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Emily in Paris: Cringeworthy, or Perfect Fantasy?

Emily in Paris: Cringeworthy, or Perfect Fantasy?

Laurie Ulster

In early October, I started seeing an awful lot of hype about Emily in Paris. Some people loved it, but far more entertaining were the people who hated it but were watching it anyway. A quick scroll through Twitter brought up some gems.

You can check them out for yourself.

Normally I wouldn’t take such buzzworthy bait—you’re reading something by a woman who has never seen Tiger King—but I had one particularly compelling reason to check out the show: I’d briefly worked with one of the writers on it.

Deborah Copaken was a celebrity of sorts at The Mid, a short-lived website that I was writing for in 2015. Deborah was smart and edgy, but also thoughtful and kind. She fascinated me; it was actually one of her articles that inspired the cover letter that got me the job, my first paid writing gig that didn’t come from someone who already knew me.

When I found out she’d written a gritty memoir called Shutterbabe, I read it and my awe of her increased. The book was optioned by Darren Star, who created Emily in Paris (along with some other huge shows you’ve heard of, like Sex and the City).

So when I saw that she was a writer on what looked like the fluffiest show of 2020, the contrast piqued my interest. I put on the first episode—and it didn’t take long for my complaints to stack up.

Emily as an Influencer is Ridiculous

Emily’s Instagram account blows up after she starts posting from Paris. So what is this extraordinary content that made her an internet star? Baguettes, bakeries, bridges… and every other Paris cliché you’ve seen a million times before on a thousand different accounts.

For anyone I know who works in marketing and/or social media, this show has to be a nightmare to watch. They already have to put up with constant Twitter jokes about how “the intern handling social media is getting fired over this” by people who don’t realize that running social media for a company is an actual profession that requires knowledge, experience, strategy, and training, and this show makes that perception even worse.  I hereby apologize to all of you on their behalf.  

Gorgeous Bilingual Men Seem to Grow on Trees

Everywhere Emily goes, another gorgeous man who speaks English pops up to desire her. She attracts the rich son of a fashion designer, a semi-hot (enough) professor who’s great at sex despite being a ballet snob (what?), and for the win, a breathtakingly stunning chef who lives one floor down from her. They just keep turning up, like… well, like nothing in any real person’s life.

Emily Gets Everything Handed to Her

Along with the Instagram followers and the hot men, Emily gets the opportunity to move to Paris just handed to her. She also gets an apartment, a job she’s barely qualified for, outfits that would bankrupt a normal person as well as require a full-time personal shopper, and the aforementioned gorgeous chef living in her building.

She also makes friends-for-life in chance encounters on the street, even though she’s been in Paris for about ten minutes. Does this girl have to work for anything? I’d complain about her being effortlessly gorgeous as well, but that’s pretty standard for female TV show leads, so I’ll let that one go.

Almost Everybody is White

Emily has a Chinese friend and a Black co-worker (who doubles down by also being gay), and… that’s about it.

So are there any good parts?

Paris

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I love Paris. So what if Emily only sees the most beautiful parts of it, from the most beautiful vantage points? So what if she never gets lost on the Metro and almost every place she goes seems to be within walking distance (in heels)? It’s Paris and I yearn for it. I haven’t been there since 2013, and I’ve missed it deeply.

French People

Stereotypes, sure, but at least they hired actual French actors to play them. 

Gabriel

Did I mention the breathtakingly stunning chef who lives downstairs yet? Hey, it may seem unfair that Emily gets this bounty, but we, as viewers, share in it, so that’s nice.

So Why Was I Watching It?

In Emily in Paris, Emily explores only the most stunning parts of Paris, is surrounded by gorgeous men who speak English and find her irresistible, finds professional success effortless, is making new friends, gets to kiss everyone on both cheeks, has an infinite collection of unique and colorful outfits, and keeps failing up. So why is it so compelling when it’s so screamingly unrealistic? 

In these twisted times we live in, the idea of landing in Paris—a city tougher than New York—and having an exciting life unroll in front of you is just the sugar-coated fantasy my weary soul needed. I don’t think season two is going to be calling my name, but who knows? It’s full of eye candy, and if I still need it as desperately as I do now, I may come crawling back.

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