I want to preface my discussion of Darren Star’s fatuous Netflix rom-com series, Emily in Paris, about a plucky luxury marketer from Chicago who comes to Take on the French by saying that it’s O.K. to take a selfie on a bridge in Paris. It’s O.K. to cry a little when you get a perfectly crisped croissant that still has steam inside. It’s O.K. to make out with a greasy-haired, bestubbled stranger on another bridge and ignore his cigarette breath because you will never see him again.
One of the most visited cities in the world offers signifiers and experiences that can be indelible, and so we all feel like we own Paris just a little bit. (Or did you miss it when TV networks across every continent ran live coverage of Notre-Dame on fire?) When you are an American and you live in Paris, as I have since 2006, people back home get excited, and they have questions. You indulge them because you love your friends and family, but you hope that anytime your adopted city pierces the news—as it has so recently for strikes, gilets jaunes, terrorism, burkini dramas, climate accords, and embarrassing political scandals—it will be for something that engenders a productive conversation. Emily in Paris is not that conversation. When the teaser dropped, in September, my fellow expatriate American women and I went into a kind of defensive crouch.