Is ‘Emily in Paris’ Culturally Insensitive and Cliché?

Christine O'Mahony

Image Source: Netflix

Season two of ‘Emily in Paris’ dropped last month. I must say I like the show because it’s something you can put on to relax, it is quite cringey sometimes but can be quite funny. However, there is something in the show that we can’t ignore. It can be quite culturally insensitive at times and uses a lot of stereotypes. The show has been renewed for another two seasons, but there has to be a few changes.

First of all, it was touched upon in season one and season two, but the show implied that every French woman has affairs and smokes. This was after Emily discovered that her boss Sylvie was having an affair with a married man. In Season two it was revealed that Sylvie was actually married, but had some sort of agreement with her husband that their relationship would be open. Emily is also encouraged to “be French” and also have an affair. I don’t think many French women will find that funny, and if there are people who take those statements seriously, it ruins the image of not just French women, but women in general. I would like to think the majority of us are loyal to our partners. It was revealed after the 1st season that many French viewers were up in arms about the show.

This may be an unpopular opinion as I know many unfortunately think this way, but I feel the show made Americans look dumb. Emily is a stereotypical image of an American moving abroad to study/work. She can’t speak the language, can be disrespectful sometimes, tries to Americanise everything etc. Most Americans would have learned French in school and would have brushed up on it before moving country to work there if we are being honest.

Ukraine’s Culture Minister, Oleksandr Tkachenko, actually watched the show, and was offended by how they depicted Petra, a Ukraine student learning French with Emily. According to Tkachenko, they depicted Petra as a “shoplifting anxious immigrant fearful of deportation”, which he claimed was a “caricature of a Ukrainian woman” which is “unacceptable” and “offensive”. He feared that there might be a possibility that Ukrainians might be seen abroad. We have already seen this with Romanians, many people think Romanians are just here to steal. This is just racism and xenophobia.

Emily’s new love interest, Alfie, is also depicted as a “typical Brit”, who doesn’t want to learn the language in the country that he is residing in or has no respect for the culture, who goes to the pub and watches football and calls everyone “mate”. Very cliché.

I love LGBTQIA+ representation but couldn’t help but notice they stereotypically depict all the gay characters as “sassy”, while yes, we in the LGBTQIA+ can be quite sassy, is this just what heterosexual, cis people view us as? Julien’s character as the ‘gay best friend’, can also be seen as a cliché.

I must say ‘Emily in Paris’, is still quite popular despite all the cultural insensitivities, so Netflix probably won’t be losing much money from this. But the show needs serious changes, to stop using stereotypes and ruining the image of the French. I hope season three will stop talking about “The French do this or that”, instead they could say “Sylvie is having an affair and that is her choice” instead of tying her nationality into it.

The show needs to stop picking the worst stereotypes of each country to depict their characters e.g., Eastern Europeans = thieves, Americans = dumb, Brits = drinkers, France = serial cheaters, China = disowns every celeb that embarrasses them, etc. Hopefully with less stereotypes the show will be more enjoyable and will not caused controversy, where government ministers have to criticise it.