As a teenage fan of Sex and the City, I was so excited to see a new series appear on Netflix produced by SATC creator, Darron Star. Whilst Sex and the City did a lot for the sexual freedoms and liberations of women in the 90s, watching it back there are some major class issues and still a fair amount of undealt with sexism. Still, we have to appreciate it was of its time. Therefore I was excited to see what Star was going to do with the modern woman in a more modern world. Oh my god, was I disappointed.
Quick Note On Spoilers:
I’ll only be referencing scenes from episodes 1-3 so they’ll be no spoilers regarding any episodes after these or in regards to the series ending.
Emily in Paris serves only to remind us that female-fronted shows are not always a breakthrough in the feminist battle. Rather this series is, at best stereotypical and at worst, an insulting enforcement of a patriarchal society. Immediately it angles the leading women against each other. Although Emily’s new female boss in Paris is at first motivated to dislike her because she is a non-french speaking coworker forced upon her, by episode 2 her dislike is furthered because she is jealous of the attention Emily is receiving from her married lover. Yes, powerful businesswomen are apparently not to be trusted because they make emotional decisions, the narrative suggests. Of course, Emily’s boss can be intelligent enough to head up a media empire, but not savvy or compassionate enough to help younger women up the corporate ladder. A self-serving cold-hearted strong older female on the cusp of menopause - not exactly original. It’s not untrue that there are women who’ve struggled to break the glass ceiling and then have shut the door on other women. This is certainly a problem that exists. I’ve seen it firsthand. But Emily in Paris does not deal with this issue in a constructive way. Rather than point out the hypocrisy and issue of aiding the particracy, Emily instead seeks to befriend her boss. Mostly through attempting to draw her into conversations about the minefield of finding love. My gag reflex felt particularly exercised in these awkward scenes. Further to which, they are pitched against one another because of a common male admirer. Slow clap to the makers of the show for reducing a powerful accomplished female role to that of a middle-aged emotionally fuelled stereotype threatened by a younger woman.
Meanwhile, poor Emily is just trying to do her job and fit in, isn’t she? Well, not really. Emily doesn’t try to fit in with French culture. Instead, she attempts to bring them into her capitalist American approach with new office rules and imposing her way of doing things upon their business methods. It’s so cringeworthy you could be cajoled into wondering if this sitcom is meant to be ironic. Unfortunately, I fear it’s not supposed to be culturally satirical. Rather, it is supposed to be aspirational. Once again paralleling Sex and The City, the characters in this series are dressed and live way beyond what the reality of their salaries would actually allow. Most of the leading women and men also are exceptionally beautiful. Whilst it’s not unpleasant to watch Emily’s male neighbour with his top off, I find I’m constantly having to remind myself that this is so not representational of reality. Because in reality, if we ate croissants and pastries like Emily does, shoving them into her perfectly made-up face, we’d gain at least a few pounds in over our first month in Paris. Our leading character strangely does not.
Naturally, Emily has to have allies in France. A hugely stereotypical Asian girl who is liberated enough to serve Emily as a confidant but escaping a very unoriginal backstory of pressure to marry and take over the family business in her home country. Obviously, Emily must also have an older male to confide in and a bitchy gay guy who grows to love and support her in her career, despite his judgy first impressions. Sorry, did we not already see this is Devil Wears Prada and numerous other TV shows and films? Still, it’s good to know that Emily in Paris conforms to stereotypes across the board. All the show needs is an evil English villain and we’ll be getting close to a full set. Look, I honestly don’t enjoy slamming a TV show which I’m sure was a lot of hard work for a lot of people. I just think it’s important to point out that this the sexual innuendos in this show and the fact that Emily is a working woman does not make this show forward-thinking. In fact, it’s awkwardly out of touch and simply encourages women to charm those who oppose them instead of calling them out. Worse, for women to put each other down rather than work together for equality and respect. Not to mention it suggests that women should smoke to kill the appetite. In the parodied words of SATC’s Carrie Bradshore - I can’t help but wonder if Darron Star should resist attempting to write women until he can do so without reinforcing damaging stereotypes and toxic out-dated narratives.
If you're looking for a female-fronted series where women raise one another up then try The Bold Type on Amazon Prime. #EmilyInParis #TVReview #Feminism #femaleledseries #womeninmedia #femalerepresentation