Emily in Paris? The French call it Leave Me Alone, You Illiterate Sociopath

Patrick Freyne: She has no French yet she’s thriving in a Parisian marketing firm?

Emily in Paris is unaccountably watchable despite being entirely frictionless and devoid of stakes

Emily in Paris is unaccountably watchable despite being entirely frictionless and devoid of stakes

 

Emily in Paris, that button-nosed avatar of American foreign policy, has returned to the Netflix top 10 (the metric by which I gauge the psychological health of our nation). If the first series helped you pass the Junior Cert exam in having a French accent and carrying a baguette, then the new one will help you coast through the Leaving Cert exam in wearing a string of onions around your neck and saying “bof”. Seriously, if you stick with this you could well end up doing a degree in dressing up like Napoleon while carrying a poodle under your arm and then the sky’s the limit.

Emily is a chirpy clown person who works for an advertising company in Paris. She is an American innocent in a place of romance and fairy tale but she is unaccountably surrounded by smelly, smoking, frequently nude Parisians who insist on speaking gibberish and being sexually enthralled by her Ayn Randian American obliviousness.

She gets into an argument with a mime, which makes sense, they live in France. Big Mime is the main employer there

Emily comes from a lineage of sartorially idiosyncratic television heroines that includes Carrie Bradshaw, Blossom and Minnie Mouse. Much of Emily’s clothing looks like it was designed by a precocious four-year-old at the behest of a child psychologist. In one episode Emily wears a lampshade on her head and an isosceles triangle as a coat. In another her head seems to be emerging from an explosion of purple ruffles. If I met Emily in real life, I would ask her what she had dressed as before remembering it wasn’t Halloween.

Emily has three friends. There’s the “crazy” one, an expat heiress who performs at a drag club. In a later episode she gets into an argument with a mime, which makes sense, they live in France. Big Mime is the main employer there.

There’s also Camille, whose parents run a vineyard that produces wine so terrible it is literally marketed to be sprayed at people. She takes Emily to a sauna where Camille and the other Frenchies wander around nudely but where Emily sits with a robe fastened up to the throat, clearly judging them.

Emily in Paris: Lucas Bravo as Gabriel, Camille Razat as Camille and Lily Collins as Emily

Then there’s Gabriel, Camille’s boyfriend, with whom Emily has as an affair. His personality is that he has a rectangular head, is a chef and lives downstairs. He also now owns a caf, like Rene from ’Allo ’Allo! He is the thoughtless woman’s Rene from ’Allo ’Allo!

Not even un peu

Sadly, Emily cannot speak French. This fact becomes more and more of an issue for her this series. You’d think she would have given her lack of language skills more thought, given that her USP is being “in Paris”. She frequently initiates conversations with strangers in English. At one point she gets annoyed that the people in her office have decided to hold a meeting in French, the language of their nation. In the fourth episode she sends a letter of apology to her friend Camille about sleeping with Gabriel, to which Camille responds, “Leave me alone, you illiterate sociopath”. Camille speaks for all of France here. Indeed, I believe Leave Me Alone, You Illiterate Sociopath is the French title of the show.

Emily in Paris is unaccountably watchable despite being entirely frictionless and devoid of stakes. It sort of slides over your eyes like fractals or nightfall or the gentle onset of cataracts. My wife sat down to watch just one scene so she could shout swear words at it in French but soon we were both on the third episode and an hour and a half closer to death.

Back to the almost complete absence of tension. Nothing can seriously impact Emily for she is an American Abroad. If she was an American at Home she would be endangered by inadequate healthcare, guns and the fact they put corn syrup in everything. In Paris she benefits from socialised medicine, gun control and the reality that if anything happens to Americans overseas, other people get renditioned.

For the most part they could replace Emily with a large puppy and most of the plot would still work fine

Her imperviousness to harm is clear in the opening minute of the new series, when, overcome by sexy thoughts of her Francophone squeeze, she runs into traffic. She is yanked back by a French pedestrian. Yes, the whole nation is on high alert for clueless Americans ever since Alexis de Tocqueville put the word out a couple of centuries ago. So assured is Emily of her general security that she takes this as her due. She doesn’t even say thanks to the woman who saved her life and just keeps on going. The fact that Emily’s life has been saved by a stranger is never mentioned again. Mark my words, this is the key scene of the whole series and it makes a clear point: Emily cannot die.

Much of Emily’s clothing looks like it was designed by a precocious four-year-old

For the most part they could replace Emily with a large puppy and most of the plot would still work fine. How is this person with no French and a remarkable lack of curiosity managing to flourish in a Parisian marketing company? The same way a large puppy would manage to flourish in a Parisian marketing company. Implausibly.

How does prudish Emily function in a steamy love triangle with a Champagne heiress and a hunky chef? The same way a large puppy would function in a steamy love triangle with a Champagne heiress and a hunky chef. Implausibly and a little disturbingly.

Large Puppy in Paris, I suspect, would do just as well as Emily in Paris. Indeed, Plaster of Paris, a show about a discarded medicinal boot, would probably do as well if the plaster wore some cute berets and had an Instagram account (I have bought the rights to Plaster of Paris).

Vader’s pet

I like Boba Fett in the original Star Wars trilogy. He’s just a regular working schmuck. In The Empire Strikes Back, when Darth Vader hires a bunch of bounty hunters to find the goodies, Boba, the most helmeted of the bounty hunters, sneaks around until he spots them. Then he runs off and snitches to Vader. Boba Fett’s only real action scene comes in Return of the Jedi when, in the midst of a melee, a blinded Han Solo accidentally turns Boba’s rocket pack on and propels him into the mouth of a tentacled sand beast. It’s pretty solid slapstick. Or a cool meet-cute if you’re attracted to tentacled monsters.

Temuera Morrison and Ming-Na Wen in The Book of Boba Fett
Temuera Morrison and Ming-Na Wen in The Book of Boba Fett

Based on these appearances, Boba Fett was just Vader’s pet and a hapless klutz. Boba “nerdlinger” Fett is what the other bounty hunters probably called him. But then the fans became obsessed with the idea that he was a badass and soon he was fan-fictioned into a million non-canonical comics and novels. His personality never evolved past “has a cool helmet” but now we have to reckon with The Book of Boba Fett (Disney Plus), where he turns out to be a grumpy middle-aged man who’s good at guns. I find this sad. I’d have been all in on a Boba Fett show in which he was the Frank Spencer of the Star Wars universe, causing Vader to shake his fist and shout “Feeeett!” on a regular basis. Or how about a show in which he moved to another planet in order to work in advertising with some chain-smoking, sex-obsessed Ewoks who only speak Ewok (Boba in Endor?). That would have been brilliant. The Book of Boba Fett isn’t like either of those things. Still, he does have a cool helmet. I expect to see Emily wearing it in future episodes of Emily in Paris.

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