Seen/Heard/Read

Emily in Paris: Some Possibly Unsaid Things

What can I add that hasn’t been said already… Well, just in case, I could add the trailer.

The internet was talking about this so much, I just couldn’t stand aside, though I’m often able to, content to wait until the noise dies down and it’s quiet enough for me to think for myself. I got wind of the reactions and reviews before I’d even seen the trailer or had any clue Emily in Paris existed. I was enjoying the stuff people were posting and writing so much, I just had to see what it was all about. Luckily, with only ten episodes available to stream so far, this was doable in less than a week. Paris is, fortunately, a big part of my life, and I miss it very much these days. This was part of the reason, as it might have been for many others, that I dived right in. I’m neither French or American, but here’s what I have to say. Warning, minor spoilers ahead.

The whole not speaking French and getting a job in Paris thing…

OK, so the opportunity to go work in Paris for a year basically fell into Emily’s lap unexpectedly, so one could argue that she simply didn’t have time to learn French or never considered she would need to. What’s interesting is that despite the language class she does start attending during the series, or the amount of French she hears around her on a daily basis (because if you go to France, there is NO WAY to avoid hearing French everywhere A LOT, duh), neither seems to be having any visible impact on her. Her Bonjour and Très stubbornly retain the American R in every episode. Sure, some sounds take work to reproduce properly when you’re learning a foreign language. But the implication is also that it’s impossible for her to pronounce things the correct way, which brings me to my next point…

The horribly cliché representation of French people…and of Americans?

Fair point, enough said. But aren’t Americans, through our heroine, also represented in a cliché way? Just like not every single French person exhibits all the, um, qualities depicted in the show, surely not every single American disregards the importance of learning the language of the country they find themselves in, only goes so far as to look for daily interpreters, expects everyone to speak English, treats Paris as a playground and is ready to confidently instruct anyone how to do life and work? I can’t decide whether the show is meant to show actual belief in what Emily represents or her character is supposed to remind us that, yes, such people do still exist, and it’s not the best thing. In fact, I’m wondering, is she full of clichés or is she simply almost fascinatingly clueless? Basically, is the show painting ALL of its characters with the same brush, regardless of their nationality?

But back to French things and Paris

My travel-hungry eyes feasted on every single shot of Paris cleaner than I have ever seen it. Than anyone has ever seen it, probably. The visuals are wonderful and that’s fine. It was also less crowded than I’ve experienced it in tourist areas, which is also a fantasy I’m willing to accept. The city is, of course, about so much more than its visual appeal, which seems to be the only dimension capturing Emily and her phone so far. Paris is a whole world onto itself, and I’m not sure this is possible to convey through the current concept of the series. Maybe that’s not supposed to happen. But still, Emily biting into her first pain au chocolat and reducing it to a “Oh my God, butter and chocolate” combination? Non. Emily rejecting her rare steak because it’s “wrong”, without having done some prior research or politely asking before ordering? Non. Emily making fun of how the French say her last name? See above for Bonjour and Très. Non. Emily wearing berets every chance she gets, because we are clearly expecting this from Paris fashion? Non. I’m surprised the striped shirt hasn’t made an appearance yet. Emily being rudely dictated which roses she is allowed to buy by the lady who sells them? Non.

Then there’s all that stuff about French guys

My impression is that the two recurring points in the online debates on this topic are whether Gabriel is likable and how realistic it is to have an attractive downstairs neighbor when you move into your Parisian apartment. Point two gets a quicker answer: sometimes you have attractive neighbors, sometimes you don’t. But it’s definitely an issue to be addressed for all those ambitious dreamers moving to Paris. As well as the fact that said neighbor should come with the following attributes: either single and honest about it OR taken and honest about it. On the other hand, he might just want his privacy, like any normal person. Now to point one. Is Gabriel likable? He’s very attractive, he’s got that whole smize thing going on, he’s easily confident around women, he considers it a normal reaction to kiss a woman who is not his girlfriend back after she kisses him…this isn’t just a French thing or a French guy. Take away the beautiful language, the seamless flirting (let’s give him that one), and you will find this guy in many, many countries. As well as the guy who told Emily what he liked after the dinner party her friend Mindy threw, the older leering men (not so sure about the lingerie gift delivered to work, though, but hey, it’s fiction), the confident mansplainer.

Finally…

So many shows have provoked questions not dissimilar to those following Emily in Paris. Wow, see what I did there, see it? It’s a fine line between escapism and how far you can suspend disbelief while still being able to relate to characters and events. Because no matter how much switching off happens in the brain, there has to be some connection felt to what’s on the screen. Bottom line, they achieved what they set out to do. I’ve watched it all, I’ve contributed to views, I’m writing way more about it than I intended and I’m probably not even the target audience. Et voilà.

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