, or repeat an outfit, and successfully surrounds herself by Parisians who are fluent in English. She has an Instagram account that starts the series with only tens of people following (though you’d think a requisite for someone who is working to promote a firm on social media would be quite the large social media following herself), and, through no discerning effort of hers, or even any interesting content, manages to amass more, not that she ever asks the permission of those around her to use pictures of them. It’s frankly a lawsuit waiting to happen, and I fail to understand how random pictures of croissants or standing on a Parisian balcony is distinct or interesting when people can literally follow French people on social media anyway? Do the people who make this show think that French people don’t use Instagram or something, or that Americans have the monopoly on social media?

Emily also never seems to actually have to work for anything. We never see her sitting at her desk actually doing the work, just randomly pulling an idea out of the air and it being a successful one, despite the disapproval of the mean French people around her.

A particularly thorny idea throughout the series seems to be the lampooning of French culture. Emily spends the entire time trying to make her office more American and to amend their ways of thinking to what she’s more used to, and the show continues to present her way as correct. This might be more problematic if it weren’t for the fact that French culture is barely represented here, as it just seems to be a mismatch of clichés by people who I’m fairly confident have never set foot in Paris before.

Bearing in mind this is also from the creator of Sex and the City, and I am fairly confident that Sex and the City 2 is the most problematically racist film in existence, Emily in Paris presents Paris as a city where everybody, of course, smokes, wherever they want to, people who work together in an office are ridiculously bitchy and don’t know the meaning of professionalism and, obviously, everybody is having an affair.

Emily, meanwhile, just seems to gleefully drift around Paris, making a series of terrible decisions and expecting everything to just go her way all the time. She also seems to bump into an unrealistically large number of attractive gentlemen.

So, putting this to one side, Emily in Paris is actually kind of wildly enjoyable. It’s honestly a tonic to be able to watch something that is so entirely far removed from the actual concerns of real life. The characters resemble actual human beings in so few ways it’s like living in an alternate universe, and you don’t have to dedicate much of your brain to nuance because, simply, there isn’t any.

The most emotionally affecting plot is the tale of Emily’s friend Mindy, who she just so happens to bump into, who has moved from her life in Shanghai as a result of choking while performing on Chinese Popstar and now refuses to sing out of sheer embarrassment. Frankly it’s just an excuse to have Ashley Park sing La Vie en Rose, and gives Emily a convenient reason to market a friend’s Champagne as “The Spray”. What’s “The Spray” you ask? It’s something that entitled millennials do with champagne that tastes like crap, which is the kind of crazy bullshit that Emily is irritatingly good at, other than accepting inappropriate gifts of lingerie from their superiors.

The Paris shown here is so idealistic it’s practically nauseating, and I’m sure it’s how every American teenager views living in Europe. The way that Emily drops “tres” into half of her sentences, it’s pretty much having coffee with that irritating friend who’s had a gap year and has come back horrendously changed by all that they’ve seen. (They have changed, of course. They are much, much worse than they were before, and you start hoping that the Cambodian tuk tuk they keep talking about had careened off the mountain path). Honestly, it’s just so terrible and lacking in emotional depth that it’s simply impossible to stop watching. Is it with the same kind of morbid curiosity through which you can’t drag your eyes away from a traffic accident? Perhaps. Regardless, I can’t wait to find out how much Emily blithely fucks up her own life in Season 2.

Emily in Paris is streaming now on Netflix.

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