Despite French criticism, the series has drawn a huge audience, thanks in no small part to its heritage. If you’re getting déjà vu — pretty young woman working in media teetering round a major city in ever more extravagant outfits — it’s no coincidence. Producer Darren Star and costume designer Patricia Field are the team that brought Sex And The City to our screens.
Emily may have traded Carrie Bradshaw’s MacBook musings for pictures posted on social media, but some of the lines from Mindy, Emily’s new best friend, could have come straight from Carrie’s man-eating sidekick, Samantha. ‘Try his meat,’ she urges when Emily is on the verge of complaining that the rare steak, cooked by the hot chef who lives downstairs, is not well done enough.
And like its Nineties predecessor, boy, does sex loom large in this show. Casual, passionate and extra-marital — it’s all there. Par exemple, Sylvie is having an affair with one of her married clients, Antoine, whose wife, Catherine, appears to know about the affair but is unperturbed by it.+5
Like its Nineties predecessor, sex looms large in this show. Casual, passionate and extra-marital scenes are in plentiful measures
Is this a fair representation of French society? Well, yes. Infidelity is rife in France, although they’d never call it that. They have a very different attitude to sex — it’s like eating, or shopping: a pleasure people shouldn’t deny themselves.
Emily’s character is a modern version of Carrie Bradshaw in the hit series Sex And The City
Sexual appetites aside, nothing in the show felt more true to life than when, in response to Emily’s assertion that she’s hungry, Sylvie replies: ‘Have a cigarette.’ The reason French women are so thin is because they rarely eat or drink.
I remember interviewing the elegant head of Cartier, and asking her if she ever ate a croissant. She looked horrified, exclaiming: ‘Not for ten years!’
This abstemious way of life means French women don’t bond over ‘just another drink’ — they’d never dream of drinking after dinner — and I think because of that, they’re just not as much fun. That’s why, in my view, Emily’s friendship with young French woman Camille doesn’t ring true.
French women can be quite stand-offish, and competitive. Great for a bitching session, but they won’t be there as a shoulder to cry on. However, while Emily In Paris doesn’t replicate Sex And The City’s core ‘girl squad’, one element that is loyally replicated is the showstopping fashion — as it should be, given its glamorous locale.
There’s plenty of showstopping fashion in the Netflix series. Looking good in France isn’t about labels — they wear Chanel but will mix it with Gap — sophistication is key
I arrived in France heavily pregnant, and so spent most of my time in tracksuit bottoms, to the horror of my new neighbours. Two decades on, I wouldn’t dream of even going to the bakery in my gym kit.
Looking good in France isn’t about labels — they wear Chanel but will mix it with Gap — but sophistication. The French just like beautiful things, and I think that’s where what we perceive as their sexism comes from. Emily tells a client that having a naked woman in a perfume ad is sexist — he says it’s just sexy.
Women are desired and put on a pedestal here, and I like that. When I go to my local deli, the owner greets me with ‘Bonjour beauté!’ Who wouldn’t want to be called beautiful doing the weekly shop?
So for all the French may complain that Emily In Paris is stuffed with clichés, I would say the French are different from us. And for that reason, I think they will never fully accept us — 20 years on, my husband and I are still known as ‘Les Anglais’.
But I like to think they have a grudging affection for us, even if — like Sylvie — they’d never admit to having anything as crass as emotions.