I’m always on the hunt for a good TV show, especially during Dublin’s spring, summer, and autumn of what I’ve been calling, “The Endless Lockdown”. Luckily, the television gods have delivered, with HBO’s Succession giving me all the Logan family drama I could ask for, Schitt’s Creek blessing me with Dan Levy, and of course, Tiger King satisfying my apparent need for mullets, murder-for-hire, and big cats.
So when I heard about Netflix’s new series Emily in Paris, I couldn’t help but think that as a white, brunette, girl who loves to romanticize Europe, that this show is probably right up my alley. Like the show’s titular character, I’m even an American who moved abroad, not to Paris, but to the equally metropolitan and posh city of Dublin, so like, hello, I AM this show’s EXACT target demographic.
Let me start off by saying that I’m all for guilty pleasure and satirical television as much as the next guy. If 90 Day Fiancé and Love is Blind help get you through your week, I’m not judging (unless you liked Fuller House…inexcusable). But it does seem that Netflix knows that we’re all stuck at home and slaves to our screens this year, and is trying to quickly capitalize.
According to a July Insider article, Netflix had 113 brand new TV shows slated to premiere in 2020. 113 is an astronomical amount when you consider the labour that must go into each original series and movie in order to maintain quality writing and production. The reason I mention this is that it feels like the entire season of Emily in Paris was written in the span of two weeks, and the result is a big, confused mess.
Vox’s Alex Abad-Santos said, “The series is a boomer’s fantasy of a lazy millennial’s life”, which couldn’t be more accurate. It’s as if Darren Star, who wrote the show, was told by Netflix to “write something that appeals to millennials”, without ever having spoken to a real millennial.
Here are just a few of the issues I have with the show:
The main character
The main character is one that I truly cannot tell if we’re supposed to relate to or despise. Either way, she is positively insufferable. I acknowledge that this isn’t actress Lily Collins’ fault at all; Collins is very pretty and is probably a fine actress when given the right material. However, the CHARACTER of Emily is so damn unlikeable that I can’t understand how Star or whoever helped him write the series forgot everything from elementary literature class in which we learned about character arc and development.
There’s a scene that’s supposed to be funny (?) in which Emily keeps arguing with a restaurant waiter and sending her beef tartare back because it’s “not cooked”. If you spent literally one minute on TikTok you’d know that millennials and Gen Z absolutely HATE this type of person, to the point where we’ve created the “Karen” meme and post videos of people doing exactly this in order to shame them and bring justice to customer service workers everywhere. Emily even has a line that says, “The customer is always right….maybe I’ll educate the chef a little bit about customer service.” Who would write a character like this that we’re not meant to hate?
Emily is also arrogant, ignorant, not funny, and *SPOILER* sleeps with the boyfriend of her friend in the show. MAKE IT MAKE SENSE.
Speaking of sense…it doesn’t make any
Emily is a recent college graduate with a communications degree who got hired at a marketing firm in Chicago. When her senior-level, executive boss gets pregnant and can’t fulfill a position that’s located in Paris, she sends her subordinate Emily, who can’t speak a lick of French, in her place. Oh, and the position is also dealing with high-fashion, luxury, French brands, and Emily’s experience is in pharmaceutical marketing. I guess we’re meant to believe Emily is just lucky? I don’t know.
The show is cliché after cliché. Every character that Emily meets happens to be able to speak perfect English with her, and she is only ever see taking one French class in the beginning and then it’s never spoken about again. She also isn’t meant to be particularly wealthy that we know of, yet she constantly sports Louboutins and Chanel.
This may seem like a ridiculous thing to put on the list, but hear me out. The trends and the fashion are what MAKES these types of shows. Look at Sex in the City, which despite being slightly problematic in some of its plot points in retrospect, is absolutely iconic and timeless in what it did for fashion. Carrie Bradshaw’s outfits were brave, awe-inspiring, sometimes awful, and overall incredibly culturally significant. Or consider the fashion in Clueless and how it perfectly encapsulated the 90’s to the point that we’re still studying it and taking inspiration from it to this day.
Emily’s outfits are confusing and all over the place. It seems like the stylist was going for some sort of 2010’s throwback to Gossip Girl, which doesn’t even really make sense for the show. Firstly, 2010’s fashion isn’t long ago enough for us to feel nostalgic for it, and secondly, a lot of 2010’s fashion is just pure cringe.
Emily’s clothes don’t make her look edgy or ahead of the curve, they make her look dated and behind the times.
It sh*ts on the French…a LOT
I’m all for making fun of one another and each of our quirky little cultural differences. But this show hammers in to us time and time again that the French don’t like to work, are lazy, chauvinistic, rude, mean, etc.
Emily gives her French office coworkers copies of Chicago’s “Corporate Commandments” which mandates that employees always have positive attitudes, always be on time, etc. Tell me that Emily is not 100% the kid that raised their hand and reminded the teacher to collect the homework. And then the show goes on to say that because the French don’t like these “commandments”, it’s because they as French people are “disagreeable.” Emily’s hurt after she gets chastised for talking about work at an after-hours party, which is something about French (and European) culture that SHOULD be so celebrated! And the show treats it like a bad thing. Ugh.
The underdeveloped side characters
Every single other character in the show is more interesting and a better person than Emily. Julien, Emily’s sassy, French, black coworker feels like a ripoff of Michel from Gilmore Girls, and they don’t allow him much development at all aside from being sassy.
Mindy, a nanny and Emily’s first friend in Paris, is just as underdeveloped, which is a shame, as she seems to be the main voice of reason, and a good balance that juxtaposes Emily’s awful chaotic energy. But she doesn’t really get to exist outside of just being a way to develop Emily’s plot points.
I hate that the only characters of colour exist to further shitty Emily’s plot. It just seems like we should be well beyond making shows where self-centered, mediocre white people with no star-quality get to be the center of the show. It’s 2020 for god’s sake, and we should be writing better, casting better, doing better.