Emily in America: How One American Views Emily in Paris

Alli Kelly

Emily in Paris has not only been viewed by over 50 billion households, but it’s also one of the most dividing shows on Netflix. Americans seem to love it and French-Natives reportedly find it insulting. The portrayal of French culture in this show has been ridiculed since day one of the first season’s release, and yet people keep watching. But what about the way Emily represents Americans?

Image: Netflix

To stay on topic with the controversy surrounding the Netflix show, Emily in Paris, I’m going to start this article by saying this is one person’s opinion from America. This does not represent my country as a whole, just like this show does not represent the entire French culture.

I find this show very entertaining. I love the fashion, the architecture, and the relationships that develop from episode to episode. But I’m not watching it to learn about French culture, I’m watching this show to be entertained. It’s a small fantasy I get to dive into for 30 minutes; one that is much more glamorous than my life in the Midwest. 

In this show, Emily is from Chicago, Illinois which is just a two-hour drive from where I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. While I watch this show and pay particular attention to Emily, I fully understand where her viewpoints and behavior stem from.

Being from the Midwest, we are often deemed “Midwest Nice”, which alludes to the stereotype of the people in the Midwest as being unusually polite, reserved, or passive-aggressive. If you’ve watched Emily in Paris, you could point out a few times where she exhibits this behavior. It’s uncomfortable for any individual to be lumped into a stereotype for the way their culture is regularly represented in the media. 

I also know how it feels to be immediately spotted as an American in Europe. It’s not a great feeling. There’s an overwhelming need to “dress European”, to seem intelligent, blasé and mysterious. It can even go so far as to be quiet in a situation where I may genuinely be lost, all to avoid my American accent falling on foreign ears. 

I think there’s something to be said about the Hollywood portrayal of cultures and the people within them. Any well-adjusted adult (hopefully) understands that the stereotypes of the French in this particular show are just that: stereotypes. They are not an accurate representation of individual French people, similar to the way Midwestern-Americans are not all passive-aggressive and naive.

I don’t believe that Hollywood will change its course in how it represents cultures, races, genders, or sexual orientations. Why? The market value of such entertainment is just too good. In spite of the countless articles, tweets, and TikToks bashing the show for its misrepresentation, there are still billions of people watching this show. And what do these viewers convert to? Profit. And that capitalist nectar is sweeter than any human rights campaign. 

artil’s takeaway: Consume all media, entertainment or otherwise, with a critical eye.

Alli Kelly

"Feminism is for everyone. We all need to take an active part in deconstructing the way the patriarchy has shaped us as women. Get educated, get out there, and make a difference for yourself and your sisters."
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