Why Do We Love Hate-Watching ‘Emily In Paris’?


We saw a meme this morning that “Emily in Paris” is turning into a Christmas tradition. At the risk of sounding like a Grinch, allow us to say that yes, we agree with the meme in the way that it is one of those traditions that we don’t understand but can’t stop doing for no other reason than the fear of missing out. When “Emily in Paris” Season 1 came out, the pandemic was reaching its peak, if we remember it right (sorry, we have tried to block out that time period from our brains). People were getting used to being confined in their homes, and everything outside one’s doors was nothing short of a nightmare straight out of an episode of “Black Mirror” or a Stephen King novel. At a time like that, you have a show that is all about positivity. Emily was in Paris, like a fish out of water, trying to find her place in unfamiliar surroundings, just like most of us who were adapting to a new normal.

Let’s be honest; there was absolutely nothing new about this series. It was all as cliche as it could get. But maybe that’s what the world needed at that time. In surroundings that were getting more and more alien, we needed the comfort of something simple and familiar. It helped that the series came with an easy binge-able quality and was pretty to look at. Paris is the dream destination for many, and when you are told that there are hundreds of travel restrictions in place, people get a chance to live vicariously through Emily. Weren’t we all struggling to bake our own bread? And that’s when we see Emily lazily munching on croissants. How could we not think that it is what we all want? We had all started working from home, and that had resulted in a lot of blurred lines between personal and professional spaces. And here’s Emily taking 2-hour long lunch breaks to chat with her friends. While we couldn’t be bothered to get out of our pajamas, she was serving us high fashion looks, one after the other. And oh God, the men she was with. People’s relationships were falling apart, and they were getting increasingly irritated at their partners due to forced proximity. At a time like this, she was serenaded by men like Gabriel, Thomas, Antoine, and later Alfie. Her life was so aspirational. All we wanted to do was quit everything and get transported into her world. Who wants demanding bosses unless they can be one-upped as charmingly as Emily does with Sylvie? We don’t want to discuss what to cook for the day; we want Gabriel to make us an omelet while flirting with us on his kitchen counter. Luc says to Emily that one must work to live and not live to work. God, we wish we had co-workers like that instead of the ones trying to pile their work on us as well.

But that’s where the twist lies. The reasons we couldn’t stop watching it were the exact reasons it irritated us. “Emily in Paris” would probably not have received the popularity it did if it were not for the pandemic. The reality is that it wasn’t famous; it was infamous. While the world was waking up to the nuances of the concept of privilege, here was the entire cast of “Emily in Paris” just being intolerant towards each other due to their differing work cultures. Emily’s “Americanness” and Sylvie’s “icy-French” attitude were always clashing, and one couldn’t help screaming at the screen that couldn’t they just get a simple job done without making it all about where they were from. Yes, Emily wore some excellent clothes and shoes, accessorizing them with bags to die for, but how is a social media manager making so much money? People were struggling to pay rent, and Emily had the time to get dressed up in a princess gown with a tennis bracelet as a headband (we don’t know what else to call it) for a five-minute pitch at the ballet? Also, how dare she break up with her boyfriend Thomas for being snobby when the rest of the women of the world had to put up with theirs because what else could they do when they couldn’t leave the house? Her being able to find so many men was the primary cardinal sin, according to us. That is difficult to do, even without a communicable virus in the air. And Gabriel!! People might have been more forgiving toward Emily if it weren’t for Gabriel. No matter how hot he was, he was certainly problematic. He acted all flirty and single with Emily, and when she finally responded, it was revealed that he had a girlfriend. If Camille had not walked into the diner that day, he would have probably started two-timing the girls. Even in Season 2, he really couldn’t make up his mind as to who he wanted to be with, and he let Emily think that it was her confusion that was leading the show.

Allow us to explain our frustration with this for a second because none of it is altruistic. Please don’t bother coming at us with “not all men” because all of them are insufferable in some way or another. This means that if you are a straight woman, you sign up for some degree of suffering whenever you choose the company of a man. You can try putting it in more idealistic language, but these are blunt facts. Either way, our point is that the pandemic left women, who also found themselves taking on the bulk of the domestic responsibilities in addition to their professional workloads, with little to no bandwidth to deal with a lot of the aforementioned “suffering.” At a time like this, seeing Emily put up with Gabriel’s wishy-washiness and not give a stronger reply to Antoine’s “sexy or sexist” question left us feeling angry and irritated. But on the other hand, these men were incredibly hot and charming and definitely fell on the milder spectrum of the insufferable. We understood Emily but were also mad at her. The irony is that she was making the choices anyone might have made in her situation, but only she was in that situation while the rest of the world could only hope to be. It all boiled down to the audience wanting their struggles and problems to be as privileged and fancy as hers instead of what they were currently going through. 

To be completely honest, there is nothing particularly right or wrong about “Emily in Paris.” It was the timing of the show that elicited such strong feelings in the audience. And it is that exact timing that is making it lose its oomph. The world has returned to normal—not a “new normal,” but the one that always existed. Emily’s clothes, despite being high fashion, have just gotten tacky and ostentatious, and her troubles are more and more silly. So, when you are not hate-watching “Emily in Paris,” what is the reason at all to watch something so unremarkably average? Maybe if Mindy danced to another BTS song, the series would gain a fresh wave of popularity, or at least that particular clip from the series would. But that doesn’t seem likely for a while, with the members of the band getting enlisted. We will miss Kim Seokjin’s infectious laughter and his dad jokes, but we are not going to miss “Emily in Paris.” It had its run. The smartest thing to do would be to know when to stop, which is now. We are sure there will be a Season 4. Hopefully, that will be the last. The show is already an iconic memory, for whatever reason, but it is. We hope it doesn’t ruin that with delusions of a different kind of success.

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Divya Malladi
Divya Malladi
Divya spends way more time on Netflix and regrets most of what she watches. Hence she has too many opinions that she tries to put to productive spin through her writings. Her New Year resolution is to know that her opinions are validated.

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