As a young woman from the midwest who currently serves as the Director of Marketing for a global beauty brand, I should have quite a lot in common with Emily Cooper, the protagonist in the new and ever-so-popular Netflix original ‘Emily in Paris,’ and yet I can’t seem to find anything even remotely relatable about her. Nevertheless, I can’t look away.
I just finished re-watching ‘Emily in Paris’ for the second time, and as a communications major who also frequently fantasizes about upending my life and moving abroad for the sake of my career, I can honestly say that I have never seen a more ridiculous picture painted of life in this industry—or of life as a young woman in general—but perhaps that’s why it’s so entertaining.
The series follows the beautiful, wide-eyed and career driven Emily, played by actress Lily Collins, as she makes the big move from ‘The Windy City’ to ‘The City of Lights’ after her company acquires a luxury French marketing firm. A dream come true, right?
Of course, the transition to her new life in Paris doesn’t come without its trials and tribulations. We’re constantly reminded that Emily is an outcast amongst her Parisian peers. Even her signature look screams American, and apparently midwestern at that, though I don’t typically see women in Wisconsin wearing Ganni.
It’s so totally Darren Star, the show’s Executive Producer and the creator of Sex and the City and Beverly Hills 90210, to use the ‘fish out of water’ or, in this case, the ‘American in Paris’ plot line in this way. A plucky young heroine arrives at Charles De Gaulle without knowing a lick of French, eager to bring an “American perspective” to her company’s newly acquired Parisian marketing firm. Très bien!
As the series progresses, we watch Emily navigate her new life in Paris, overcoming one obstacle after the another with impeccable style and not a hair out of place. Of course, let’s not forget that she has fashion expert Patricia Field and celebrity hairstylist Mike Desir on her side.
Sure, she runs into a few roadblocks along the way; one of her (married!) clients, who also just so happens to be her boss’s lover, gifts her with an expensive lingerie set making workplace relationships all the more complicated and she scares off esteemed designer and potential client Pierre Cadault with a tacky bag charm. But alas, there is no problem Emily can’t solve with a brilliant, one-off marketing solution.
Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned her love life. Miss Emily Cooper is apparently a hot commodity in Paris. Every French man she crosses paths with is apparently looking to jump her bones, from the first guy she meets who shows her to her new apartment upon her arrival to the city to her super hot neighbor who lives just a floor below. But that’s like, super relatable actually.
What I find particularly interesting and perhaps the most unrelatable is the idea that this character, Emily Cooper from Chicago, is supposed to be ‘basic’ or ‘ringarde’ if you will. Here she is strutting around The City of Love in Louboutins, toting a designer handbag like it’s nobody’s business and we’re supposed to think to ourselves, yeah, sooo basic…?
I mean seriously, at one point her coworkers even take to calling her “la plouc” which, as Emily quickly learns, translates to ‘the hick.’’ She has more designer clothes than I could ever hope to own and executes a flawless day-to-night makeup transition in every single episode, but supposedly that’s how the hillbillies do it in Paris?
Ironically, when asked about Emily’s relatability in an interview with Vulture, Star said, “Paris may be beautiful, and she may be wearing clothes that, okay, we’re not sure where she got them. But she’s wearing them. She’s met a beautiful guy downstairs. But a lot of the challenges she’s facing and the struggles—if they don’t feel relatable, the show’s not going to work.”
Now, you already know my opinion on this subject, but at the very same time I can’t seem to get enough of Emily in Paris. So, contrary to Star’s objective, perhaps it’s not Emily’s relatability that makes the show so appealing. Perhaps it’s quite the opposite. We’re drawn to the colorful outfits we could never afford, the messy love triangles that begin to unfold and yes, we’re even enthralled with Emily’s atrocious Instagram game and her absolutely ridiculous marketing solutions.
There is something to be said for the apparent escapism in this series. If nothing else, it whisks you away to an alternate universe where you’re able to watch a young woman succeed in her new city without even knowing the language and an influencer grow her following from a mere 48 to a whopping 25,000 by posting nothing but tacky boomerangs and pictures of dog sh*t. C’est la vie!