As a student from France, I am often asked to comment on Emily in Paris. For the first two seasons, I gladly defended the series and its eponymous protagonist, a twenty-something Midwesterner sent to Paris by her PR company to provide an American perspective to its newly acquired French office.
As I wrote in The Sun last year, I found Emily in Paris to be light-hearted and awfully predictable, but also quite funny and often on the mark when it came to comparing French and American cultures. I dismissed the critics who attacked the show’s depiction of Paris as a city where it never rains, where people never take the métro and where you can live for months without speaking a word of French. Not all television has to be realistic, I would say. Emily in Paris was what you binged when you wanted to escape, to decompress and to watch attractive people adorned in glamorously over-the-top clothing.
Season Three, which came out on Dec. 21, 2022, has made my role as the show’s foremost advocate somewhat more difficult. The storyline has become tedious and repetitive, making this season the worst one thus far. It picks up right where Season Two left off, with Emily facing a series of choices: Will she choose to stay in France and carve her own path as an expat or will she return to Chicago and climb the corporate ladder? Will she choose Alfie, her handsome British boyfriend, or Gabriel, her even more handsome, cigarette-smoking, soccer-playing French neighbor (who also happens to be dating her friend, Camille, but is obviously in love with Emily — he confesses his feelings in the back of a taxi in what has to be the most awkward declaration of love in the history of cheesy television).
These decisions that Emily faces are made out to be existential ones: She is so confused that in Episode One she cuts her own trauma bangs and quotes Jean Paul Sartre. I think we can all agree that there are far worse dilemmas to have in life. Emily’s problems — if we can even refer to them as problems — are so insignificant that they make it hard for me to disagree with those who criticize the show for its frivolousness. All in all, Emily’s so-called existential crisis makes this season a tad ridiculous and very unrelatable (indeed, most people do not get to pick between Paris or Chicago or two handsome European boyfriends).
Moreover, in Season Three, the entire France vs. America dimension is no longer center stage: Aside from a couple cheap jokes on the difficulty of starting a company in France and the lack of paid maternal leave in the US, there is little mention of the differences between both countries. The cultural clashes — which in my opinion were the heart and soul of the series — recede to the background and are so overlooked that this season could have easily been set in any other European city. The only element that remains is the show’s love letter to Paris.
Emily in Paris depicts a Paris that only exists in movies or books, with several breathtaking panoramic shots per episode. It is not the Paris that locals experience, but the city of love, lights and delicious pastries all wrapped into one. Emily and her friends dine at Michelin star restaurants, take off to Provence and attend gallery openings on the regular. They befriend fashion designers, live in fancy neighborhoods and never seem to work. This idealization of Parisian life, while fun to watch at first, becomes tiresome in Season Three. Will Emily and her friend ever use public transportation?
Despite its flaws, Season Three has still managed to win viewers’ hearts, and inspired many to visit Paris (there are now Emily in Paris-themed tours of the city). When I went home for winter break, I encountered many of these tourists, as they posed for pictures at the show’s iconic locations, with their red bérêts and other Emily-style outfits. Parisians, like myself, walked by, often snickering and openly mocking them, complaining about their romanticization of Paris, but secretly hoping, wishing, that we could see the city — our city — through Emily and her fans’ innocent eyes, too.
Rafaela Uzan is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].