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This episode features our frequent and very popular guest Elyse Rivin. If you enjoy her episodes, please consider supporting her on Patreon.
Everybody is talking about Emily in Paris. Elyse and I watched it together and we took some notes on our reactions. I must confess that we only watched two episodes, and we already have a lot to say! This is our perspective from a French perspective. While Elyse isn't technically French, she's lived in France so long she's forgetting her English 😉 Click play, let’s see if you agree with us!
Why Is Emily in Paris Getting So Much Attention?
Big name newspapers and magazines are all talking about this show which is surprising because it is very new. It probably has to do with the fact that we can't travel right now and going to Paris on TV is better than not going at all. The fact that this show has become controversial is also playing in its favor. People have to see this show that everyone is talking about.
Emily in Paris is definitely not a documentary. It is more like one stereotype after another and we point them out in our conversation.
Emily in Paris Is Chock-Full of Stereotypes
Stereotypes are helpful in fiction because they allow the writer to make points quickly. Nothing much happens in the show, but boy do they spout stereotypes!
- French men prefer older women. This may be a reference to President Macron, but it's a new stereotype about French people.
- It's nice that they use French songs in the show but these are not songs that we recognize from listening to the radio in France.
- When she walks into her new apartment the concierge gives her the evil eye because she doesn't say "bonjour". She says "hi" which shows she assumes everyone knows English. You have to start off by making an effort to speak some French. You should not walk into a business situation in France with zero French and zero understanding of why that's not acceptable.
- The 5th floor / 4th floor thing comes up several times. Ground level is "rez-de-chaussé" in France, that's 0. We start counting one above ground level whereas Americans say ground level is 1.
- The Realtor who shows her to her "Chambre de Bonne" that looks nothing like a "Chambre de Bonne" hits on her saying it doesn't matter that she has a boyfriend in America, she needs one in France. The stereotype of French men all being overtly interested in sex. They are typically more subtle than that.
- Emily shows up at the office on her first day with a shirt that has an Eiffel Tower print on it. She's too flashy.
- Annie doesn't think the lady at the boulangerie would ever correct someone for using the wrong article, but Elyse says it's happened to her. Sylvie, the boss tells her not to bother to learn French because she'd be terrible at it.
- On her first day at the job French people explain to Emily how all Americans are fat while they smoke in the office. The fat/smoker thing is established early on in the show and comes back several times.
- There are many French people who believe that when you stop smoking you gain 5 kilograms. But even with that, French people are quitting smoking fast. Both Annie and Elyse know people who used to smoke and have quit and none who are still smoking. It's only a minority of French people who smoke today, this stereotype is dated.
- Sylvie says "Without pleasure what are we? Germans?" This is definitely something French people might say and something that would make us laugh.
- Luke asks Emily why she is shouting. It is true that in France kids are raised to keep their voice down generally and that Americans would do well to be more discreet in France.
- The whole city is like Ratatouille! Really? That's what she knows about France? Ratatouille and Saving Private Ryan? This is the idiot American stereotype. Everyone gets stereotyped in Emily in Paris!
- It is true that hall lights are all on short timers in France and that's annoying. But electricity is expensive in France! Now we have phones with flashlights so it's not such a big deal, but growing up in France Annie always looked to see where the light switch were.
- French people are lazy and don't go to work until 10:30 in the morning. That stereotype is false. Taking a 3 hour lunch isn't OK either any more for most people. This is an old trope about French civil servants doing nothing all day and it's not been correct for a long time.
- Nobody wants to have lunch with her on her first day. That's possible. There are snobby work environments in France. Not most places thankfully, but it happens.
- She goes to eat lunch alone on the benches of the Palais Royal and that's where she meets Mindy. Do French women as scantily as Mindy? French people hate the idea that women should dress conservatively because men can't control themselves. But in reality most French women dress conservatively at work.
- Mindy says "Some places people gossip behind your back, but French people are mean to your face!" French people are very blunt. Annie has an American friend who says "If you want to know the truth, ask a child or a French person!"
- French people who wok in social media wouldn't be so afraid of English that they run off. That stereotype is very overdone in the show.
- The term "plouc" is something kids call one-another. It means hick or farm boy. It doesn't fit Emily at all. And if Emily doesn't speak French she would have no idea how to spell it. French people would have chosen a much more refined insult because our language is full of them.
- Luc says "Americans live to work and French people work to live". This is actually true. French people value quality of life over money.
- Emily is early to work on her second day. A co-worker tells her not to show up early. That is true. In France you're supposed to be competent and professional but not come across as too eager.
- Emily steps on dog poop coming out of her posh apartment. This stereotype is old and it would not be the case today, Paris (and all of France) has come a long way in teaching people to pickup after their dogs.
- Sylvie explains to Emily that she shouldn't be an open book. It's better to be mysterious, sophisticated and hard to get. That stereotype is actually true.
- Antoine Lambert the "nose" comes across as sleaze ball. Dominant males in France can come across like that. I'm better than you, I dress better, I talk better. The concept of dominant male in France is nothing like what you're used to in America.
- There's a suggestion that French women sleep with their bosses and clients and American women don't. We highly doubt that. But French and Italian women are more likely to talk about it.
- It is common for French women who know their husbands are cheating on them not to get a divorce. They don't see why they should have to give up their standard of living and comfortable life because he cheated. French people don't care as much about politician's private life and shenanigans, but that's changing with social media.
- Emily's steak is too rare and she tries to send it back and the cook comes out to explain to her that she's wrong. That's actually happened to Elyse. French people have strong opinions about what you eat, when you eat, how you eat it, etc. That's one of the reasons why we've kept our food traditions strong. But it's annoying. Emily in Paris gets that one right.
- It is also very French to do what you want and go against the grain. You can get along just fine as a woman in France without makeup or jewelry, but you have to be ready to own it.
- When Emily takes a selfie with the bakery lady, there's a sign that goes up for a second that says "Bonjour goes a long way", so clearly somebody on that show knows what they're talking about.
- French actors and actresses on the series are beautiful but not perfect, they look like real people.
- Why is "le vagin" a masculine word? Carla Bruni texts Brigitte Macron to tell her about this product and it take off. That's not realistic but it was funny. And French nominal genders make no sense.
Emily in Paris is unrealistic and entertaining at the same time. TV being unrealistic and full of stereotypes is not new. This show is escapist, pleasant, and the production quality is high. It will probably introduce a whole new generation of young people to Paris and we love that. We really hate that it'll instill the same old stereotypes in all these new people. We'd love more subtle dialog. @JohnAugust to the rescue?
B.J. Harrisson's version of the Hunchback of Notre Dame