“Emily in Paris” Will Make You a Francophile

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

Emily and Mindy enjoy a meal here

How cliché

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).

Perhaps I’d been wearing rose-colored glasses, but I don’t recall seeing 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?

Bof!

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.

For example:

  • 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?

Why You Shouldn’t Cancel Netflix over Cuties (Mignonnes)

[Image: Netflix] Medina El Aidi (Angelica) & Fathia Youssouf Abdillahi (Amy)

Cuties (Mignonnes)

Cuties (Mignonnes) is an award-winning French film written and directed by Maïmouna Doucouré.

It tells the story of an 11-year-old Muslim girl who just moved with her family to France from Senegal. At her new school, she observes an energetic group of girls dancing. Eager to fit in, Amy makes friends with them and quickly learns their modest dance moves. They want to enter a dance competition and Amy is convinced that adding provocative choreography like the kind she has seen in music videos will help them win.

Controversy

You may have heard about the recent backlash on social media with thousands of people urging others to join them in canceling their Netflix subscriptions because of the film’s content.

Suddenly, everyone was calling the film pornographic due to scenes with sexually suggestive dance moves (“twerking”). They were worried that the movie, rated TV-MA for mature audiences, would attract pedophiles.

Many others took offense at the film’s promotional posters.

While the poster for Mignonnes (the name of the film in the original French version) shows 11-year-old girls laughing and smiling after an apparent shopping spree, the poster for Cuties features the same 11-year-old girls posing suggestively and wearing revealing clothing.

My thoughts

No need to cancel your Netflix subscription over this film. Don’t judge a film by its promotional poster.

The way I see it, the film does not endorse the behavior; it’s only a small part of the bigger story of how we try to shape our identities in order to fit in.

The suggestive dancing scenes are brief – no more than a total of 3 minutes throughout the entire film, which has a running time of 96 minutes.

The provocative dancing by young girls is one thing. But I’m more troubled by other things in the film. For instance, there are depictions of child neglect, gun violence, playing dead, physical violence (hitting, pushing, slapping), bullying, body shaming, bulimia, voyeurism, catfishing, stealing, and lying.

I wasn’t expecting any of those things, but I’m glad I decided to watch the contentious film anyway. I’m also glad I decided to watch it with my own 11-year-old daughter.

While there were a few scenes — including one involving a selfie — that made us gasp in shock, my daughter told me that she liked the film’s message in the end: you don’t have to change yourself just to be liked.

One thing is certain. This film will spark challenging discussions, especially between parents and their children. How can that be a bad thing?

More information

Cuties (Mignonnes) received the Directing Award/World Cinema Dramatic at the 2020 Sundance International Film Festival & the Special Jury Mention at the 2020 Berlin International Film Festival/Generation Kplus.

Watch the Cuties (Mignonnes) Trailer here.

Watch the “Why I Made Cuties” interview with Maïmouna Doucouré here.