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Longue Vie á Emily in Paris

A Frenchman speaks out: Emily in Paris is a fantastic show!

This article is a difficult one to see published — it requires me to go against much of my identity and beliefs, and to betray the country which I call home. I hope my countrymen will forgive me, but I truly think it cannot be avoided any longer and must be said: Emily in Paris is a fantastic show.

How to summarise such a masterpiece? It focuses on the outrageously American Emily, as she discovers a backwards, stubborn, nicotine-fuelled France, all the while motoring her way through a line-up of male models who seem to fall at her feet. She dresses like a colourblind clown who went dumpster-diving for patterned clothes; she lives in a massive apartment in one of the most expensive neighbourhoods in Paris, all the while acting broke. We’re expected to believe that she and her ideas bring a breath of fresh air into her French marketing agency, by showcasing American efficiency, tactics, and social-media savvy to a French market. The French are pictured as snotty, selfish, and anti-American. They have a cigarette for lunch, they drink wine at every meal, and they all have affairs with their colleagues and clients. Conceptions of France inherited from the Second World War have been creatively re-imagined and re-instated, bringing to them a new depth which is nothing short of pioneering. And yet, I truly believe Emily in Paris to be a fantastic show.

Obviously, there is the simple pleasure of watching a TV show ironically. Emily in Paris feels self-aware enough to know that no one expects it to be serious; demonstrated, for example, by Emily absolutely wrecking her poor friend’s life by sleeping with both her seventeen-year-old brother and her boyfriend, while later making her father chop off the tip of his thumb. It’s a rocky ride, but it’s great fun to watch.

More than this, however, Emily in Paris is an awfully cathartic show. As a Parisian, one gathers a lot of pent-up hatred towards tourists — though not exclusively American ones — which watching Emily frolicking around Paris in her obnoxious way allows you to let go of. It makes Parisians realise that although their anger is justified, the poor tourists are helpless. Emily brings a certain humanity to the hordes of people who, daily, block streets so they can get a necessarily mediocre selfie with the Eiffel Tower; people which one must passive-aggressively shout “PARDON!” at to get by. Any Parisian who has seen Emily in Paris will doubtless take a bit of pity on those poor lost tourists, will understand them a bit more, and maybe even be kinder — maybe. 

Through its egregious stereotyping of French people, the show also provides a fractured country with some bases around which to unite and recentre; even if they are only the core French principles of rudeness, smoking, functioning alcoholism, and adultery. It’s good to have a show like Emily in Paris remind you, from a glaringly exterior point-of-view, what stuff you’re really made of.

I honestly do wish everyone everywhere could have a show like Emily in Paris, which entertains, unites, mocks, and purges, all in one. If every city had its own Emily to watch, do you really think we would be so judgemental of tourists? Would we be so closed off to other cultures? Would we be so gloomy in our everyday lives? The answer is a resounding no. We would be infinitely happier with Emilys everywhere. 

Can you imagine how delightful it would be to have, say, a Susan in St Andrews? We would see the main character confronted with the politics of finding an apartment; picking her café based on who she aspires to become; being horrified by the line at Pret; getting rejected from the Kate Kennedy Club; having her moment of glory modelling for FS. What a wonderful commentary on our lives it would make, what a great show it could be — we would laugh, we would mock, we would live in perfect harmony. In the cruel, and frankly criminal absence of funding for such a show, let us all just try to be each other’s Emily, and I believe we could reach harmony.

Illustration by: Sandra Palazuelos García

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