'Emily in Paris' has been accused of recycling tired cliches of the French capital Photo: AFP/File

'Emily in Paris': the myth of 'la vie en rose' lives on


Love it, hate it or love to hate it: the smash-hit Netflix series "Emily in Paris", which perpetuates long-held fantasies about the City of Light involving berets and pleasure-loving Frenchies, leaves no one indifferent.

After "An American in Paris," "Funny Face," "Moulin Rouge" or "Amelie", the rose-tinted, romanced vision of Paris -- with Instagram a new arrival -- is once again laid out in all its glory in one of the most-watched series of the moment.

Many French critics have castigated the 10-episode series, tired of seeing Parisians portrayed as suspicious concierges, unfriendly bakers or waiters, or snobbish, lazy and/or flirty colleagues.

The American heroine, meanwhile, doesn't seem to ever take the metro and lives in an attic room once supposedly used for maids that is implausibly big, above a handsome neighbor who is just as implausible.

It is a sugarcoated reality that irritates Lindsey Tramuta, an American writer who has lived in Paris for 15 years.

Tramuta has written "The New Paris" and "The New Parisienne" in which she tries to show there is much more to the city than old-worldly brasseries and corner cafes.

"We are in 2020 and we are still recycling the old cards," she says, pointing to an economic and social reality that is overlooked in a city that has experienced jihadist attacks, the Yellow Vests protest movement and mass strikes.

"It is not a harmless series of cliches," she adds. "When Paris is portrayed incessantly that way, for generations, it contributes to a problematic long term understanding of the place itself."

One of these problems is the so-called Paris syndrome, which people have come to call the acute disappointment felt by some tourists when they arrive in the capital and see it as it is.

For Tramuta, the rose-tinted portrayal "is an example of the way Paris is exploited by film companies, luxury brands, authors, it makes the city look like an Instagram-filtered playground".

Criticised too for magnifying the French-US culture clash, "Emily in Paris" has nevertheless found success in recycling the decades-old cliches and Netflix is entirely at ease with that.

"If Emily had come to your city and not 'in Paris', what would the big cliches of the series be?," it joked on Twitter.

"Take Emily in Marseille = it's always sunny, the old port smells of sardines and Jul wanders the streets," it added, referring to a rapper born in the French southern city.

For Agnes Poirier, the author of "Left Bank," a book on Paris's post-war intellectual and cultural life, "cliches all have an element of truth or they wouldn't be cliches.

"Also, cliches die hard. And in comparison to American cities, yes, Paris looks and feels romantic and the French have a different and more tolerant attitude to extramarital affairs and marriage."

But, she adds: "Paris and Parisians fascinate for what are now, alas, purely historical reasons," referring to the books or films that have created the image of "the city of love", of unrestrained sexuality or of living the good life.

Ines de la Fressange, a fashion designer and co-author of the bestselling lifestyle book "La Parisienne," says it might all be a dream Paris, but with "a little bit of truth in it all" nevertheless.

"We often forget that Americans see Paris as a type of Disneyland -- Emily takes a selfie with a pain au chocolat," says the former model.

"But in New York, we too are amazed by the Empire State Building. Right now, Paris is suffering from a lack of tourists. If cliches on gastronomy, elegance and beauty make people want to come here, it's not a problem."

And the series, created by Darren Star who also made "Sex and the City", has sparked a deluge of tweets from foreigners saying they want to live in Paris after having seen the series.

"It is a silly and funny rom com that a lot of foreigners can relate to," says Lane Nieset, an American freelance journalist who specialises in travel and gastronomy and has lived in Paris for nearly two years.

"For the Americans, the French still represent the epitome of class and sophistication. And at a time of coronavirus pandemic when they can't travel, it makes them dream, it is an escape".

© 2020 AFP

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

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As the French say, Paris is a great and beautiful city except for the people. The barista pretended not to no what an espresso meant when I said may I please have an espresso. Rudest city I’ve ever been to and have no plans to go back unless absolutely necessary

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The series is not just full of clichés, but also constant and ridiculous inconsistencies (e.g. in one scene French people speak French to each other, in the next, they speak English, even there's no American to be seen on the screen), and it has a very annoying way of portraying the American Emily as some kind of 'hero' who always solves the problems, has a magical way of befriending top designers etc, even though she is in a way, an intern. "The American way" is seen as the only "correct" way of doing things, American values are seen as the only "good" values. (I've found myself to agree with the Frenchies in the series pretty much all the time..)

Reality is completely missing from the series. I'm not sure who the series is made for? 12 year old girls, young adults or middle-aged people? I'd say it has too much sexual content and booze for the kids, but too much girly naivety and insta-loving for anyone older.

YES. I'm one of those who "loves to hate it" I guess, one of those who can't stop watching, for some reason.

I do enjoy the pretty as a picture scenes and colors. I'm simultaneously both amused and annoyed by the naivety and the inconsistencies.

I wish someone made a more realistic series though, about foreigners (not just Americans) who move to different cities - the struggles, the cultural features and differences, the discoveries, the joys.. You could make several seasons out of this; Paris, London, Berlin, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro,....

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Emily in Paris is a joke.

It is a hollywood making series.

Paris, city of sin : "French parisian" people are scarce and hidden, streets full of filth, rudeness at every corner, pickpockets in every metro, more tramps than inhabitants, prices for tourists only, regular terrorist att.acks, strikes for no reason in public means of transport. What else ? I forgot : toilets are not free.

All above not cliches.

Emily should rather go in the countryside where life is still vivid and you get real French cliches.

One cannot imagine the percentage of French who dislike Paris for good reasons.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

As the French say, Paris is a great and beautiful city except for the people. The barista pretended not to no what an espresso meant when I said may I please have an espresso. Rudest city I’ve ever been to 

People always say that about their biggest cities. I haven't spent a lot of time in Paris, but I have never encountered this mythical rudeness. I don't speak French, but "un café s'il vous plaît" isn't all that difficult to say. I am not in love with the city, but I have enjoyed my time with the locals and, yes, even the waiters. I think a lot of Americans run into trouble because they expect a big American smile instead of a scowl, then they give a bad attitude back and it's all downhill from there.

French scowl. Let it go. Next thing you know you'll have a new friend.

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