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Emily is the essence of cringe
The Fresh View

Emily is the essence of cringe

by Natalia DEMBOWSKA 4 min. 29.04.2021 From our online archive
Senseless cultural and gender stereotypes abound in “Emily in Paris”
Emily, played by Lily Collins takes a selfie out of the window of her Paris apartment
Emily, played by Lily Collins takes a selfie out of the window of her Paris apartment
Photo credit: STEPHANIE BRANCHU/NETFLIX

Emily in Paris is the worst show I have ever seen, and I do not say this lightly. I wish to say it was done this badly purposely, as a social commentary. But the chances of it being a surrealist masterpiece are pretty low, given that lead actor Lilly Collins is also the show’s executive producer. The rich daughter of Phil Collins - known mostly for her eyebrows and love of lip gloss - invited over a handful of Hollywood Foreign Press Associates to Paris during the shooting and went on to win 5 Golden Globes.

Still, something can be a social commentary even without the artist’s intention. So let’s look at this pop-culture phenomenon that topped the Netflix charts around the world.

The show is so detached from reality that it is unclear whether it aims to annoy the audience purposely. I hope that is the case. Otherwise it’s hard to imagine why somebody would write a plot and dialogues that are so superficial, ignorant and out of place - even considering we’re talking about a US comedy series on Netflix.

Already in the first minute of the first episode, marketing assistant Emily finds out that her boss is pregnant. Wearing a Kenzo dress (a basic ringarde from Chicago, mind you), she learns that she will replace her boss in a fancy, high-end marketing firm. Emily thinks this is crazy because she thought her boss was too old to be pregnant. That does not stop her from marketing a client’s perfume as a “a beautiful sexy product which could practically induce pregnancy in older women” a little later. Things only go downhill from there.

Emily with her other American friend Mindy
Emily with her other American friend Mindy
CAROLE BETHUEL/NETFLIX

Believe it or not, the problématique of the series entirely revolves around Emily not speaking the French language. Everything is très good, très wonderful, as Emily skips around Paris in her étrange mélange of Betty Boo printed T-shirts and Louboutins, tie dye crops and Chanel, translating expressions like Im going to work here on her phone.

Bam, floors are counted differently than in America! Bam, they have different words to express time! Bam, dates are the wrong way round! Emily faces every cultural obstacle head-on, as the series drowns the viewer in stereotypes.

French people are mean, wear black clothes and smoke indoors. Emily’s femme-fatale-Parisian-Miranda-Priestley-wannabe boss, Sylvie, disses her in every scene in the most predictable way, blowing cigarette smoke in her face. The token black guy of the office is flamboyant and dreams about meeting his favourite designer. Try to tell me he’s not the Stanley Tucci of this fiasco. The show is trying to be a French version of The Devil wears Prada with added social media. But really, it isn’t.

Emily’s American, so she is portrayed as very loud and annoyingly positive. She is trying to befriend every co-worker without a sense of dignity. French people come to work late, Emily is in early. When they don’t like to speak about work, she prints “work commandments” for everybody in the office. She invites the lot for lunch, but the others reject her. Evil Sylvie just has a cigarette anyway, like a real Parisienne.

But the worst is when it comes to gender and sexuality. In utterly weird scenes, Emily and friends drop awkward comments on sex and women like atomic bombs. You’d like to think such scenes are a thing of the past. But in Emily in Paris, they are alive and kicking. The first episode has one that truly captures the essence of cringe this show brings.

Emily is in Paris and her boyfriend is in Chicago. It’s 3 o’clock in the morning and Emily is asleep. Her boyfriend forgets there’s a time difference, so he calls her after work to ask her how she’s doing. He then immediately proceeds to take off his shirt and tell her she’s beautiful. Emily replies with a shy little “thanks”, then asks in a compliant tone: “Are we having cybersex? You better not be recording this.”

There is a 30-second interaction, where her boyfriend repeats she’s hot. She starts masturbating and goes into a frantic tantrum about her stay in Paris as the connection is breaking. When the two are back on, it turns out her boyfriend already reached the finish line. Unsatisfied with the call, she decides to take matters in her own hands.

So what does a girl do in such a situation? Take out a vibrator with a long cable, of course, and plug it into the wall. And what happens when you plug something into a wall in Paris? It cuts the electricity in the whole building because everything in Paris is old!

There are many more such drastic scenes. A French guy telling Emily he’s not going to make love to her if he doesn’t know which books she reads. Another one saying he likes “American pussy” and a third one who turns out to be underaged (but don’t worry, his mother is fine with it and even asks Emily whether he’s a good lover).

As you watch episode after episode, Emily cuts your chest open and eats your medium-rare heart out. She then sends it back to the kitchen because she thinks it’s undercooked. Please, save yourself some time and do not waste it on Emily in Paris.


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