‘Emily In Paris’ Is An Absolute Mess, But It’s Meant To Be

Y’all too good for some low-brow TV?

Emily In Paris Netflix

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Ah Emily In Paris, the new Netflix series that has been tres divisive.

If you hadn’t already taken note of the Top 10 Trending, Netflix’s current number 1 series is Emily In Paris, a show about a 20-something woman from Chicago who works in marketing. She moves to Paris after her boss falls pregnant and leaves it to her to take over her Parisian promotion —  but Emily arrives without knowing a lick of French, and what ensues is a lot of culture shock and bad French stereotypes.

Since becoming available on the streaming platform, there’s been a whole lot of mixed thoughts and feelings about the show — with the scales tipping over to the bad side. Why can’t we all just watch a show and say c’est la vie? Y’all too good for some low-brow TV?

Fine, be that way then, but I’m gonna tell you why you’re piling on this show for all the wrong reasons.

Let’s get one thing out of the way, Emily In Paris is certainly not groundbreaking television — however I also don’t believe it’s meant to be high brow watching. I tweeted “Emily In Paris is the perfect show to put on if you plan on spending the afternoon on your phone”, and I stand by this statement. It is the perfect Sunday afternoon time killer — literally throw it on after lunch and the hours will float by like they’re on the Seine until it’s dinner time.

And really, isn’t that all we’re looking for from one of these romantic dramas?

Like ‘Sex And The City’, But The City Is Paris, And The Sex Is Bad

Emily In Paris was promoted pretty heavily as being a great show for former Sex & The City fans, as both were created by TV legend Darren Star.

For those who don’t remember, Sex & The City is a relic of white feminism that first aired over twenty years ago. It has not necessarily aged well, but damned if I’m not still obsessed with watching Carrie and Big’s on-again-off-again toxic relationship play out.

To be clear, Darren Star doesn’t write female characters well, limiting them to pretty vapid tropes, and their only personality trait being a love of fashion. However, he does know how to find the perfect balance of friendship and relationship drama, sprinkled with some witty one liners — and lemme just say that I’m very about it.

One thing both shows definitely have in common is the type of criticism they have received with regards to their proximity to reality — or perhaps, lack of it.

The majority of the debate online is about how feasible the premise of Emily In Paris is. There’s multiple arguments like, how likely is it that Emily would become an influencer with her posts? Is her boss maybe just a bully? Is her lifestyle even affordable? The truth is, it doesn’t matter.

This is the way I explained it to a friend when having a discussion about why shows like Emily in Paris matter: when I put on Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills or Keeping Up With The Kardashians, I am not watching them because I can relate.

In fact, I am watching them for the exact opposite reason. I want to be transfixed by a lifestyle so far removed from my own that I don’t have to think about my life, but I want it to be as shallow as possible so I can zone in and out of what’s on the TV, and whatever else I’m doing.

As someone still sitting in Stage 4 lockdown in Victoria, Emily In Paris was a welcome relief from all the other heavy and thought-provoking programs that have become available recently. People like to get up in arms when something isn’t as polished as an HBO release, but what I’m saying is that some of us are looking for mindlessness.

It’s Not A Documentary

The fun part about shows like Emily In Paris, and Darren Star shows in general, is that they are not based in real life.

Carrie Bradshaw absolutely could not afford the ten or so Dior Saddle Bags and Fendi Baguettes that make an appearance throughout season three, by writing one column a week. No one in their right mind would believe that Liza Miller, a 40-year-old woman, is 26-years-old (she does not look that young, fight me). And it’s entirely inconceivable that Emily would travel to Paris to work at a French Marketing agency without knowing the language, and live the way that she does — it’s meant to be inconceivable my dudes!

The benefit of watching fluff TV is the fantasy it creates.

It’s perfectly fine for something to be an over-exaggerated mess, it’s fun! Do I believe that Emily can just flounce around Paris being her conceited self while she’s supposed to be at her desk doing social media strategy for her clients? No, but isn’t it fun to just watch the drama unfold while watching her show off some new Chanel attire all the same?

The thing is, the issues to be had in this show are problems in most American TV — characters based around damaging stereotypes, an overrepresentation of white people, shallow attempts at talking about politics, and unfortunately, fatphobia.

The show makes a couple of stabs at feminism too — and Emily may be a fun American girl, but she’s ultimately a cuck for capitalism and her feminism means dogshit if it’s all channelled into money making.

It’s not an excuse, I would love all programs to be better. But the fact remains that they’re not. And if they’re going to keep giving white men wads of cash to create shallow representations of women, I would much prefer they have pretty scenery and amazing outfits for me to gush over.

Emily’s moral compass is questionable as is her Instagram algorithm, and ultimately all the characters rate on the insufferable barometer, but overall it’s a fine enough show to binge.

Her motives, her lines, her Instagram posts are all markers of a shallow depiction of someone’s life, and it’s a shame because there are definitely instances that could’ve fleshed out this character, and all characters in this show, far better.

But is she evil? Is this the worst series to ever grace Netflix’s roster of shows? Will you want to gauge your eyes out by sitting through the 5 or so hours it takes to finish season 1? Absolutely not, so chill out mes amis, it’s okay to enjoy this one.

Vanessa Giron is a freelance writer based in Naarm/Melbourne. She is a member of the West Writers Group with Footscray Community Arts Centre, contributor for Djed Press and critic for The Big Issue.