Emily in Paris is right – France resists political correctness


What the Netflix series has done remarkably well though – its piece de resistance if you will – describes France’s attitudes towards modern conversations about the genre (Photo: Netflix)

My eyes were ready to roll as I half-heartedly pressed to act out the first episode of Emily in Paris.

I expected a nightmare fueled by clichés of the country I grew up in and called home for 20 years.

This skepticism was in part fueled by French critics – one accused the Netflix TV show of portraying Parisians as ‘sexist’ and ‘upside down’ with ‘a lot of reason to feel insulted’ – and a reaction from Twitter, which washed out the portrayal of Paris as an unrealistic American tourist fantasy.

But to my surprise, I especially enjoyed it.

Emily (Lily Collins) moves to Paris from Chicago to work at Savoir – a prestigious French marketing house. At first, she is hated by her colleagues, who consider her a prudish American but who quickly conquer them and the city.

As she becomes an influencer and meets multiple French love interests, she is making waves in the Parisian fashion scene with her avant-garde mindset.

But what the Netflix series has done remarkably well – its piece de resistance if you will – describes France’s attitudes towards modern conversations about the genre.

Is it a recurring theme of the show that is best illustrated in Sexy or Sexist? episode. One particular scene shows Emily and her client filming an advertisement in which a naked model walks across a bridge while a group of men watch her. Emily is shocked.

The male client went on to explain how the model only wore the scent, which is believed to give her power by giving her sex appeal. Emily then asked if the idea of ​​this masculine look was “sexy or sexist”?

But as soon as Emily said the word ‘sexist’, one of her colleagues rolled her eyes and a huge disagreement ensued between her and the French marketing team.

When asked to explain what was wrong with the male gaze, Emily replied that men “objectify” the model and that was disappointing. She then expressed fear that this might “prove to be politically incorrect” in the wake of the Me Too movement and the male client ultimately derided: “We need to protect ourselves from the morality police. ”

I thought the show hit the nail on the head with this, and I’ve had similar conversations with French people – especially since I left France to go to school in the US and UK. I have debated with many French friends who do not want to call themselves feminists.

For the context, France considers itself a cultural exception, with its own unique vision of the world. The country even has its own formal institutions to prevent English words from entering our language.

Our egalitarian conception of freedom comes from the revolution and has been shaped by our history. It clashes with the Anglo-Saxon view in many ways.

In fact, the “Americanization” of culture is seen as a threat to these ideals. I remember my dad frowning when I asked to celebrate Halloween when I was a kid. He said it was a sticky party imported from the United States.

As in the series, discussions of gender equality often meet resistance in France – precisely because they challenge these ideals. Pointing out the differences in identities would shake the very ideological foundations of our nation. It is considered an offense.

In the show, Emily’s boss – a middle-aged Frenchwoman named Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu) – dissects the Me Too movement and its French equivalent ‘balance ton porc’ (which means: ‘out your pig’) . For her, women actually find freedom and sexual liberation through the male gaze.

Emily’s boss dissects the Me Too movement (Photo: Carole Bethuel / Netflix)

She embodies a generation of French women like Catherine Deneuve, who signed a platform calling for the “right to be disturbed” by men. For them, it is an essential condition of sexual freedom.

Actress Lea Seydoux also openly criticized the Me Too movement, saying it was “hypocrite.” More recently, Roman Polanski – who pleaded guilty to having “illicit sex” with a 13-year-old – was voted best director of the French Academy of Caesars.

More often than not, French women are portrayed in pop culture as effortless lean and brooding white creatures who, although they don’t put in any effort and don’t put on makeup, stay ‘chic’ all day. Emily’s best friend, Camille (Camille Razat), whose parents own a château in Champagne, plays this role perfectly.

But as a Frenchwoman of North African origin who grew up in rural France, I find this stereotype very narrow.

While I am defending the portrayal of the traditional status quo on the show, what they could have done better is show how things change.

Emily’s biggest shortcoming in Paris is her failure to capture the hustle and bustle and diversity of Paris in 2020. Emily in Paris feels stuck in an era of the 2000s, pre-BLM rather than the current melting pot.

In 2019 we had Bilal Hassani, who represented the country at the Eurovision Song Contest and challenged gender norms in his performance with a long wig, crop top and singing about being put in a box and to break stereotypes. And young French journalists like Lauren Bastide are using new media and social networks to spark conversations about feminism.

And while it is true that France resists discussions of racial identity and sees itself as a “color blind” nation, the show has failed to highlight the exciting new generation that is redefining what it means to be French. .

The show features a single black character and an Asian character as recurring cast. And as Monica de La Villardière de Vogue underlines: “Where are all the people of North African origin?

One of France’s most popular singers is Aya Nakamura, born in Bamako, Mali. She mixes French and African dialects in her writing. Actresses Adèle Haenel and Camelia Jordana – of Algerian origin – spark important conversations about sexual violence and police brutality, alongside activist Assa Traoré.

The French make things happen, yet Emily seems to be the only person “awake” in Paris.

Emily in Paris is not perfect. But what he succeeds is France’s historic resistance to political correctness, but it is a subject which is currently causing a lot of noise in the country.

People are divided on these issues; While a new generation is challenging things through social media, a majority of French people push back, citing our cultural exception.

Let’s just hope that in season two, Emily can engage with France’s ever-changing cultural landscape, rather than emerge as the cultural messiah we don’t need.

It would be great for her to start working with young and dynamic French people from more diverse backgrounds.

Let’s just hope that in the second season, Emily starts working with younger, dynamic French people from more diverse backgrounds, so that she can with the ever-changing cultural landscape of France, rather than establishing herself as the messiah. cultural that we don’t need.

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