This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
Emily in Paris was so annoying. I can’t wait for more episodes.
It seems that I’m not alone. This is one of those rare, though always gloriously ridiculous industry situations in which the most popular show on television is also one of the most complained about.
Since it premiered last week, Lily Collins’ culturally tonedeaf romp through Paris has ranked near the top of the Netflix 10. Those who watch have binged through it in a day. And when they’re done, they’ve taken to social media to talk about how irritating, yet somehow also addicting and endearing they found it. Is that the typical rom-com discourse? The desperate need for something frothy and escapist right now? Le syndrome de Stockholm, our captive’s addiction to anything on Netflix, but with a French twist?
Early reviews for the series, in which Collins’ Emily in Chicago becomes the titular Emily in Paris when her company sends her there to do social media marketing for its French clients, were perfectly polite.
Sure, Emily is as if the most unappealing character traits of the four Sex and the City women manifested themselves into one person, and the show has a sentient rodent’s understanding of influencer culture and social media. But there was a Hot French Chef (Lucas Bravo) and some perfectly confectious romantic-comedy story arcs. Voila, a harmless, charming show.
But then people actually started to watch it.
The Twitter reaction was...aggrieved.
My colleague Tim Teeman watched this show this week and wrote in his Daily Beast review/rant, “My hope was that Emily in Paris would, if not solve anything, then at least lighten a frazzled mood. Think of it: Paris, beautiful clothes, beautiful people, romance, comedy, warm-bath, escapist television… But no, it left this viewer even more furious.”
From InStyle to The New York Times, mainstream outlets began reporting on the ways the show managed to at once piss off real-life social media editors, the French, and the only group of snobs more obnoxious than both of those: pizza purists.
So much ire. And yet...so much popularity!
I love the chaos of it all. What is the psychology behind the fact that everyone hated the experience of watching this show, yet still watched the entire thing to completion in a matter of days? What about how they then loudly told everyone they knew that they hated the experience of watching the show, yet those people watched it anyway—and now here we are journeying down that rabbit hole of dissonance between its popularity and its reception?
It’s the strange thing that it’s not an example of hatewatching, because the show is hardly “terrible,” with most critics remarking how inoffensively charming it can often be. So what is it then? Make it make sense! (Me referring to this phenomenon right now and also screaming at my TV at 2 o’clock in the morning last Friday as I poured another glass of wine and pressed play on the next episode.)
Some have offered that the gorgeous visuals were enough of a reason to watch. The City of Lights as framed in the series provides a spectacular televised postcard, as so many of us continue our quarantines, lockdowns, and social distancing. Others have ventured the justification for bingeing is the Hot French Chef, no further explanation needed.
And while it is remarkable that I had enough time to write this in between Google searches for “Lucas Bravo from Emily in Paris shirtless”—did you even enjoy a male actor’s TV performance if you don’t immediately google their name and “shirtless”?—there is still something very funny to me about this show that was likely designed to be innocent mainstream entertainment somehow stoking some of the most intense passions about any TV series in the last year. This isn’t Watchmen, people. It’s Emily in Paris.
In any case, if you were curious what actual people in Paris, Emilies or otherwise, had to say about the show, here’s the New York Times headline for you: “Ridicule.”