New television series crosses the line for Westernized thought and offensive French stereotypes
~Ashley McMillan, Arts & Entertainment Editor~
As we grow throughout life, sometimes the most surprising and inconvenient moments are experiences we cherish and grow within most. For the new Netflix original television series, “Emily in Paris,” I began to realize why your 20-something years are a time of reflection yet no expectations. No one expects you to have everything figured out. No one expects you to stay in one city forever until you retire. But for Chicago marketing executive Emily (played by Lily Collins), when she’s given the chance to live her marketing dreams in the beautiful city, she comes to the sudden reflection that she needs a new change of pace.
The show is centered on Emily moving to Paris in replacement of her pregnant boss in order to give a French marketing firm an “American perspective.” Throughout her time there, she uncovers new love interests, new lifestyle passions and new confidence. Her Instagram account, @emilyinparis, gained in popularity during her stay there, showcasing the “that’s so Paris” moments to the worldwide web. Through her Instagram, she encounters opportunities that were unheard for her marketing position, enticing quite the exciting journey for young Emily.
The mise-en-scène of “Emily in Paris” is rather reflective of Hallmark, with its bright and airy atmosphere and corny yet dry dialogue filling up its narrative. With the bright streets contrasting the dark Chicago atmosphere, the difference is starking and ineffective. The two places cannot have such a stark difference, especially since Paris’ climate is rather chillier, but I digress. As each episode filled my time, it only became more and more clear how predictable in nature the show is. The show is full of croissants, love affairs and wine, which as a whole are the bare minimum concepts travel agencies show off in commercials; Paris is more than the stereotype Western civilization has created. The props and scenery emphasized in the series could’ve been utilized easily, but rather instead gave an offensive and stereotypical vision of France. Additionally, as much as the clothes were fabulous and outlandish, the show’s costuming was out-of-date and unrealistic. I understand that French fashion is modern, clean and expensive in contrast to American fashion, but with Emily’s income it tragically makes no sense.
Beyond those critiques, I want to bring light to the Westernized perspective on the French culture. When Emily is in Paris, there is clearly a “comical” stereotype in the French community, which honestly is disrespectful more than it intends to be humorous. Emily is symbolized as the innocent American, maddened by the “infidelity” that happens behind “French closed doors.” Additionally, French characters are exhibited as easily agitated individuals, rather than the ever-so-patient American. From these critiques, it’s clear that Americans are put on a pedestal when in such a new country or environment, as if the American life is the mainstream lifestyle in comparison to other cultures, and anything besides their lifestyle is “unnatural.” This concept is also showcased when Emily arrives in Paris with high expectations for herself as an American, downplaying the French marketing agency as an “other” in the marketing world. This American optimism only promotes Westernized thought. Throughout the entirety of “Emily in Paris,” it’s clear that the lack of realistic qualities of the Paris lifestyle only connects this series as an easy-to-watch group activity when nothing else is available for easy binge-streaming.
If you’re looking for a television series to play easily in the background when you study, I highly recommend watching the Netflix Original television series “Emily in Paris.” I love Lily Collins as much as the next person, but this series did not present her talents in a good light.