Critical reviews can really help boost your audience. Having read a ratter of a review that told me in no uncertain words that Emily In Paris (Netflix) was not worth the number of pixels it contained, I gave it a go. Just the first episode, mind you. That’s what I did last weekend – started on the Saturday and finished on the Tuesday. I’m referring to the first series, of course. Lo and behold, if you ignore the bad acting apart from Mindy Chen (Ashley Park), predictable plot, and a little doll called Emily (Lily Collins) who gets on your nerves ten minutes into episodes 1 and 2 with a “it’s like wearing poetry,” description of crushed flowers diluted with tap water, the series is not only sweet to watch, but highly addictive.
Although any script that describes Emmanuel Macron as “hot” and shows Madame Macron tweeting about vaginas cannot be taken seriously, little Emily brings home truths that I already knew about. Namely, the reasons for not liking the French may just about outweigh the reasons for loving them.
Emily in Paris reminds me what I love about Paris – architecture, culture, romantic walks along the river Seine, philosophical discussions in a smoke-filled bistro. But it it is also a vivid reminder of what spoils Paris – the French in general, and the Parisians in particular. Maybe with lockdown, the innumerable French shopkeepers who insult and/or ignore their customers will learn to value the sweet little tourists who don’t speak like the natives, by learning just a few words of English, and serving insult-free pains au chocolat.
But delve deeper, Netflix watcher, and you’ll discover the little gem that came out of the baker’s mouth. Noticing Emily’s lack of reaction, she mumbles “et bien, on n’est pas rendu,” which could be translated as “well, we’re not out of the woods.” I admit it – despite my French passport, Emily in Paris taught me a bit of my own language. It’s colloquial, of course, and I would have said, “on n’est pas sorti de l’auberge,” (“we’re not out of the inn”) which is also colloquial and means the same thing. But the expression “on n’est pas rendu,” has deep historical connotations. In 1940, when the French gave in to the Germans, in something other than a World Cup semi-final, a demarcation line cut France in two, and separated the northern “zone occupée” (German controlled France) from the southern “zone libre” (“free zone”). The line passed between the towns of Tours and Loches. The N143 – the sole connecting road between the two towns – was cut off. The poor inhabitants of Tours couldn’t easily get out of their town to go to Loches. “En quittant Tours, on n’est pas rendu à Loches,” (“Leaving Tours, you don’t arrive at Loches”) was a cry of exasperation of ordinary people who wanted to get out of trouble, but had to march across a minefield to do so. Over the years, the expression lost its geographical location and became part of the French linguistic treasures.
Blink, and you would have missed this snippet of linguistic information, as you would have missed a heated argument that never took place, concerning whether an advert featuring a nude woman passing several fully dressed men, on the Pont Alexandre III bridge in full daylight, was fully sexist or half sexy. What fulls we are not just to admire the architecture of the bridge.
And what about my philosophical café? A glimpse of the “Café de Flore,” in the company of a real Parisian – at least that’s what he says – who values metaphysics over megastores, and existentialists of the written word, over the realists of Twitter and Tik Tok. A glimpse, that’s all it was. Poor Thomas (Julien Floreancig) doesn’t get the chance to expand on what happened when Jean-Paul Sartre met Simone de Beauvoir, and who paid for the first round of double espresso. Maybe Simone went to powder her nose whilst JP paid the full Monty. We will never know. In the meantime, it’s 8 euros for an orange juice at what Thomas describes as, “the coolest café of all of Paris.” Coolest? Maybe. Most expensive orange juice? Certainly. Although I paid that for a Coke on Les Champs.
The above is, of course, not enough to make a successful series. You also need a three-letter word beginning with S and ending with X, that is talked about by men every seven seconds. Emily in Paris makes it abundantly clear that the French are obsessed by, indulge in it and – as practice makes perfect- are quite good at it. As an American, Emily isn’t too bad either, and manages to attract men with transatlantic ease. She even manages to sleep with the underage brother of a best friend (was she long enough in Paris to actually have best friends?), in his parents’ chateau. Underage, I hear you scream? Isn’t that a case for the police? Well, not in France because the French have a deep respect for family values. The mother is very concerned for her baby boy who has just lost something more than his pride.
Is my son a good lover? I worry for my children’s future. It’s a mother’s job.
Who said the French were without morals?
Of course they have morals. It’s a morality that stretches from the family to the workplace. Even Emily couldn’t get fired from her job because of the paperwork protecting employees.”Just lose you cellphone in the Seine,” seemed to be the advice for escaping the incompetent social security agents.
This post is already way too deep for what is just comparable to Sex et la Cité (do I have to translate?). Watch it for what it is – a parody. It is a parody of fashion where naked women cross a bridge to make a perfume sexy, where asexual fashion designers hit a crème brûlée with a spoon, to ease tension. It is a sexual Vaudeville where vibrators cause power cuts, and French men don’t shower in order to keep the scent of the women they’ve been with, a little longer. It is even, dare I say it, a parody of Paris – a city that has enough corny romanticism, rudeness, snobbery, American tourists, and good food, to make fun of itself. But above all, Emily in Paris is a picture postcard of a city desperately trying to hold on to its past romanticism, a fairytale of emotions mixed with the superficial values of Twitter followers and Tik Tok likes. A well-earned weekend break in this time of Corona.