In Netflix's latest hit "Emily in Paris," Emily Cooper stepped off the plane from Chicago not knowing more French than simply “bonjour." Still, she found a way to win the hearts of everyone around her. But UNC students who have spent time in France see a different way of life for Americans in Paris.
"Emily in Paris" is a fictional Netflix original that details the life of an American pushed into Parisian culture through 10 half-hour episodes. Emily finds herself working as the American point of view at Savoir, a French marketing company. In that time, she makes new friends, intrudes on a few relationships and challenges the city’s culture.
Some who watched the show took issue with its stereotypical portrayal of France, as well as the problematic American main character. Others simply criticized the cheesy rom-com storyline.
UNC graduate student Charlotte Perret said she liked the show even though it was full of stereotypes. Perret is from Lyon, France, and shares a different view of the show than some of her peers back home.
“There are definitely some heavy stereotypes that you don't necessarily see in your day-to-day life, but a lot of the cultural aspects were pretty accurately portrayed,” Perret said.
When watching, there is a feeling that the stereotypes drive the show. Many of the relationships between the characters involve infidelity, specifically that of Emily and Gabriel, the first major love interest. Many of the French characters are rude to Emily, while some form a friendship with her in seconds. A lot of the characters smoke regularly and Emily criticizes them for it.
Another major point made in the show is how the French separate their work and social lives. Perret confirmed that work is for the workplace and even added that they might have a tendency to be lazy, or at least be much more relaxed, than the American workplace.
After having lived in Paris for a year, Devra Gordon, a former blogger, agreed that there is truth in the stereotypes, but the subtleties that were included, such as genuine French accents or the placement of a scarf, helped add depth to the show's characters.
“When they showed the scene where she buys wine, cheese and a baguette to go to the park to eat, I thought that was accurate,” Gordon said. “I spent a whole summer grabbing wine, cheese and a baguette and going to a park and just people-watching.”
UNC senior Taylor Edmonds has never lived in France but has studied the French culture and language for years. She said she did not think the show deserved negative reviews but did believe it could be improved.
“This is a Hollywood production so it's not going to be fully accurate, but I don't think it deserves all of the backlash,” Edmonds said. “One thing that bothered me is that they didn't even make her try to speak French. It adds to the comedic sense of the show, but when you get a new job, especially in a different country, realistically you're going to do a little bit of research to prepare.”
Perret said one major difference in the appearance of the show and reality is the cleanliness of the city.
“It's not that clean, and there's a lot of theft and horrible stuff going on in the subways, but I mean it's also a TV show at the end of the day,” Perret said. “Paris is such a huge city, it’s just like saying that 'Sex and the City' does not portray New York as New York truly is.”
Even with all the stereotypes and modifications, the show can spark nostalgia since it was filmed on location. The Eiffel Tower and the Seine make guest appearances, and the older buildings and outdoor cafés create a pleasing aesthetic.
“I don't feel like it deserves as much bad rap as what it's getting,” Edmonds said. “It is a really cute ‘binge in a day’ kind of show. But if you’re going to go to France, at least try to learn a little bit of the language.”
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