Emily in Paris, or “Amelie?”
Like Francophiles everywhere, I tuned into the new Netflix TV drama, “Emily in Paris.” Just about anything with “Paris” in the title gets attention—movies, books and TV shows. I’d almost venture a guess that there are more books with “Paris” in the title than any other single noun. In video, just the thought of seeing glimpses of the City of Light, considered to be the most beautiful city in the world, can send audiences flocking. Those who are concerned with ratings, audience, followers, etc., know this and capitalize on it.
In this case, young, bright, energetic Emily lands a dream job in Paris. We call jobs like that “plum” because it’s so hard to land one like this that only the luckiest of the lucky manage to score them. Emily does it without even trying—it just falls into her pretty little lap. Her boyfriend in Chicago isn’t thrilled about her moving so far away, but Emily is not giving up Paris for the boyfriend. Forget it. She packs her bags and waves him goodbye.
“Le Parisien” says that “Emily in Paris” offers a very American and caricatured vision of our capital and of the French in general. No joke. I’d call it “cliché” with a Capital “C” in every sense of the word. I watched the first two episodes and found myself seriously annoyed to the point of not wanting to return. Then, I decided that I NEEDED to watch all 10 episodes of season one just to be fully informed.
Once I had fully accepted that it was going to be shallow, trite and a real put-down to the French, I was able to let go and simply follow the story and relish the beautiful scenes of the city…which btw, are always Paris at its finest…no gray rainy typical Parisian weather days like it has been for over a week. On top of it, the streets are immaculately clean and look more like a Hollywood stage set than the city I know, even though I could recognize most of spots.
If you made a list of all the clichés you can think of about Paris and then wanted to write them into a script, this is what you would get. Emily rents a 5th floor walk-up that she can’t seem to remember is actually five flights of stairs up, not four like in the States. By mistake she lands at her neighbor’s doorstep on the 4th floor with her key unsuccessfully opening the lock. The neighbor is, of course, a young handsome guy who just happens to be an accomplished chef in a little bistrot across the Place from their apartment building. The concierge is grumpy. Emily steps in doggy poop. She has an orgasm over her first “Pain au Chocolat.” At a café she asks for “preservatives” to put on her croissant not realizing the word means “condoms” in French. She speaks loudly at her first company business meeting to which they ask, “Why are you shouting?” She makes friends with another young woman, an au pair, who has run away from a wealthy Chinese family and has the wardrobe of a serious fashionista to rival Emily’s. Her boss is a mean French jealous bitch who speaks English with an American accent mixed with a French accent, so you can’t understand why they cast her in the part. A business client, a “grand nez” (a master perfumer), is a womanizer who gives her lingerie as a gift. She believes it is inappropriate and he sees it as a way of teaching her how to really feel like a woman. I could go on and on and on. Dare I?
And guess what? We are not surprised when Emily dumps the American boyfriend who refuses to come visit her and wants her to give Paris up for him. She doesn’t, of course. She is too surrounded by good looking, sexy French men to care about Mr. Boring in Chicago and she jumps into bed with just about every one of them. Can we blame her? She’s having the time of her life while struggling with the cultural clashes. I watched all 10 episodes and winced at a lot, but can’t wait to see how Emily acclimates to life in Paris.
Over Sunday lunch in Montmartre with Earful Tower podcaster, Oliver Gee, who hadn’t yet seen the show, had heard that it seemed like they took a lot of scenes from his own podcasts. I am sure that’s true. In one scene, she’s wearing a red beret and a checkered jacket, that is already being marketed on the Internet as this year’s hottest fashion. It looks just like an outfit I wore on a House Hunters International show that aired in August of 2018 (“Pining After Paris” – Season 126, Episode 10). In fact, a lot of her wardrobe is just as colorful and patterned as my own. I’ll bet in their research, the writers (created by Darren Star) found both Oliver and me from which to pull ideas! If I were writing a script like this, that is what I would do. I’d peruse every blogger out there to learn what an American in Paris goes through upon first encounters with the city. I suppose we should be flattered. (Photo: Podcaster Oliver Gee)
Oliver wondered if “Emily” is an Americanized version of “Amelie”—and that sounds like a good guess as part of their formula for success. The show is so formulaic, it reeks. I had found myself defending the French from some of the incredibly rude things they say about them, because the show hasn’t bothered to go deeper into why the French are they way they are—only that they are different from us, and not in a positive way. I can only hope that as Emily becomes more “Parisienne,” she will see her American ways from this new perspective, just like we have.
It’s getting good reviews from American viewers. I am not surprised, but someone who doesn’t know the city or France or the French can’t have the same point of view as seasoned expatriates living in the City of Light. This couldn’t have been written by one of them. I wonder if they dug further into the psyche of Americans living and working in Paris or just took their surface view point and wrote a shallow-minded script for the lowest common denominator?
Oliver, who lives in and loves Montmartre, took me to one of his favorite little coffee shops, Farfelu, to find a quiet spot in which he could record our conversation for today’s Earful Tower podcast. “Farfelu” was a new word for me—meaning a little crazy, zany, bizarre or extravagant. It doesn’t seem to fit the neat little contemporary café, but it’s a nice new word, nonetheless. Sitting downstairs all alone, Oliver, the ultimate interviewer, asked me questions about what it was like for to be in Paris during lockdown and how it compared to life in Paris as we know it now. We couldn’t help, but also talk about Emily in Paris, as well as the mass exodus of Americans leaving the U.S., many of whom are headed to France. A TV show like Emily in Paris is sure to draw even more, since it’s a rosy-colored-glasses kind of vision with a twist.
Oliver’s Earful Tower podcast airs today, so if you want to have a listen to our chat, just click here. But if you want all of Oliver’s “bells and whistles”—the ability to see his special SCROLL all about our time together and see and hear a whole lot more, you have to become a Patreon member. You won’t regret it. It’s the perfect armchair traveling you can do to be in Paris virtually while you’re holed up in some other part of the world…and a whole lot more REAL than Emily’s version of the City of Light!
LA NUIT BLANCHE ET PLUVIEUX (RAINY)
In spite of the misty weather—the kind of rain that feels like you’re inside a cloud because it’s so misty and light that gravity doesn’t pull it down into the form of real rain —a friend and I ventured out to take in the art installations as part of the annual La Nuit Blanche festival. He called this kind of rain “mosquito piss.” It’s a funny image, tiny little mosquitos sending out tiny streams of whatever, but that’s exactly what it felt like. An umbrella was useless.
Starting with an exceptionally delicious meal at Le Petit Marché, we strolled over to Place des Vosges where there were two installations. Artist Benoît Dutour’s “Danses Nocturnes” was our first of several to visit that evening, but it passed the “so what” test with flying colors. We didn’t even need to go further to feel satisfied. (Photo: Magret de Canard at Le Petit Marché)
“Inspired in particular by the new realists, the humor of Magritte or even the conceptual work of Duchamp, Benoît Dutour uses a wide range of techniques and media to offer multiple entry points into his universe. In search of the perfect form and the ideal balance, he carefully observes the drop of water that falls from the sky and the balance that is created between phenomena of tension and resistance.”
Oversized glass (or possibly lucite) drop-shaped orbs representing large drops of rain (not mosquito piss!) filled with some item or creature, were suspended from the trees and lit, casting an eerie glow on the ground below. From a distance, the Place seem bejeweled, but each droplet was unique in itself and worth a serious gander. Represented by the agency H.ART, the exhibition will continue at the Teodora Galerie until October 10th. There’s a vernissage on October 7th (from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.) in the presence of the artist if you wish to attend.
Another installation caught our amusement, but it wasn’t art. It was “Voices in the Night” at the the Eglise Notre-Dame des Blancs-Manteaux. The seats were spread apart, but filled. The apse of the church was lit in a red hot pink. At the moment we entered, a woman was holding a large fluffy faux parrot who was singing operatically with her, she being the ventriloquist. She was part of “Acoeurvoix,” an association founded by Jean-Marc Rapin, who had the idea to create vocal performances bringing together great choirs, singers and musicians on the occasion of the European Year of Persons with Disabilities organized in Paris in 2003. The singer was quite talented and the performance inside the church a welcome reprieve from the inclement weather.
One thing for sure—it was a Sleepless Night in Paris like none before it. Usually the streets are filled with people and the lines to enter the various installations long. Not this year. But, at least it wasn’t aborted like so many other festivals.
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group