The Insufferable Charm of Emily in Paris!
Watching Emily in Paris is like eating a vast portion of chips. Very comforting, perfect pandemic TV but by the time you get to episode 4, there is this lurking sense you're killing yourself. Right?
Of course, everyone has been taking about the Netflix show on social media and everyone seems to hate it, love it or love to hate it! I would say that I am a bit of the latter two. It makes absolutely no sense, it’s completely unrealistic, but yes I have watched it more than once, and I will almost definitely watch it again!
The plot (if you can call it that) is centred around Emily (Lily Collins), a twenty something American from Chicago who goes to work for a French luxury goods marketing firm to give “The American Point of View” (which I am not sure is necessary for a start off). Basically, the show is just Emily swanning around France, unable to speak any French, dressed like a Chanel obsessed Hannah Montana. She gets wasted every night with her friend Mindy, sleeps with anyone willing, and does very little actual work (despite her saying she lives to work).
Her spending is out of control. She claims she does not have enough money to pay for extra French lessons. However, she spends thousands of euros on booze (see video below) and eats out for every meal. The amount of designer clothes she owns is mind boggling, she even wears Chanel for running! She puts terrible selfies on Instagram which somehow get tonnes of likes and she becomes an influencer, despite little thought being put into her Instagram strategy.
Honestly, Emily is pretty insufferable, but as a fan of loathsome characters, I enjoy how grating she is and cringing over it. She is the only person I have come across who could possibly get culture shock in France! Every aspect of French culture she believes is somehow baffling. She describes the language as “F’d up”, the French as rude, wants to 'educate' them on good customer service and can’t understand why the dates are reversed. She is arrogant, goes into everything all guns blazing, disagrees with her colleagues’ ideas and shouts over them in meetings. All her own ideas for marketing strategies are a bit silly, go wrong initially but then seem to come off in the end and get retweeted by Brigitte Macron. But main problem with Emily seems to be the fact that she doesn't learn or try to better herself from any of her adventures and mistakes, and this makes it hard to decide if we are supposed to dislike her or root for her?
Emily’s colleagues dislike her initially and think she is a basic bitch. They call her 'la ploc' and 'ringarde' but come around to her eventually. It is true, she is a bit 'Live, Laugh, Love'. Her most highbrow cultural references are Ratatouille and Gossip Girl, although she did read The Second Sex in college (well most of it). Let’s face it, we have all had to work with someone like Emily and rolled our eyes over their need to stick their beak into everything. However, in the age of working from home and lack of workplace gossip I have relished in bitching about Emily with friends, as if she were our colleague. In particular, we enjoyed complaining about how her incredibly stupid Instagram posts got so many likes when they are just vapid selfies with lowest common denominator captions and pictures of strangers she has taken without their consent!
Just to make herself a bit more unlikeable Emily manages to get herself involved in a love triangle with her friend Camille and her boyfriend Gabriel. She keeps accidentally snogging Gabriel when she’s drunk, feels guilty about it for 10 minutes afterwards and then forgets and does it again. In the final episode Camille and Gabriel break up and it takes her about 15 minutes to jump into bed with Gabriel afterwards. Much speculation has been put into whether they should try the “third way” after Emily also manages to also kiss Camille on the lips by “accident” on their first meeting. Maybe they will look at the possibility of moving forward as a three in series 2!
To be fair Emily is not the only odious character in the show, most of them are questionable. Sylvie (her boss) is basically Miranda Priestly from the Devil Wears Prada; Antoine (one of her clients) is a borderline sex pest; plus, Emily’s ex-boyfriend from Chicago is so boring he cannot comprehend leaving the USA to come and visit her, so dumps her.
On the other hand, Emily does have some positive characteristics. The main one being the incredible ability to go out on the lash every night, without getting a hangover! Somehow, after a big night on the tiles, she is still jogging down the Seine at 8am the next morning and turns up to work looking immaculate. Surely at least one day she could have arrived 30 mins late, stinking of booze, in last night’s makeup/outfit and spent the rest of the day trying to get through her meetings without falling asleep and/or throwing up on any of her colleagues (not that I have ever done this before).
There is only one episode where she has a slight semblance of a hangover: the car crash episode in which Emily sleeps with Camille’s 17-year-old brother by accident. The age of consent in France is 15, but this whole episode just has a odd vibe. It is unclear how old Emily is supposed to be (Lily Collins is 32) but with her Disney Channel wardrobe and extreme naivety its hard to discern Emily's age. I would guess late 20's. The 17-year-old, genuinely seduces Emily by telling her that the first champagne glass was modelled on Marie Antoinette’s breasts, like Will Mackenzie from The Inbetweeners (for any readers overseas this is a British comedy about some very crass teenage school boys) and she somehow thinks this is the sexiest thing ever!
To be fair she must have been rat-arsed by this point as this is her most prolific day of drinking. She starts at 12pm on a tour of Camille's families champagne ranch (the other guests take the mick out her for downing her drinks) and she is still going strong at midnight. The morning after is pretty mortifying as she has a huge love bite on her neck and it all comes out about her and 17-year-old Timothée over breakfast with his family. His mother genuinely asks if Emily if her son is a good lover, whilst Emily is trying to pitch some dreadful marketing strategies for the champagne business. It just left me thinking, who could possibly think any part of this episode was a good idea!
Of course, I have to mention the fashion which for me is my favourite thing about the show! I do genuinely dress a bit like Emily, so at first, I was a bit annoyed she had nicked my style. But she pulled it off so well, I got over it! She has appropriated Disney Channel fashion for the late 20's professional, and it's sickening! The bright colours, clashing patterns, crazy ankle boots and metallic jackets are all things I do actually have in my wardrobe and I am now desperate to go out and wear them! The clothes were designed by Patricia Field who styled Sex and the City and you can definitely see the influence, Carrie Bradshaw looked pretty wacky 80% of the time.
There were a few outfits which I did have to draw the line at, as they were just silly. The Ron Weasley at the prom look? (see video above and then just google 'Ron Weasley prom'). Wearing a beret, a bag printed with the Mona Lisa and a shirt with the Eiffel Tower on at your job in Paris is super basic! What is she going to wear in the office if she goes to Germany next, Lederhosen?
Let’s be serious for a moment, there are many points which have been written in articles slating the show which do bring up some valid points. The clichés about the French are just so exaggerated they almost feel offensive at times. Comments about the show having a diversity problem are true - it has a very limited cast of non-white characters. The cast is also not diverse in other ways with most characters being unrealistically stereotypically attractive. This is then amplified by throwaway fatphobic jokes around ‘Why are Americans so fat?” and several suggestions Emily should ‘just stop eating and have a cigarette for lunch’, which, considering Lily Collins has been pretty open about her eating disorder and is still very thin in this, feels awkward and unnecessary!
Overall, I have to say I have enjoyed Emily in Paris. Of course it's garbage, but if it made sense and Emily was likeable I think it would be boring - the appeal is that it is ridiculous! Plus, to be honest, I am jealous of Emily. While we are stuck at home, she is off having wacky adventures and doing the sort of things I would like to be doing if life were ‘normal’. Her life is a lot like how I spent my 20’s, except I was in London and there was less much Chanel! I did, however, enjoy many nights out per week dressed like I was about to appear on RuPaul's Drag Race, spent a lot of time in Instagram and tried to do as little work as possible most of the time because I was quite tired (hungover). I do hope I was a bit less annoying whilst doing all this though!
Next series I would love to see how Emily gets on somewhere with a wider cultural difference to see how bad her culture shock becomes. Maybe Pyongyang, since photography has strict rules in North Korea. Pictures of monuments depicting President Kim Il Sung or General Kim Jong Il should be taken in full without cropping and if you are to appear in these photos yourself you must stand straight with your hands by your sides. I am pretty sure Emily would be in trouble by day 2 as there is no way that she would be able to comprehend this! Or perhaps Emily in Moscow. I would love to see her in some fabulous fur coats and Soviet-style hats. Although I wonder if her alcohol tolerance would be as high if she was downing shots of vodka!
This is what inspired by paste up piece (above) 'Emily in Dystopia'. If Emily can get so many likes on such boring Instagram content imagine the follower count she could achieve if she could Instagram the apocalypse! The piece also a comment on influencers taking photos in inappropriate places such as the 'Sick Sexy Selfies in the Chernobyl Nuclear Death Zone' incident. This questions the limits a person would go to to gain social media followers, and where the line is on inappropriate content. Finally, I also realised mid-way through illustrating this that there are similarity's between this piece and a picture of Tony Blair who was Photoshopped by artist Kennard Phillipps to appear in front of a blazing oil field in Iraq as an anti war protest piece. Although Emily would not be responsible for the destruction in the way that many people feel Blair was, I'm sure she wouldn't want to miss the opportunity to exploit the situation for her own gain.