tv series

‘Emily in Paris’: How we love making fun of the French

Agence France-Presse
‘Emily in Paris’: How we love making fun of the French
It's not only the new show that has poked fun of the French on television and film

Emily in Paris, the new hit Neflix series has been accused of reducing France and the French to a cheesy souffle of cliches.

From rude waiters to fashion snobbery and adultery, critics say it serves up every Gallic stereotype on a bed of croissants, foie gras and under-cooked steak.

The series is part of a long anglophone tradition of poking fun at the French and their odd ways.

Here are some of the most memorable culprits:

The Pink Panther

Inspector Clouseau, ze bumbling detective with ze ridiculous French accent created by Peter Sellers, is the ultimate comic book Frenchman – vain, pompous, philandering, and utterly incompetent.

Sellers said his enormous ego and pretension were the keys to the character’s longevity over 11 films, together with his preposterous accent which mangled “bomb” into “bum” and “beumb” with hilarious consequences.

Allo ‘Allo

The long-running British sitcom set in a French cafe during World War II took off where Inspector Clouseau left off, but with added double entendres.

The fate of Europe may hang in the balance, but cafe owner Rene Artois is more worried about breaking the not very resolute French Resistance of his waitress Yvette Carte-Blanche behind his wife’s back.

With catchphrases like “Good moaning” and “I will say this only once”, the series had a field day with farcical accents and linguistic misunderstandings and it also poked fun at anglophones’ inability to master French. 

Beverly Hills 90210

The US teen series created by Darren Star – the man also behind Emily in Paris – threw his two female leads into the clutches of the French capital in 1992.

Brenda (Shannen Doherty) and Donna (Tori Spelling) had hardly left the airport when they were having to eat calves’ brains after misreading the menu.

Brenda later orders a pain au chocolat to get the taste out of her mouth. But when the bakery assistant finally deigns to serve her, she calls her an “imbecile” and an “idiot” for her bad French.

To cap a perfect day, she is seduced by a lecherous French photographer who promises to make her a supermodel.

Star returned to the most romantic city in the world for the finale of his next big hit series, Sex and the City, with Carrie miserable there until Big flies the Atlantic to rescue her for the happy ending everyone had been waiting years for.

A Year in Provence

Peter Mayle’s memoir of his time among the rural rustics of southern France spawned not just a television series and a spin-off Hollywood movie but a whole publishing industry about the curious habits of locals by expats who had snapped up second homes in the sun.

British comic novelist Stephen Clarke made a career afterwards of sending up with French with novels like A Year in the Merde and Merde Actually; as well as non-fiction books like How the French Won Waterloo (or think they did). –

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