The French Have Spoken — Netflix’s ‘Emily In Paris’ Fails to Impress Parisians

From An American in Paris to Midnight in Paris, the City of Lights has long been a screen favorite, so it follows that Netflix would want to add to that allure with Emily in Paris.  Unfortunately, the reaction of many French people, and Parisians in particular, has not been complimentary.

Indeed, the French have been rough on the Lily Collins vehicle – so much so that there have been articles specifically about their displeasure. Stateside, the show has fared somewhat better, but Emily in Paris has not attracted the kind of attraction Netflix would want. 

Lily Collins and Lucas Bravo in 'Emily In Paris' | Stephanie Branchu / Netflix
Lily Collins and Lucas Bravo in ‘Emily In Paris’ | Stephanie Branchu / Netflix

What is ‘Emily in Paris?’

The show comes with a high pedigree, being produced by Darren Star, who made Beverly Hills 90210 and Sex in the City. Collins has long been poised to become a breakout star, with appearances in the likes of The Blind Side and Mirror Mirror. Collins plays a marketing professional at an American company that acquires a luxury French firm. Alas, Emily’s boss (Kate Walsh) can’t transfer to Paris, forcing the company to rely on the less experienced Collins.

The show has been received fairly positively here, with the Rotten Tomatoes score being an OK 63 percent. The critical consensus reads, “Though its depiction of France is tré cliché, Emily in Paris is rom-com fantasy at its finest, spectacularly dressed and filled with charming performances.”

The Hollywood Reporter praised the show, saying it was “strikingly watchable, an escapist confection brimming with easily digestible plots, costumes, and characters.” However, the publication said the problem starts with the character of Emily, whose ignorance is more off-putting than guileless. 

Why do the French disdain ‘Emily?’

RELATED: ‘Emily in Paris’ Does France Dirty With Cliched and Culture-Deaf Representation

The French have said the show is like a theme park version of their premier city, rife with stereotypes. The review by Premiere said, “We learn that the French are ‘all bad’ (yes, yes), that they are lazy and never arrive at the office before the end of the morning, that they are flirtatious and not really attached to the concept of loyalty, that they are sexist and backward, and of course, that they have a questionable relationship with showering.”

“The berets. The croissants. The baguettes. The hostile waiters. The irascible concierges. The inveterate philanderers. The lovers and the mistresses. Name a cliche about France and the French, you’ll find it in Emily in Paris,” said 20 Minutes, as reported by The Guardian.

Not everyone has been so dismissive – at least not of the show. One person on the review site Allo Cine wrote, “”I’m Polish and I’ve lived in Paris for 14 years. I can tell you: this is exactly how the French are.”

What has the response been to the criticism?

There’s a silver lining to all the criticism.  A Rolling Stone piece says Emily in Paris‘ shallowness is exactly why it’s so compulsively watchable. In a time of relentless bad news, driven by the pandemic, the show is a fun escape,  so to heck with realism. Few people accused Sex in the City of being a realistic portrayal of Manhattan.

“(Emily) is an antidote to millennials’ woes — a representation of the life they were promised that, thanks to the Great Recession, climate change, rising inequality, and now a devastating pandemic, they’ve never seen materialize,” Rolling Stone wrote. 

Indeed, Emily in Paris has hit the zeitgeist enough that it has already been parodied, with an Instagram site mashing it up with this year’s Best Picture Oscar winner Parasite, which was a sharp satire about cultures clashing. The parody may or may not be a compliment, depending on one’s point of view, but not for nothing do people say it’s better to get bad press than no press at all. As time has proven over and over again, repeated complaints about a movie or a TV draw more eyeballs to it, even if the eyes end up rolling.