- Netflix’s “Emily in Paris” follows a young American who moves from Chicago to Paris for work.
- The show’s first season is a light-hearted, escapist journey through the European city.
- Its representation of Paris and French culture, however, is stereotypical and unrealistic.
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The show follows Emily Cooper (Lily Collins), a young marketing executive who moves from Chicago to Paris for a new job opportunity, despite not being able to speak a lick of French.
The monolingual millennial parades into Savoir, a Parisian marketing firm, on behalf of her Chicago-based company, Gilbert Group who’s now their parent company, to offer them an “American perspective.”
Not only are there several moments that seem merely impossible outside of the romantic comedy genre, but the show leans into countless stereotypes about French people, presenting them as rude, sexist, and inappropriate.
Filled with berets and baguettes, “Emily in Paris” is, at first glance, a fun, light-hearted watch for viewers seeking a European escape. But in reality, the show creates a caricature of Paris.
Here are 23 of the most improbable moments from the show.
Gilbert Group, a large marketing corporation, sends an employee who doesn’t speak French to work at a Parisian marketing firm.
After Emily’s boss, who has a master’s degree in French, finds out that she’s pregnant, the young marketing executive is sent to Paris in her place.
Her job is to bring a set of “American eyes and ears” at Savoir, a Parisian boutique marketing firm that the Chicago-based Gilbert Group acquired.
The catch? Emily doesn’t speak French.
She’s expected to sit in on company meetings about strategy and clients, even offering Savoir guidance and teaching them how to improve their reach on social media, which seems impossible without speaking the language.
Self-admittedly, Emily’s experience lies in pharmaceuticals and geriatric care facilities, not in fashion and luxury brands, Savoir’s specialty areas.
So it’s hard to believe that Gilbert Group, which viewers are led to believe is a large corporation, would choose a monolingual employee with no experience in the industries Savoir handles to fill the post.
Once Emily arrives, Savoir employees switch from speaking French to English to accommodate her.
Aside from Patricia, who looks perpetually terrified of the office’s American addition and appears only briefly in the first season, the entire Savoir team seems to speak entirely in English so that Emily can understand them.
When the language barrier does get in her way, Emily smugly pulls out a translation app to get her point across.
And as anyone that has used translation apps knows, they can be finicky and take a long time to use, making it difficult to have an insightful conversation.
Not only is it unfair for an outsider to come into an office and expect everyone to cater to them, but it’s also highly unlikely that Savoir’s team would forfeit their native tongue in meetings, presentations, and happy hour small talk for the sake of one person.
Emily is supposed to be a social media maven, but arrives in Paris with only 48 Instagram followers.
She was sent to Paris to improve the clients’ social media reach across the globe, yet her own account when she arrives has less than 50 followers.
Emily seems like she has a somewhat limited audience online herself, and likely isn’t the best marketing executive to fly to a new continent to teach about the power of social media.
Her vibrator blew out the circuit for the entire block.
When Emily plugs her vibrator into the wall and turns it on, it immediately causes a spark and short-circuits the entire block of buildings.
As The New York Times’ Elaine Sciolino pointed out, a small sex toy wouldn’t cause the entire neighbourhood to lose power.
Emily blatantly disrespects French culture at a restaurant and then goes on a rant about her then-boyfriend being close-minded.
Emily eats at a local restaurant with her friend Mindy Chen (Ashley Park) and orders a steak. When it arrives, she yells across the restaurant to flag down a waiter to tell him the meat was undercooked without even trying it.
After the waiter insists that the chef cooked the steak correctly, Emily ignores Mindy’s offer to switch meals and says, “The customer is always right” – clearly inserting American ideals.
“Here, the customer is never right,” Mindy tells her.
Emily counters, “Well, maybe I’ll educate the chef a little bit about customer service.”
Mindy responds, “You think you’re going to change the entire French culture by sending back a steak?”
After Emily tries the steak, she actually enjoys it. And in a scene that comes shortly after Emily tries to “educate” the French, she goes on a rant to her then-boyfriend after he decided not to visit from Chicago.
She lectures him on the beauty of Paris, calling it a city “filled with love and romance and light and beauty and passion and sex” and tells him to “stay in Chicago” for the rest of his life.
The exchange comes off as self-righteous and hypocritical since she was also close-minded to Parisian culture so recently at dinner.
She’s never seen taking public transportation.
There are a lot of question marks surrounding how Emily affords countless pairs of heels and flashy bags. But one really unrealistic plot point is that she’s never seen on public transportation (and this was conceptualized before COVID-19 made us change our travel habits).
She’s frequently seen in taxis, private cars, or even on the back of motorbikes, but she doesn’t take the Metro, as many local Parisians do.
“The last time I took the Metro, I ended up in the 21st arrondissement,” Emily jokingly tells her friend Camille Razat, a French art gallerist on the show.
And while the American claims she gave it a shot, she’s never actually seen trying to take public transportation again.
She tells Pierre Cadault that she wore the Eiffel Tower charm because she couldn’t afford designer items, yet she regularly carries Chanel purses.
Emily tracks down famed designer Pierre Cadault (Jean-Christophe Bouvet) at Palais Garnier or The Paris Opera to apologise for offending him with her Eiffel Tower charm and being “ringarde” (or in English, a basic b—-).
“We all wanted to be Serena van der Woodsen in her gorgeous, crazy-expensive couture, but the only thing we could afford from any of those designers was a clip-on bag charm from an outlet mall in Winnetka,” she tells him, referencing the series “Gossip Girl.”
However, Emily is seen wearing multiple designer bags during the show’s first season, which makes her claim that she “can’t afford” certain items seem inauthentic or at least trying too hard to be relatable when it’s not actually her lived experience.
She also mentioned growing up in Winnetka, making the town sound like it’s in the middle of nowhere. However, Winnetka is merely 30 minutes outside of Chicago and had the 10th highest average household income in the United States in 2015, according to Bloomberg.
It’s not to say that Emily’s family was necessarily wealthy or gave her limitless money to spend on clothes and bags, but the contradictory details that played out on screen made that scene fall flat.
Emily complains that she’ll “never learn the language” shortly after arriving to Paris, even though she barely prepared and only speaks to Parisians in English.
Emily repeatedly expresses her frustration with the French language as early as the second episode. Sure, she takes language lessons once a week, although she sometimes skips a class to hang out with her friends.
“This was a big mistake. I should never have come here,” she tells Mindy while they’re sitting on a park bench.
Emily continues, “I feel like ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass.’ Up is down. I’ll never learn the language or understand anything here.”
And while it takes time and concentrated effort for most people to learn a foreign language, Emily barely tries to speak French to those around her or truly immerse herself, likely stunting her progress.
Brigitte Macron retweets Emily’s meme, but the Chicago-native posted it to Instagram.
In the show, Italian-French singer Carla Bruni texts French first lady Brigitte Macron alerting her about Emily’s Vaga-Jeune meme, stating that the French word for vagina should be feminine instead of masculine.
The text message was sent in English, which is unlikely since both Macron and Bruni, who is married to former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, are both French speakers.
Regardless, Macron retweets Emily’s post (even though she shared it on Instagram), sending the Savoir office into a frenzy.
However, viewers might notice that Emily posts the meme to her Instagram account @emilyinparis, which had 5,118 followers at the time. Unless Bruni or someone in her circle followed the account, she wouldn’t have come across the photo on her feed.
Having a prominent public figure take notice of a Chicagoan running around Paris makes for a fun romantic comedy plotline. In reality, the odds of the scenario unfolding as it did onsreen seem slim.
France had its own #MeToo movement, so it doesn’t make sense that Emily would teach the French about sexism.
French perfume company Maison Lavaux hires Savoir to help shoot a commercial, which shows a naked woman walking across a bridge while being admired by men, wearing full suits.
“I don’t think American women will respond to this,” Emily tells Antoine Lambert (William Abadie), a Savoir client and the head of the company.
Emily then launches into a lesson to teach Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu) and Antoine about the objectification of women and tells them that the commercial won’t “translate in the states.”
“In today’s climate, it could come off as politically incorrect,” Emily warns them.
However, the show ignores the fact that France also had its own #MeToo movement called #BalanceTonPorc, which translates to “rat out your pig,” according to The Atlantic. So Emily’s points about “today’s climate” likely wouldn’t be so groundbreaking off screen.
While Sylvie and Antoine are fighting, Emily barges in and lies about her boss’ idea without any repercussions.
Not only does Emily insert herself into a private conversation between her boss and a client, but she lies to Antoine about her boss’ idea.
She tells him that Sylvie proposed that his company, Maison Lavaux, create a scent for hotelier Randy Zimmer (Eion Bailey)’s properties.
“It could be really big for Maison Lavaux,” Emily tells him, adding, “It was a great idea, Sylvie.”
But neither Emily nor Sylvie have ever met Randy, let alone pitched him a fragrance. So she could easily be setting her boss up for failure.
Though Sylvie comes by her desk afterward to express her discontentment, there are barely any repercussions for Emily’s actions.
Emily books a meeting with an international hotel executive by talking about cookies.
After regurgitating lines from Randy’s past interviews, Emily follows him around an art gallery to tell him that his hotels are missing a signature scent.
By using the metaphor of selling a house by baking cookies, she manages to secure time in his busy calendar to discuss creating a signature perfume for his hotels.
It seems to be a common theme that Emily walks into a glamorous venue, strolls up to the person she was hoping she’d run into, and magically pulls off her plan with few roadblocks in the way.
Hästens, one of Savoir’s clients, asks Emily to be the lead influencer for a campaign, but has 20,800 followers.
While having more than 20,000 followers is a lot to most people, even fellow French influencers that she meets mock her follower count. She doesn’t even get a “large” giftbag when at a French influencer event.
And Emily doesn’t seem to be the best social media influencer. When Emily does post from a bed sitting in the middle of a picturesque street, a request from the Swedish luxury mattress company, she doesn’t even include the product or the background – it’s just a closeup shot of her and newfound friend Camille laying down together.
Emily has multiple expensive designer bags, but it’s unclear how she affords them.
While Emily is a successful marketing executive, she’s still young and seemingly climbing the ladder. So it doesn’t make much sense that she’s able to buy several multi-thousand dollar bags and luxury items.
She didn’t know that Café de Flore was a historic coffeehouse, known to attract some of France’s most iconic creatives.
Emily acts genuinely shocked when she learns that Café de Flore is a historical landmark in Paris.
“Really?” she asks after learning that French philospher, novelist and playwright Jean-Paul Sartre and French philosopher and writer Simone de Beauvoir used to visit the coffeehouse.
But Café de Flore is famous around the world.
It’s also a popular tourist attraction that’s often flooded with people and shared all over social media, so it’s hard to believe that Emily would happen to be sitting at one of the most well-known cafés in Paris without a clue about its cultural significance.
Despite the fact that Brooklyn Clark is one of America’s most well-known stars, Mathieu Cadault doesn’t know what she looks like.
Pierre Cadault’s head of business affairs Mathieu (Charles Martins) mistakes Emily for Brooklyn Clark (Carlson Young) while she’s looking through the designer’s gowns.
Not only is it unlikely that he wouldn’t know what Brooklyn looks like, considering she’s an award-winning actress, but she’s also wearing one of his family’s gowns, so he’d almost certainly know who she is before meeting her.
Emily, rather than the actress’ team, seems to be solely responsible for Brooklyn.
When Brooklyn travels to Paris for the launch of Fourtier’s flagship store, Emily is in charge of her schedule and monitoring her during the Fourtier party where she’s gifted a watch worth 2 million in euros to wear.
As a marketing executive, it’s not typical for her to manage the talent so closely.
Though the movie star mentions her publicist, she’s nowhere to be found, nor is anyone else from Brooklyn’s team.
Emily even goes as far as suggesting which designer the star should wear, which is highly unlikely since Brooklyn would almost certainly have her own team of stylists for such a high-profile event to help her make that decision.
Emily signs the insurance waiver, which is in French, for a watch that’s worth 2 million euros.
Even though Emily is one of the only Savoir employees that doesn’t speak French, she’s selected as the person who would sign the multi-page legal agreement, in a language she can’t understand.
And because she can’t read the details of the document, insuring the 2 million euro watch Brooklyn wears to the event, it seems thoughtless to have her sign it.
What’s more, she signs the waiver at the party. In reality, the legal documentation would surely be taken care of before the event and with Savoir’s legal team giving it a once over.
Emily posts to Pierre Cadault’s Instagram account without asking Brooklyn’s team.
When Sylvie and Emily barge into Brooklyn’s hotel room at the Plaza Athénée to retrieve the watch, after Brooklyn goes missing, they find the actress naked in bed with a man.
The Pierre Cadault dress she wore to the event is strewn across the floor alongside alcohol and cigarettes.
Brooklyn was photographed in the dress at the Fourtier event, so it’s unlikely that her publicist would allow Emily to share a picture that promotes such a risqué image of the actress.
Emily also uses a photo that shows cigarettes, which would likely require additional approval from Cadault’s team.
The next day, she asks her co-workers if they thought the photo was too scandalous for the brand, proving that Caudault’s team didn’t sign off on the post before it when live.
“I think you made Pierre Cadault sexy again,” Mathieu writes to her as soon as she raises the concern.
Within the first minute of Mindy singing “La Vie en Rose,” she has an audience of nearly 20 people.
Thanks to some prodding from her new American friend, Mindy sings for the first time since her botched “Chinese Popstar” performance. Shortly after she begins an impromptu performance in the park, she attracts a sizable audience.
While she does deliver an impressive rendition of “La Vie en Rose,” it seems improbable that such a large crowd would immediately surround her, stop what they were doing, and listen.
After her performance, the children that previously couldn’t stand Mindy suddenly loved her.
The French children that Mindy nannies (while teaching them Mandarin) rarely, if ever, seem to listen to her. She’s often seen in scenes yelling in Mandarin at them to do one thing or another.
But after she delivers her moving public performance and receives applause from the random crowd surrounding her, the children run up to Mindy and inexplicably hug her.
Sylvie tells Emily she should have sex because she’s “so tense” during a business meeting.
When Emily pitches Camille’s family’s business as a potential client for Savoir, Sylvie realises that she’s referring to Gabriel’s (Lucas Bravo) girlfriend. She previously thought the chef was Emily’s love interest.
“You’re going to let your sex life determine business decisions?” Sylvie asks her.
Emily blurts out, “We never had sex!”
Her boss then replies: “Well, maybe you should. You’re so tense.”
Not only is it completely inappropriate for Emily to bring her personal life into the office, but it’s also hard to believe that Sylvie would openly suggest her employee have sex with a man in front of her coworkers.
After the fiasco at the charity auction, Emily wakes up with more missed calls than text messages.
Emily and Pierre were publicly humiliated at the American Friends of the Louvre charity auction after Grey Space, two young buzzy designers, destroy the designer’s dress in an act of “performance art.”
The next morning, Emily wakes up to 27 missed calls and four new text messages.
In general, millennials prefer to avoid phone calls, so it seems odd that she would have so many more calls than texts.