When Sex and the City ended its series with Carrie Bradshaw in Paris, the city of love, I didn’t really expect for Darren Star to try to take on the city again. Don’t get me wrong, even though Sex and the City has a lot of issues throughout the series, it was a show I watched when I first moved to Paris and something I could relate to. Miranda’s headstrong, intelligent, independent character, Charlotte’s head in the clouds innocence, Samantha’s sexy attitude and Carrie being a writer. Somehow, I saw myself in all of those characters. With age, comes wisdom, and today I watch the show with a different opinion.
With Emily in Paris, I did not once see myself in Emily. From the wide-eyed wonder of Paris, to the fashion, to even her struggles… as a foreigner living in Paris, I just could not relate. As a woman, Emily’s personality was off-putting. When I looked up the production team, everything made sense. Most of the people behind the scenes are men, and this whole season just felt like what a man believes a woman’s fantasy of Paris to be… and a boomer writing what they believe young women today are like. Emily felt like the modern version of Carrie Bradshaw… and oh boy, can I tell you that women are more complex than that. Another thing that truly bothered me was the whole idea of influencers. The whole debate around the new way of marketing could be a whole other blog post, because I actually do believe that society writes them off. What I didn’t like was how this show made the days when people came to Paris to study art, cinema, history and literature seem so distant…
What I can’t deny is that the show was a sense of escapism during this time of uncertainty. The scenery made me fall in love with Paris all over again. I didn’t stop talking to myself (“oh! I know that place!”). It motivated me to go out and take more pictures of this photogenic city. Seeing multiple people’s in-love reactions to the show on Twitter and Facebook because it takes place in Paris, made me, again, realize how lucky I am to live in this city. Yet, for me, there were a few big mishaps with the show that I believe could have been handled better (and even would have made for outstanding stories) and things that just… were presented poorly.
Visa/Administration: Ok, I know that all of my American and non-European friends are going to roll their eyes at this one because I don’t have to struggle with the whole visa thing… but I have had to listen to my friends who have had to struggle with this issue, and I know it is not easy. Emily, being an American, apparently never once has to deal with any visa paperwork or any administrative office. Emily never mentions it nor complains about it ONCE. Sorry, but no. I have never met an American who hasn’t complained about the whole ordeal just because of how complicated it is, so I can’t believe that Emily would never, not once, mention it. How did she move to Paris in ONE MONTH? I know she had to get her visa approved in Chicago, but even then, she would still be dealing with FRENCH ADMINISTRATION. The SLOWEST administration I know of (seriously, it took me more than a year to receive my carte vitale, the card that lets me access the French healthcare system). I think it would have been hilarious to have a scene in Chicago at the embassy trying to deal with the whole visa fiasco, no?
Chambre de bonne: Hold up… is this show really trying to make me believe that Emily’s APARTMENT is a chambre de bonne? A chambre de bonne used to be where the servants would live. They tend to be tiny rooms with everything packed into it, the kitchen, shower and bed literally inches away from each other. Also, if you are lucky enough, the toilet will be in these apartments. If not, they tend to be in the hallway where you share with multiple other tenants. Nice, right? Nah, Emily has an actual nice studio that’s probably 25/30 meters squared (don’t ask me to convert that to the imperial system… 6 years in Paris, that math has left my brain). It has taken me 6 years to get a decent sized apartment in this city for a reasonable price. I was exceptionally lucky with my last tiny studio in Palais Royal (near the Louvre). I am going to use a French expression: this girl is practically living at Versailles.
Work: This one bugged me, due to the cliché that the French are lazy. Six years in France and I can tell you that the French don’t start work at 10:30 a.m. Most start work at 8:30-9 a.m. A lot of my classes during my bachelors tended to be at 8 a.m. Where I think this cliché has been badly interpreted is in the sense that the French actually have an hour for lunch (sometimes more, depending where you work) and actually get weeks of paid leave for vacation, maternity, etc. They work to live, they don’t live to work.
Fashion and Heels: Emily’s style reminded me of a five-year old who dressed herself for Halloween as a Frenchwoman. Some women do actually wear berets, and it is a fashion staple (I used to work at Etam, a French clothing and lingerie brand, and around this time last year they were selling berets). Please don’t show up to your first day to work wearing the Eiffel Tower on your shirt, it looks really tacky. There were maybe one or two outfits that I actually liked, and bravo to the Audrey Hepburn inspiration. Lilly Collins looked STUNNING. But I did not once believe that Emily walked all around Paris in those heels. Literally, how did she not twist her leg? Paris in heels is hard, and I only wear them on special occasions or when I know I will not be walking much. What would have been more realistic is Emily wearing white sneakers… now THAT is a Parisian staple.
Metro: Speaking of heels and walking, when did Emily ever take the metro? She really walks all around Paris in those heels? Please, someone tell me when this happened and how she does it. The taxi/Uber prices in this city are outrageous!
French men: Since when are the Frenchman as forward as her real estate agent? Since when are Frenchmen SO romantic? Gabriel… où es-tu? I’ve lived in five different apartments in Paris… I’ve never had a Frenchman that attractive living next to me, who makes me omelettes in the morning and asks me if I want a glass of water on the way up to my apartment on the 6th floor since the elevator broke, again. I’ve had my fair share of experience in the dating pool here, and I can tell you that there is quite an amount of variety in France when it comes to men… Also, very disgusted by the part where the philosophy professor won’t take a shower because he still wants to have her scent on him?! That isn’t French, that is creepy af.
Don’t mind me, just on the search for a handsome French Gabriel.
French feminism: The feminism portrayed (or lack thereof) in this show really irked me. Did the writers forget the movement of feminists during the French Revolution? The Suffragettes? Simone de Beauvoir? Balance ton porc (the French equivalent of the #metoo movement)? Granted, this feminism isn’t exactly perfect, but it’s still a country that fights for women’s rights and advocacy. Of course, there is still misogyny values and cultural aspects that haven’t been resolved. Domestic abuse is a big problem in this country, and the masque 19 movement was an important conversation during the height of lockdown, where women would go to pharmacies and ask for a “Mask 19”, as a code of help for violence at home. But yet again, I just can’t see the French advocating for a naked woman for a perfume ad the way it was being presented on the show.
The French are rude: I believe that this cliché of “the French are rude” comes from tourists that come to this country and expect everyone here to speak English (like Emily, who doesn’t make an effort with her French). Especially in places like Paris, people who live in big cities often tend to be stressed and tired, always on the go… I don’t remember New Yorkers being exceptionally friendly. I can’t deny that my au pair family weren’t exactly the rêve I thought they were going to be, constantly criticizing my lifestyle and French and checked the cliché of the rude Parisians. But I have actually had many interactions with French people that have been above and beyond (shout out to the metro worker that saw me crying and frustrated because I lost my metro card and had to pay for a new one and was tight on money so he gave me 6 free masks). In this show, I constantly was yelling at Emily with how obnoxious she was being, and felt like people’s reactions to her were legitimate. The American white dumb girl stereotype is getting old, tiring, and it’s just not cute. Her handling of her love life, cultural differences and friendships (*cough* poor Camille *cough*) were poorly done, and her character as a whole just felt objectionable. Yet, I can understand why there is this misconception of the French. They do tend to be very closed off people, and it does take a lot to make French friends (I didn’t truly have a circle of friends until my second year of university). When the French talk about American friendships, they often tend to tell me the same thing, “I never know if it is real or fake with how outgoing and bubbly Americans are.” Yet, once the French open their homes and hearts to you, they are friends for life.
Café de Flore: Ahhh… one of the most Instagrammable cafés in Paris, and one of the most expensive as well. I’ve always felt chique and French when going, and felt like I am living the roaring 20’s, wondering what the person sitting next to me does for a living. Will they be the next Hemingway, Picasso, Fitzgerald, Piaf? One of my closest French friends, with whom I regularly drink homemade hot chocolate with and who lives a two-minute walk from the establishment continuously tells me, “we make better hot chocolate at home than that place.” Message received.
The Paris Dream: Us Americans tend to have the expression of, “we’re living the American dream.” I believe that there exists the Parisian dream as well. Coming to Paris a starving artist, a dreamer, a poet, a history lover, a philosopher, literature worm and language enthusiast… This show made that dream feel cheap.
I want to emphasize, again, that I understand this show was a form of escapism, certainly during this time. It felt like a big Hallmark movie set in 10 episodes. I actually like Darren Star’s show Younger. Will I watch season 2? Probably, due to my crush on Gabriel. The thing is, I am tired of men writing women’s stories, voices and about our life goals.
Bisous, besos, xoxo,
You can follow more of kikalavil: