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Emily in Paris - CANCELED?

Alex Miller '23

Emily in Paris, a Netflix series based around a young American girl working for a French marketing company, has recently received heat, as many find its cultural depictions offensive. Plagued with stereotypes and insensitivity, this show has managed to offend not one but two groups of people. 

French critics have deemed the show out of touch and unrealistic for the masses. While depicting Paris in a beautiful and romantic way, many of the less fortunate areas are hidden from the camera, showing only a privileged life. This criticism may be true, but many shows do the exact same thing, so should Emily in Paris really receive an inequitable amount of backlash? 

Nevertheless, this isn’t the only issue. The main character, Emily, shows no interest in learning French while trying to work with primarily French clients and coworkers, frustrating many. Yet, this character shortcoming was a part of the plot, not ignorance of the writers. Throughout Season One, Emily was called out by several co-workers, showing the importance of culture to many viewers, and she moves to learn French, with a passion, in Season Two of the show. 

On top of this, the “astonishingly tone-deaf” series includes Emily successfully attempting to Americanize many other French stereotypes, but this could also be interpreted as a satirical depiction of ignorant American tourists. In the end, the show is full of many French clichés and caricatures, causing people to demand more diversity and inclusion in later seasons.

Even more problematic are the Ukrainian stereotypes perpetuated in the show. A Ukrainian woman, Petra, is briefly introduced in one of Emily’s French classes. Eventually, as homework, Emily and Petra go shopping where Petra coerces Emily into shoplifting. Essentially, the one Ukrainian in the entire show was given a single part: convincing the innocent and sweet American into criminal action, showcasing a problematic stereotype of greed and theft. This caused so much backlash that Ukrainian Culture Minister, Oleksandr Tkachenko, publicly complained to Netflix asking, “We have a caricature image of a Ukrainian woman that is unacceptable. It is also insulting. Is that how Ukrainians are seen abroad?” 

This controversy caused many to call for the show to be canceled; however, Netflix has renewed the show for a third and fourth season. Regardless, would canceling the show be justifiable? 
Novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie stated during her TED Talk that “the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.” While stereotypes can be untrue, they offend people whether or not they’re accurate. It reduces someone down to one aspect of their infinite layers and makes a judgment or prediction based off of that. 

While I don’t think the minor shoplifting scene and blending of cultures is enough to get a show canceled, I agree the scene was wildly unnecessary, offering nothing of substance to advance the plot. Though the show may not deserve to be canceled based upon its usage of stereotypes, the mediocre, unimaginative, and simplistic nature of the writing leaves the viewer unfulfilled and deprived of any sort of substance.