A friend texted me a couple weeks ago, “Have you seen Emily in Paris?”
After eleven years as an expat in Paris, I’ve only recently returned home to the US, following a hell of a lot of heartache—and the general annoyances of living as a foreigner amongst the French. A show about an American in Paris was the last thing I wanted to watch. Triggering much?
But I had a free Saturday and the first thing in my Netflix queue was, oui, Emily in Paris. The trailer looked cute, bright and brainless. I realized it was a Darren Star creation—he of Sex and the City and Younger.
Five hours later, I’d gobbled the entire season—like a box of Pierre Hermé macarons—and marveled at how Star was able to charm me, the most anti-Francophile around, with his version of the City of Lights.
Emily in Paris doesn’t go deep. The gorgeous Emily (Lily Collins) inanely chatters her way through the French—they hate that—while navigating the cobblestone streets in designer stilettos and a Patricia Field wardrobe she can’t afford as a Midwestern marketing exec. Emily’s berets are unironic and she grams her pain au chocolat like any basic bitch worth her 20K followers. She’s also pursued by one ridiculously hot guy after another in, like, every episode.
By now, I’ve read several articles lambasting the above as well as the stereotypical, clichéd and unrealistic portrayal of Paris and the French.
Oh, come on.
This vivid, half-hour confection is not meant to be a searing, insightful portrait of the French—though there are moments that try to bridge the cultural divide with swift exposition* from lovable office weirdo, Luc. It’s meant to be a sweet, nearly cloying fantasy of a place many young women dream about.
Emily is living her best vie en rose and even as someone who’s on a one-person crusade to disabuse anyone of their “living-in-Paris dream,” I was seduced by the city’s—and the chef neighbor’s—beauty as seen through
Emily Star’s eyes.
It made me look forward to this trip to Paris. That’s right. I’m writing this from the 10th arrondissement and I’m truly stunned how Emily in Paris has made me appreciate this place more. If that’s not a successful love letter to Paris (which is what Star says his show is), I don’t know what is. Or maybe I’m so exhausted by the hellfire that’s Planet Earth right now, I need to mainline his technicolor Gallic dreamscape.
Read on if you want to know what’s real or not about EiP, according to this former resident. Spoilers ahead. Though you’ve all seen the show by now, non?
* We already know what the Eiffel Tower is thanks to Shonda Rhimes, who explained that sex position in Scandal Season 4, way back in 2014.
Emily In Paris: The Real, The Unreal & The Never Ugly
It’s Always Sunny in Paris – UNREAL
No. It’s not. There are about 3 months of the year that involve sunshine. I’m convinced the terrible weather is what led to Baudelaire’s “spleen”—and the acceptable day drinking. That every single moment Emily spends in Paris is so sunny defies reality and the city’s microclimate.
La Merde – REAL
Much like her predecessor, Carrie Bradshaw, Emily steps into shit (literal, figurative, whatever) more than once. Parisians love their little dogs, but seem to less love picking up after them. After many years of living here, you do gain a superpower: Peripheral Poop Vision.
Clean Streets – UNREAL
Paris is pretty grimy, unless it’s Avenue Montaigne. Emily’s pristine streets, devoid of giant green trashcans overflowing with crap + actual crap, see above, don’t exist.
But even with the gray skies and dogshit, Paris is still the most beautiful city in the world—and that’s coming from the most disillusioned former expat you’ll meet, ever.
Middle-Aged Creeps Clueless About #MeToo – REAL
There was a lot of indignation around EiP’s presenting French dudes as sexist and inappropriate (#NotAllFrenchMen). The show made a passing mention of #BalanceTonPorc, but keep in mind that the woman who started France’s #MeToo movement recently got fined for defamation of her sexual harasser. Sadly REAL.
Middle-aged creeps are everywhere and France most definitely isn’t exempt.
Chef Neighbor Guy Ever – UNREAL & NEVER UGLY
Oh Gabriel, Gabriel, wherefore art thou… Every time he came onscreen, I almost came in my athleisure (channeling my inner Samantha). Mostly, I kept muttering to myself, “WTF? Where in Paris are there guys like this?” He was cheating on his girlfriend, though, so that part was real. From what I’ve seen of my friends’ dating apps, the guys in Paris are more attractive than the ones in New York and LA. Shorter, but hotter.
Guy-candy made this show 75% better. Do you hear me, every showrunner on the planet? Women are thirsty for unrealistic representations of male beauty! [shakes fist]
The Hottest And Nicest French Girlfriend Ever – UNREAL & NEVER UGLY
Speaking of said girlfriend getting cheated on… Camille looks like a Victoria’s Secret Angel and is as nice as Carole Brady. This is not real.
No Parisienne smiles that widely or is that friendly to a pretty American who’s clearly trying to bone her fine, fine boyfriend. If anything, a real Parisienne like Camille would ignore you to flirt and sleep with your boyfriend/husband. (Don’t come for me, Parisiennes. I got that info from one of your own—and also, personal experience.)
Gram-Worthy Pain Au Chocolat – REAL
It may be ringarde to post your pastry, but no matter where I’ve been in the world, NO ONE does croissants and pain au chocolat like the French. (French lesson: There’s no such thing as a “chocolate croissant.”)
France sucks at doughnuts, cookies and cupcakes, but I won’t eat a pain au chocolat anywhere else.
Who’s ready for Season 2?