Blending skyscrapers in a smog-filled sky with cobblestone streets and romantic cafés, Netflix’s newest original series, Emily In Paris, takes us on a cross-cultural journey. Without leaving our living rooms, we board our brain-planes and experience the vast differences between Chicago and Paris. Emily In Paris, starring Lily Collins as Emily Cooper, showcases the struggles of culture clash and the contrasts between North American and European work ethics.
In this comedy-drama, Emily is a twenty-something marketing professional in Chicago who gets promoted to a fashion firm in Paris. Her limited knowledge of the industry, love for social media, and inability to speak French pose immediate red flags for the Parisians. By immersing herself within the culture and finding English-speaking friends, Emily finds love and success in her work while retaining her “American” self.
Throughout the show, Emily is naïve. Her character cannot adapt to her new workplace and instead touts American practices as the only correct marketing approach. She favours social media. Her platforms, Instagram, in particular, helped her career flourish in Chicago and encourages her company to do the same. From this, the series suggests that social media marketing is only pertinent to North Americans and that Europeans aren’t educated on its potential. Is this true? Likely not, given how pervasive social media is across the globe.
Meanwhile, the show depicts Parisians as being exclusively bitter. Most of the lead French characters don’t like or agree with Emily’s “American” perspective and instead favour their lives outside of work. One of the most memorable lines in the series comes from Emily’s co-worker, Luc, who says, “I think the Americans have the wrong balance. You live to work. We work to live.” This phrase mirrors the rest of the series, as Emily tries to find happiness in her work above all else.
Darren Star, American writer, and creator of Emily In Paris, posits that the show is an outsider perspective of Parisian life. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Star said, “The show is a love letter to Paris through the eyes of this American girl who has never been there… the first things she sees are the clichés because it’s from her point of view.” By clichés, Star refers to the Parisian characteristics previously mentioned: the lacklustre work ethics and bitter personalities, among other traits.
The show upholds the American perspective and leaves little room to deliberate the nuances of work-life balance. Although it is a fictional narrative, I question whether Emily In Paris holds any truth in its cultural critiques.
While watching the show, I thought realistically about careers in marketing and the arts overall. It’s tough to get noticed, especially as a young professional with little experience. According to Emily in Paris, hard work, dedication, and passion are the keys to success. Yet, Emily embodies all these characteristics and still doesn’t find much success in Paris. Are these work values not universal? The show does little to clarify.
Although binge-worthy for its romance, comedy, and beautiful scenery, Emily In Paris leaves many questions unanswered and up for interpretation. It’s full of clichés, favours the North American perspective, and becomes easily forgettable. If you seek a show to kill time and go on a virtual Paris vacation, I’d recommend Emily In Paris. But, if you seek a show with unique insights on cultural divides and real-life work ethics, then look elsewhere.