Netflix's 'Emily in Paris' Is So Dumb That It's Actually Kind of Good

The new Netflix series from 'Sex and the City' creator Darren Star is confounding on many levels, yet we can't stop watching.

emily in paris phone case

In many ways, Emily in Paris, the new Darren Star comedy on Netflix, is one of the most cynical shows to ever exist. Star, creator of Sex and the City, has always trafficked in urban fantasies for white women. His heroines, like Carrie Bradshaw and Liza Miller on Younger, swan around their cityscapes in impractical high heels and Patricia Field-designed ensembles. It's unclear how they have enough money to live like this in expensive areas with careers that aren't traditionally known for raking in the big bucks, but they do. 

Emily in Paris gets rid of any pretense of a creative profession for its titular heroine and just makes her a straight-up capitalist: Emily is a marketing exec who loves to sell shit. For her, marketing is a passion, and she brings that passion to Paris at the agency Savoir, where the French employees turn up their noses at her giddy enthusiasm and love for publicity stunts. 

This show is the most basic bitch version of Paris you could possibly imagine -- it's the Paris of a bargain bin college dorm room poster -- but it wears it proudly. It asks: What if you got the opportunity to go work in France despite speaking no French, became an Instagram influencer, and had every hot Parisian man fall head over heels in love with you? It's ridiculous! It's also addictive, which is why it immediately landed in Netflix's top ten and became the subject of intense debate on Twitter. Let's try to figure out what is up with this show. 

emily in paris

What is Emily's deal?

After ten episodes, I'm frankly still a little baffled by Emily's whole deal. Lily Collins is charming in the role, which goes a long way in covering up the fact that Emily is both sort of vaguely constructed and would probably be extremely annoying if you met her in real life. What do we know about Emily? She's from the midwest. She idolized Gossip Girl. She has a masters degree in marketing. She used to work on pharmaceutical clients before being sent to Paris to sell luxury goods because her boss got unexpectedly pregnant. She didn't really seem to mind working for Big Pharma, and instead was kind of thrilled by it. In another world, she would be an antiheroine, peddling products to the masses with nefarious intent. Instead, Emily's mission is presented as noble and idealistic. She just wants to help companies win over American customers. Does Emily like anything other than marketing? Hard to say. Croissants, I guess? 

Why does Emily love hats so much? 

Emily's obsession with headwear, particularly bucket hats, is perhaps her most confounding trait. Actually, her entire wardrobe is a puzzle. Emily's style is supposed to be poo-pooed by her French colleagues. It's "ringarde," the show's favorite French word, literally translating to "old hat," but here, it's used to mean "basic." Except Emily's fashions aren't really basic. They are weird. She dresses like a hybrid between Carrie Bradshaw and Blair Waldorf, stuck in an early- to mid-aughts time capsule. Her looks are actually more interesting than the scripts give them credit for. There is an audacity in pulling out a pageboy cap in the second decade of the 21st century, and her commitment to layering is garish but almost inspired. And that retro phone case, made by a brand called Awsaccy? It's tacky, but bold. 

emily in paris

Which man will Emily end up dating? 

It must be nice to arrive in Paris and instantly become the object of affection for every man you meet. The first season leaves Emily in not just a love triangle but a love pentagon, or maybe a hexagon. It's confusing. She's smitten with Gabriel (Lucas Bravo), the chef that lives downstairs who has just broken up with Camille (Camille Razat), Emily's new friend. Gabriel is supposed to be moving to Normandy, which means that he and Emily have sex thinking it's a one-time thing, only now he's staying in Paris because the suave, flirtatious perfumer Antoine (William Abadie) bought the restaurant for him to operate. That means Gabriel and Emily's one night stand has some strings attached considering now he and Camille may get back together.

As for Antoine, he's married, but was having an affair with Emily's boss Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu). That didn't stop him, however, from making advances toward Emily, which his wife seemed to condone in the last episode. And then there's Mathieu Cadault (Charles Martins), nephew to couturier Pierre Cadault. He has also taken a fancy to Emily and they were supposed to jet away on a vacation together when she learned of Gabriel's plans to stay in Paris. Quelle dilemma! There will just have to be a Season 2. 

Is Emily in Paris a tale of American ingenuity or ignorance? 

Again, I'm stumped. On one hand, Emily is supposed to be an unsophisticated rube who doesn't speak French and refuses to learn local customs. On the other, the French are portrayed as total snobs who don't get Emily's brilliant marketing schemes. She saves the day at every turn. At least we know the one true hero of Emily in Paris: Stuff. This is a show, above all, about consuming. Emily wants you to buy shit and so you buy into her bullshit, regardless if you like it or not. 

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Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.