‘Emily in Paris’ is a girlboss take on the French

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Photo courtesy of IMDb

Lily Collins, Ashley Park and Lucas Bravo star in Netflix’s, “Emily in Paris.”

Gabrielle Abdelmessih, Editor-in-Chief

“Paris is great because she is France,” a quote from the literary genius and French legend, himself, Victor Hugo, whose work and life of stark contrasts embodies the very soul of the city and its people.

Everywhere you go, you are reminded of his books, his poems, his passion and how it perfectly captures the complicated history of France. When I visited in 2019, I was reminded of Hugo while observing Sunday mass in the pews of Notre Dame a week before it burned. As the taxi zipped past the Place Vendôme, I recall seeing a certain Napoleonic ode to a certain remembering column. Admiring the architecture, one couldn’t help but notice “liberty, equality, fraternity,” the principle Hugo so ardently supported, emblazoned on the walls.

Forgive me if I sound like an annoying college student overzealously discussing their times abroad, but I bring attention to one of my favorite writers because his quote so succinctly describes everything that is wrong with Netflix’s most-watched and Golden Globe-nominated comedy series, “Emily in Paris.” It is not great because it is not Paris! Unlike the literature of Hugo, it is merely a mirage of hyper-edited Instagram reels and escapism that barely scratches a stereotypical surface of what it means to be a Parisian. Hugo’s work was often romanticized, but not like this…

I know I’m not one to talk about such things and that comparing a television show to some of the greatest literature known to man may be a slightly unfair comparison, but I think I know enough to realize that whatever “Emily in Paris is,” it certainly isn’t French.

Season 1 was a travesty, but the second season, which made its binge-watching debut on Dec, 22. is truly, as the French would call it, “rignard.”

The second season begins with a conflicted Emily. After a one-night stand with Gabriel, she is left grappling with how she will tell Camille. And if you haven’t already seen it or guessed based on the elementary writing in the first season, yes, there are multiple ménage à trois lines — and not even clever ones. If Emily’s life wasn’t already self-complicated enough, her American boss pays a visit to the French office, bringing along, as Americans would call it, a “girlboss” vibe that I found to be quite funny. Leave it to Kate Walsh to save a wilting television show, whether it be as a pregnant advertising executive or world-class neonatal surgeon. Her character did more to highlight differences in the American and French workplaces than Emily ever has. Honestly, she can go back to eating deep-dish pizza and misreading other cultures in Chicago. The plotlines of the other (French) characters are far more entertaining — especially Sylvie and Mindy’s!

Speaking of French characters, the men are very easy on the eyes. I can’t decide if I’d prefer to be serenaded by the strums of a guitar, prepared a Jacques Pépin-worthy omelette on a well-seasoned pan, or roasted in another language for my outfit choices. Decisions, decisions…

Despite having such charisma at their disposal, the writing on this show is genuinely puzzling. When it comes to French escapism and glamour, there is a lot to reference from! None of that happens, which is surprising for a television show produced by, Darren Star, the same man who created and wrote for HBO’s groundbreaking “Sex and The City.” Even I, a fledgling francophile, saw so many missed opportunities to reference iconic films like “Funny Face,” “Two for The Road” and “Charade” in a witty way — especially when your leading lady, played by Lilly Collins, is an Audrey Hepburn look-alike!

Though occasionally included, French cultural references are usually done in the tackiest way possible. Editor’s Note: The sexual innuendos regarding French cuisine and champagne are getting a little old. Though I have to admit, as a Michigander and not ex-pat living in Paris, I did genuinely laugh at the Mackinac Island bit and confusion over fudge. Also, what demographic is this show geared toward? With how varied and cliché the writing is, we may never know.

Don’t even get me started on the fashion. It’s like they told a 6th grade beret-obsessed me to pick out the outfits. Emily seems to be oblivious to most things French. How on earth would she know about Christian Louboutin heels? I just know her closet must consist of the Carrie Bradshaw rejects.

While I do mostly have harsh notes for the show’s writers, I have to admit that I enjoy watching the show. Is it realistic? Absolutely not. Is it clever? Barely. Is it an escape from a COVID-ridden world where I can pretend I’m gazing up at a twinkling Eiffel Tower in a fabulous outfit and not eating a Starbucks croissant in my sweatpants? Oui.