Do you remember the quote, “Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings” from the film, “It’s A Wonderful Life”?
Well, I’m convinced that every time anyone says « Bonjour » in Emily in Paris, a Francophile is born!
I know, because this is the sort of content I would have eaten up when I was around 12 years old – the age yours truly became a Francophile.
The new Netflix comedy-drama centers around a 20-something marketing professional from Chicago, Emily Cooper (played by Lily Collins). Her boss was supposed to work in Paris for a year, but when she learns she’s pregnant, she sends Emily in her place.
I’m biased so I must say the best part of the show is that it’s set in Paris. It’s all there: seductive sights, high fashion, thrilling romance, and timeless magic in the City of Light.
One of the things I especially like about Emily in Paris is how the show informs viewers about some cultural or linguistic nuances. For example:
- The ground floor of a building is floor zéro (not the first floor)
- Préservatifs are not preserves
- « Je suis excitée » does not exactly translate to “I’m excited” in the sense that you’re really looking forward to something
I also like how the show addresses (in a fun way) some of the so-called Ugly American traits (returning food to be “properly” cooked; speaking loudly), as well as French stereotypes (dog poop everywhere; rude shopkeepers).
Personally I haven’t seen any poodle presents left on the sidewalks of Paris. Shopkeepers aren’t rude, either. Just because many of them don’t flash a big toothy grin (a common American characteristic), it doesn’t mean they’re impolite. In fact, we Americans inadvertently commit a faux pas by not saying « Bonjour » upon entering a shop, which is considered rude.
These bits of dialogue give me the sense that the show had both American and French audiences in mind by providing critiques and teaching moments about both cultures.
My favorite characters
If Emily’s character was the epitome of what it means to be American, then her French counterpart would have to be Sylvie, played by Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu.
My favorite character in the show, Sylvie has the je ne sais quoi of a self-assured woman. Her clothes are understated, yet elegant, which allow her own beauty to shine through. You can almost catch a whiff of her perfume through the screen. Beneath the snarky attitude, you could tell she has a softer side.
Another character I adore is Mindy, played by Ashley Park. Aside from being a good friend to Emily, I love her humor, outspokenness, and ability to speak English, Mandarin, and French. Who doesn’t aspire to be a polyglot?
For all the delightful parts, there were several parts that were so unrealistic, you just had to shrug it off – Bof! For example:
- Emily doesn’t speak French, but she was sent in place of her boss to work for a French company
- Emily is hired to bring an American perspective yet she is chastised for being American (smiling too much; talking about work at a party; and arriving early/on-time for work)
- Even after a run, Emily’s hair and makeup are intact
- There are impossibly handsome men at every turn and every one of them falls in love with Emily
- The First Lady of France helped one of Emily’s Instagram posts go viral
There’s a scene where Emily talks about the importance of teamwork, saying there’s no “I” in team. Then Sylvie points out that the French word for team is équipe, which does have an “I” in it. It goes to show that some jokes don’t translate well between French and English.
About teamwork, Emily doesn’t always practice what she preaches. Whenever there’s a problem, she does very little consulting with the team. But soon enough, voilà, problem is solved. Emily saves the day.
That said, longtime Francophiles like me will find the show a fun escape – much needed in these challenging times.
What I’d like to tell budding Francophiles watching Emily in Paris is: Go ahead and indulge in the visuals that the show offers – they are real places and they are beautiful – but one must also have realistic expectations when visiting Paris.
- your hair won’t always be as shiny and wavy like Emily’s
- your appartement likely won’t have an incredible view of the Parisian rooftops
- your neighbors won’t necessarily be Harry Styles clones who also happen to be talented chefs
Finally, I’d tell first-time visitors to France that greeting the shopkeeper « Bonjour » is always a good idea!
Have you seen Emily in Paris? Did you love it or hate it?