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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Review: Emily In Paris

Disappointed by the characters in the TV show, yet will watch season two

There are TV shows that we watch that are immeasurably good. They’re entertaining, they’re funny, they check off all the boxes. Shows like “Never Have I Ever” and “Stranger Things” that are undeniably perfect. But then there are shows that you watch for the aesthetic, shows that you watch just to watch. “Emily in Paris” is one of those shows. 

“Emily in Paris” is a comedy-drama Netflix series that follows Emily (played by Lily Collins) as she makes her way through a new job at an unwelcoming marketing firm in Paris. There’s just a couple of holes in Emily’s plan to bring her American perspective to the firm: they don’t want her there and she doesn’t speak French. She doesn’t even know how to say the words “I don’t speak French” in French. She moves into a run-down apartment and works all season to get on her boss’ good side as she deals with multiple romance flings, finds new friends and makes Paris her home. 

As someone who’s never visited any country other than Mexico, my only dream is to travel and see all of the beautiful wonders of the world. When shows like “Emily in Paris” come around that give me a glimpse of what Paris could possibly be like, how could I not want to watch it? And with Lily Collins as the protagonist, I was going to binge it. 

As every Instagram comment has reminded me, the Paris depicted in the show is completely unrealistic and that has led to much criticism. But I’m not watching a show about a social media strategist whose life gets uprooted in Paris for the reality of it. I’m watching it because I want to see the impressive outfits and cringeworthy drama. I’ve seen the show get a good amount of attention and I had a good time watching it. It had its moments. To cut it short, I will be watching season two if it gets renewed. Not because it was particularly good, but because they left off on the worst cliffhanger possible.

Let’s start off with the show itself; any Netflix show has to make me feel like I watched something worthwhile, like I didn’t just sit on my bed all day for nothing. I like to feel that I completed something after binge watching a ten-episode series. But I didn’t get that feeling after finishing “Emily In Paris.” I felt incomplete and not in a good way; the show simply didn’t feel finished. It was a grand mess of an ending.

Along with any TV show I’ve ever reviewed, my main frustration is due to its characters. If a show has obnoxious characters that are completely unrelatable, I won’t continue watching it. Characters are what make something worth watching, so I’m going to start by ripping the main characters to shreds. 

When we first met Emily, I loved her. She was bubbly and determined to do well in her job. We are so often given the broody character to love that it was refreshing to have the main character be the most optimistic one, albeit naive as well. Optimists haven’t received much of a spotlight in recent years and with Gen Z being known for their nihilism, that’s understandable. But Emily had a can-do attitude that I’d love to see more often. She did make some questionable choices throughout the show, but there wouldn’t have been a show without them, so there isn’t too much of a fight there. 

A character trope that I’m tired of is the mean boss. I hate the idea that when women finally climb to the top of a business, they become cold and snotty to other women instead of uplifting them. I never understood this portrayal of women in the media when I was younger and it’s one that I’ve grown to hate. It’s exhausting for women in college to have to fear that this trope may be true. Sylvie (played by Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu), Emily’s boss in Paris, is a powerful woman who isn’t welcome to new ideas and pushes Emily down at every opportunity she has, and it’s exhausting. It’s time to ditch this type of character and move on, because I would love to see more empathetic and helpful women bosses (See: “The Bold Type.”)

Emily’s main love interest is the boy next door. Literally. He lives one flight down from her and he is the most bland character I’ve ever seen as a love interest. This is absolutely devastating because I watched this show solely to fall in love with characters, but instead I only fell in love with the scenery. He’s the type of character that you’re supposed to love, the one who you’re supposed to be rooting for the whole season. I’ll admit, I liked him for the first two episodes. Then it all went downhill because he is one of the worst men on the show. I can’t fathom what was going through the director’s and writer’s heads when they were creating this character; did they really think that he was going to be likable to the public?

For my final criticism: every single one of Emily’s love interests is white. There was one recurring Black character and he was the token side character without a backstory and that’s the biggest disappointment throughout the whole series. It’s boring to only see white men pictured as the romantic partner in a series. 

Now that you’ve read me bash all of the main characters, you might come to ask, so did you actually like anyone? Of course I did, three people to be exact: Camille, Pierre Cadeau and Mindy. Camille should have been the star of the show; she had more personality than every other main character. She was kind to a fault, an actual angel and helped out Emily when she didn’t deserve it. The only reason I’ll be watching this show for season two is in hopes that Camille gets the ending she deserves: a better friend than Emily and a better boyfriend than Gabriel. 

Pierre Cadeau was the dramatic fashion designer whose sanity held on by a thread and I loved it. They gave him a personality and that’s all I wanted in this show. This was the lowest bar as well—I was already invested in the idea of the show, I just needed the characters to have actual character traits and other than these three, everything fell flat. The last character that I liked was Mindy, Emily’s first best friend. We get to see Mindy’s character develop throughout the season as she grows out of her stage fright and pursues her dream of becoming a singer. 

I had a lot of critiques about “Emily in Paris,” but that doesn’t mean that I regret watching it, mostly because I’ll watch anything that Lily Collins is in. It was disappointing and although I enjoyed the views of Paris, we were robbed of something that could have been perfect. But instead, it’s being called out for its French stereotypes and boring characters. 

“Emily in Paris” is a form of romantic escapism and I’m always here for that, it just didn’t quite meet the bar that “Monte Carlo” set for me when I was 11. But as always, you can enjoy something and still be critical of it. 

Written by: Itzelth Gamboa — arts@theaggie.org


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