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Opinion – Emily in Paris proves cliché tv shows are necessary

It’s the series you love to hate or vehemently hate to love. Riddled with predictable plotlines, exaggerated portrayals of life in the French capital, and no mention of the pandemic or economic inflation – it’s Emily in Paris. But does the show really deserve the scrutiny it gets?

No other Netflix release has received more criticism during our journey into the 2020s than Emily In Paris – a series about a young American influencer who moves to France’s capital city for work.

From the outset, Emily’s colourful outfits, sprightly attitude, and laisse-fair approach to learning the local language make her stick out like a sore thumb in her newfound home. Perhaps the only thing she gets right is her decision to munch on a warm pain au chocolat upon arrival.

Case in point, the plotline is rife with clichés that accumulate from early on. From the experience of being an ex-pat in the workplace, to falling in love with generically hot Frenchmen, and most prominently, through a highly embellished portrayal of Parisian culture itself.

The show’s frequently exaggerated and outdated depictions of life in Paris have pissed so many French people off that the New Yorker interviewed them about it. ‘Ridiculé!’ they scoff comically at it all.

Regardless, Emily in Paris was confirmed for a second and third season faster than any other show on the streaming platform. For viewers like me, the public’s reaction to its light-hearted and easily-to-digest subject matter has us wondering: when did everybody become so cynical?

Let’s be clear. Emily in Paris is not the first show to sugar-coat the realities of surviving adult life inside a metropolis.

Sex and the City saw weekly newspaper advice columnist Carrie Bradshaw residing in a spacious apartment in New York’s Upper East Side. It overlooked Central Park and was encircled by designer shops and high-end restaurants she often frequented.

From the 90s and into today, viewers accepted that maintaining this lifestyle stretched well beyond the capacity of Carrie’s estimated salary, yet we ignore these details for the sake of enjoying the story. Because humans like – and arguably need – an outlet of escapism.

Another example is House, a programme about a mentally ill, pharmaceutical-addicted medical doctor. In reality, House would’ve terrified his New Jersey patients and been fired for malpractice in every single episode. Yet the show went on to win 17 awards including a Golden Globe, numerous Emmys, and at least one Peabody.

Along with these examples, countless other series have depicted various levels of absurdity while maintaining their popularity and cult-like followings over the last two decades.

Judging by the reactions to the newly arrived Emily In Paris though, audiences have changed massively since then. Along with these changes, it seems the bar for consistency and realism in entertainment has been raised too.

Modern audiences are far quicker to sound the bullshit alarm on the things they witness on screen.

Whether it’s badly rendered CGI or inaccurately depicted cultural and financial realities, production companies can no longer gloss over crucial details with as much ease.

As Gen Z grows older and makes increasingly refined demands for the content available to them, it will be interesting to see whether TV shows sharing a genre with Emily In Paris will survive. Especially given that this generation is the most politically, financially, and culturally aware yet.

It’s anybody’s guess, considering the substantially dramatised depiction of high school life in Euphoria had young audiences in a chokehold since 2019. The fact that its cast members were dripped in designer clothing despite being aged sixteen didn’t seem to harm its success.

Granted, it’s possible that stretching the truth is more widely accepted when it doesn’t involve blending cultures and geographical locations. With globalisation only growing further, this is something producers and directors will have to come to grips with.

Wrapping this up, I’m willing to admit that perhaps Emily’s character profile is just too cringe-worthy for some to enjoy.

Doubling as a social media influencer while very obviously winging it at a French marketing agency with a toddler-level understanding of the national language can come across a little jarring at times.

But after breezing through the first season of Emily in Paris in 2020, I was surprised to feel my scepticism towards the show dwindling. As for many others, it was a breath of fresh air during yet another winter lockdown.

For a long time, my ideal evening of binge-watching Netflix involved documentaries about murder mysteries, espionage, and political scandals. But through cheesy shows like Emily In Paris, I’m learning that a plotline doesn’t have to be complex, twisted, or dark for it to be worth following.

Minor details don’t have to mirror real life with 100 percent accuracy for a show to be enjoyable. Seriously, how drab would that be? And how many fiction shows are written that way, anyway?

Sometimes all you need is a little escapism. And after the last couple of years we’ve all had, why the hell not?


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