Emily in Paris: Is it good, or is it bad?
It's been nearly six months since Netflix dropped the first season of this romp through France and that's still the question we find ourselves asking—especially now that it's been renewed for season two and nabbed multiple Golden Globe nominations. It's an easy watch that many viewers seemed to breeze through, but is it a good watch? Or was it just conveniently available at a time when many of us would kill to go on vacation to Paris—not to mention actually move there?
Emily in Paris follows the adventures of Emily (Lily Collins), a bright-eyed and eager American who suddenly is offered the chance to move to Paris to work for the marketing firm that was just purchased by the larger firm she worked for in Chicago. She doesn't speak French and she's annoyed that no one at this new firm will listen to her American point of view, but she perseveres and tries to win everyone over by gaining Instagram followers and slowly but surely learning the ways of her Parisian friends and coworkers. She also makes out with a hot chef (Lucas Bravo).
And yet, we here at E! News are still split on whether or not Emily is good or just watchable nonsense, so we're here to present two very different viewpoints on the most talked about binge of 2020.
It's Bad - Lauren Piester
From the first moments of the first episode of Emily in Paris, I knew this show was not for me, though there's a lot of reasons it should be for me. I'm a young(ish) woman who loves traveling, fashion, romance, croissants and even (sometimes) social media. I'd also currently be willing to do an awful lot of things to be handed a job and an apartment in Paris after seven months of barely leaving my small Los Angeles apartment (or anytime, really).
Emily in Paris should have been my jam, but instead I found myself hate watching it, getting angrier and angrier as it went on, wondering why we were getting a show like this in 2020. It felt like a remnant of the early 2010s, when Instagram was newer and so were the followers.
First of all, after the aforementioned seven months of barely leaving my small Los Angeles apartment, I found myself seething with jealousy over Emily's new adventure. Watching her live this life wasn't a fun, vicarious escape—it was just a reminder of all the things I couldn't do, and likely won't be able to do for many years. I had no plans to move to Paris before March 2020, but who's to say I wasn't about to? Here Emily is living my current dream and squandering it away like it isn't the opportunity of a lifetime, and I'm not having a good time watching her do it.
Emily herself is one of the most insufferable main characters on TV right now—rude, loud, aggressive and oblivious to the world around her. Sure, point it out if you're worried your steak is undercooked, but don't rudely and sarcastically insult the waiter about it. Customers who are right usually do not have to point out that "the customer is always right."
She also walks into her new job—in France, remember—where she is most certainly not in charge, and hands out a list of "commandments" from her old job in Chicago. Instead of spending any time coming to understand French office culture, she tries to get her new colleagues to follow the rules of her old job and complains that there's not enough English since she doesn't speak French. Everyone's mean to her and it feels totally justified because there's very little sense of Emily trying to adapt to Paris. Instead, she's trying to make Paris adapt to her.
Emily does learn a few things over the course of the show, but not quickly enough. And even when she does something wrong, she still always ends up being right after all, justifying her behavior. She also keeps kissing her new friend's boyfriend while he seems unconcerned about the cheating, which is a big ol' red flag.
When Emily, who disagrees with everything, declared that her strength is that she's agreeable and people like her, I was over it. I spent the rest of the season skipping through just to find out what happened, wondering why we were supposed to care about this person. How on earth were we following Emily when we could have been following Mindy (Ashley Park)? Mindy, a former aspiring pop star, is out here following her dreams by working as a nanny in an effort to forge her own path beyond the one her parents have waiting for her in China. Everything about that character is more interesting than anything Emily has going on.
Then there's the tone. Emily constantly teeters between child-friendly grown-up Madeline and Sex and the City wannabe with raunchy dialogue coming out of absolutely nowhere to the point where it just feels like it's there for shock value and not because it's a way that people actually talk to each other. Why is anyone in a workplace talking about sex positions and sending each other penis cakes?
Part of the reason it feels so out of the blue is because the social media aspect, which is an unfortunately huge part of the series, feels so juvenile. Emily's pictures and captions are terrible. At one point she puts an apostrophe in the middle of a hashtag! She gets 20,000 Instagram followers for posting pictures of statues and random Parisians, and it gives you the sense that the creators of this show don't understand how Instagram actually works. Influencing is a real, lucrative business—surreal, often dumb and highly volatile, but still real—and TV has yet to portray it accurately or interestingly. Are all these people really following Emily for dumb jokes or are they actually interested in her life as an American in Paris and only getting dumb jokes?
Both the show and Emily could use a little more depth and vulnerability. Give me a reason to care about this woman who looks exactly like every other woman who's struggled with love and work on TV or in movies. Give her more moments of reflection, or maybe make her less insufferable. We don't have to like her, but we do have to give a s--t about her, and right now that ain't easy.
Finally, the bucket hats. Why is Emily constantly wearing bucket hats?! No one should be constantly wearing bucket hats.
It's Good - Jonathan Borge
I unequivocally loved Emily in Paris. If you're sheepishly searching for answers to whether the new Netflix hit will return for season two, don't worry about getting labeled basic. Google with confidence! I see you, I respect you, I too need to know whether our titular character throws her French boy toy to the wind or ends up marrying him at the steps of Versailles (what a dream, right?). Rumor has it, a threesome could happen.
There's a reason Emily in Paris has inspired Reddit subthreads and guides that match each character to their zodiac sign (like Emily, I'm a Virgo). For viewers who've already seen season one twice, bear with me, and if you're new to her world, know this: It follows Emily, an aggressively optimistic 20-something-year-old social media marketer whose Chicago-based employer sends her to Paris to work, annoy her French colleagues and meet an assortment of new friends and lovers that could all be signed to Wilhelmina Models in a snap.
I'm no psychologist, but the folks responsible for promoting this Netflix show knew exactly who they were speaking to with the key art. Weeks before its Oct. 2 premiere, I knew I'd love Emily, that I'd relate to her and—this is a judgement-free zone, right?—would probably try to befriend her in real life. That epicly glamorous poster in which Emily coquettishly looks over her shoulder as she stands in a strapless black Alexandre Vauthier cocktail dress with Christian Louboutin sandals and sips bubbly? You know the one. By all means, dress me in designer goods and funnel freshly-chilled champagne through my veins. The photo made me want to dive right in.
Showrunner Darren Star is the creator of Sex and the City, so there's room for comparison between both shows, mainly in the over-the-top fashion (Patricia Field served as costume designer for both) and tropes about a single woman looking for love. Yes, Emily's behavior is often impermissible. And as critics have pointed out, it is deeply embarrassing not to at least know how to say please and thank you in French while living in or visiting the City of Light (Sorry, Emily. It's true). But would you end a friendship over someone's embodiment of negative American stereotypes? No! Just course correct and move on.
Look, Emily in Paris is far from perfect. As a gay Latino man who consumes a lot of TV, I expect more from Hollywood than yet another story about a super-skinny rich white girl with a ton of first-world problems. Representation does matter, and the need for shows that amplify inclusivity and diversity is more critical than ever.
However, I spent much of 2020 binging shows that were at times painfully hard to watch. My favorites included dramas like Unorthodox, Lovecraft Country and I May Destroy You. Amid a global pandemic, a polarizing election and an avalanche of apocalyptic-sounding headlines, sitting down to digest anything that requires me to think, think and think some more feels exhausting.
Emily in Paris instead came along like a gluttonously sweet cosmopolitan best enjoyed after a long day of work. Bingeing the show was refreshing. Getting to "escape" to Paris and wonder how many of those croissants Emily really did eat gave me that fuzzy, warm sensation that hits when the Starbucks barista hands over your first Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season, the only season.
As someone who grew up fantasizing about the lives of Andy Sachs, Jenna Rink and Andie Anderson—like so many, I moved from my hometown to New York City to try and become a lifestyle journalist—Emily Cooper was exactly what I thought we'd never get again: a one-dimensional, pretty persona who always wins and will never know failure.
Is that not worth celebrating? Must every TV-viewing experience give me the sense that I'm at the center of the "This Is Fine" meme? Sometimes, Netflix is best enjoyed through Emily's rose-colored glasses.
Emily in Paris is now streaming on Netflix.
A version of this story was originally published on Oct. 22.