The myth of 'La Vie En Rose' : 'Emily in Paris' thrashed for poor storytelling, stereotypes and a fantastical portrayal of the city.

PARIS : Love it, hate it or love to hate it, Emily in Paris leaves no one indifferent. The Netflix smash hit perpetuates long-held fantasies about the City of Light, including berets and pleasure loving Frenchies.

After An American in Paris, Funny Face, Moulin Rouge or Amelie, the rose-tinted, romanced vision Paris - with Instagram a new arrival - is once again, laid out in all its glory in one of the most watched series of the moment.

But many French critics have castigated the 10-episode series, tired of seeing Parisians portrayed suspicious concierges, unfriendly bakers or waiters, or snobbish, lazy and/or flirty colleagues. 

The American heroine, meanwhile, doesn't seem to ever take the metro and lives in an attic room once supposedly used for maids that is implausibly big, above a handsome neighbor who is just as implausible.

It is a sugar coated reality that irritates Lindsy Tramuta, an American writer who has lived in Paris for 15 years. She has written The New Paris and The New Parisenne, in which she tries to show there is much more  to the city than old worldly brasseries and corner cafes.

'Instagram-filtered playground'

''We are in 2020, and we are still recycling the old cards,'' she says, pointing to an economic and social reality that is overlooked in a city that has experienced Jihadist attacks, the Yellow Vests protests and many strikes.

''It is not a harmless series of cliches. When Paris is portrayed incessantly that way, for generations, it contributes to a problematic long term understanding of the place itself.''

One of those problems is the so-called Paris syndrome, which people have come to call the acute disappointment felt by some tourists when they arrive in the capital and see it as it is.

For Tramuta, the rose-tinted portrayal is ''an example of the way Paris is exploited by film companies, luxury brands and authors. It makes the city look like an Instagram-filtered playground.''

Criticised also for magnifying the French-Us culture clash, Emily in Paris has nevertheless found success in recycling the decades-old cliches and Netflix is entirely at ease with that. 

''If Emily had come to your city and not 'in Paris,' what would be the big cliches of the series be? ''it joked on Twitter. ''Take Emily in Marseille - it's always sunny , the old port smells of sardines and Jui wanders the streets,'' it added, referring to a born in the French southern city.

For Agnes Poirer the author of Left Bank, a book on Paris's post-war intellectual and cultural life, cliches all have an element of truth or they wouldn't be cliches.

''Also, cliches die hard. And in comparison to American cities, yes, Paris looks and feels romantic and the French have a different and more tolerant attitude to extramarital affairs and marriage.'

'Silly and Funny'

But, she adds, ''Paris and Parisians fascinate for what are now, alas, purely historical reasons,'' referring to the books or films that have created the image of  ''the city of love,'' unrestrained sexuality or of living the good life.

Ines de la Freesange, a fashion designer and co-author of the bestselling lifestyle book La Pariisienne, says it might all be a dream Paris but with ''a little bit of truth in it'' nevertheless.

We often forget that Americans see Paris as a type of Disneyland. Emily takes a selfie with a pain au chocolat,'' says the former model. ''But in New York, we too are amazed by the Empire State Building.

Right now, Paris is suffering from a lack of tourists. if cliches on gastronomy, elegance and beauty make people want to come here, it's not a problem.''

The series created by Darren Star of Sex and the Cityfame, has sparked a deluge of tweets from foreigners saying they want to live in Paris after watching it. ''It is a silly and funny rom-com that a lot of foreignrs can relate to,'' says Lane Nieset, an American freelance journalist who specializes in travel and gastronomy and has lived in paris for two years.

''For the americans, the French still represent the epitome of class and sophistication. And at a time of coronavirus, when they can't travel, it makes them dream. It is an escape. [AFP]


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