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In this episode, Chelsea dives into Emily In Paris — the Netflix show everyone is talking about — and the unrealistic expectations it sets when it comes to international moves, dating, and career choices in your twenties.

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Hey, everyone.

It's Chelsea from The Financial Diet. And this week's video is sponsored by Fidelity Investments.

And if you have not subscribed to our channel yet, but love talking about money and everything it touches in a way that doesn't suck, hit that Subscribe button right below. And today we are here to talk about Emily in Paris. Huh, huh, huh, omelette du fromage as our King said on the streets of Philadelphia the other day when Joe Biden won.

So I watched the show Emily in Paris, like many of you, and had a lot of feels about it-- both as someone who lived like the really shitty version of Emily's life, almost to a T a little bit. Sort of a combo of her and her friend in the show, but we'll get to that a bit later. But also someone who is kind of passionate about the representation of money in pop culture.

As some of you guys might have already been aware, this is another Darren Star joint. He made Sex and the City, he made Younger. He made all of those shows that are sort of iconic for representing women in a way that, for a lot of us is just like, not it chief.

Like, it's very focused on conspicuous consumption, it's very focused on male approval as being sort of the primary value driver of a woman's life. And it's also just ridiculously unrealistic from a financial/consumer/career perspective. We actually, in partnership with our beloved YouTuber Lindsay Ellis, created a show here on TFD about how Carrie Bradshaw, in many ways, sort of kickstarted the entire concept of an influencer.

I highly recommend you guys check that, I'll link the description. But we are basically 20 years out from Sex and the City as cultural phenomenon, and it kind of seems like in many ways Darren Starr is really just playing the hits in terms of this particular representation of women. Now, obviously, there's a lot of critique there from a financial/lifestyle perspective, but as I mentioned, I also happen to have had a somewhat similar trajectory to Emily herself, and so have a lot of feelings about it from that perspective.

I moved to France at the age of 21, looking for love and life and success and all of the things that Emily is looking for. I was an au pair like her best friend in the show. I lived in a chambre de bonne like she lives in, although our experiences on that differed wildly as I'll get into later.

I ended up meeting my now husband in France, and I started my career that ended up becoming my full time life's work as someone who works in media. So in many ways there are some overlaps, but as someone who never had neither the disposable income nor the body mass index of Emily definitely differed in a lot of ways. Also I should note having watched this show, if you have not watched it-- well, first of all, I'm going to spoil the hell out of it, so turn back now.

But if you haven't watched it I must comment on the fact that my husband and I who watched the show together, the first night when we watched the first half we were having drinks and it was like sort of a party ambiance. Show seem to honestly kind of good. Last night we finished it, stone sober five episodes in a row.

Not that enjoyable of a show. So take that with a grain of salt, but you may want to get in the right headspace when you're watching it. But all of that said, I have taken away some valuable life and money lessons from the show in a bit of a tongue in cheek way.

And let's go through them with the seven biggest life and money lessons I learned from Emily in Paris. Number one, if you're cute, it doesn't matter if you're qualified. So I feel like the genre of a hot naive young American woman goes to another country where she doesn't speak a language to like stumble her way into success and romance is just one of the five types of stories we humans have created.

It's so ubiquitous and it's so overdone, but this one even for how common that sort of storytelling is felt particularly frustrating. So first of all, the actual exposition for how Emily gets to Paris, I'm not exaggerating, takes up about 45 seconds of screen time. And the conceit is a little bit offensive to say the least.

Basically her older, much more qualified boss who was supposed to be doing this job in Paris finds out she's pregnant. So she gets the boot. No more fun project for her.

We literally never hear from her again basically in the show. And it's just a great message of like, well, she's having a child so time for her to go and wither and die and get out of our faces so that young beautiful carefree Emily can come have the adventure of a lifetime. And because she was never planning to go to France, didn't prepare for it, wasn't at all briefed for this job, is probably not qualified for it in terms of seniority, the sort of entire premise of the show and her charm in the show is that she's completely unqualified for the job.

And of course, everything works out perfectly for her because that's the way it works in rom-com/sitcom land, but it's also kind of even underscored within the universe of the show that it's working out so perfectly for her because she is that young, thin, beautiful, unencumbered woman unlike her pregnant older boss, who I guess should just go die because her life is over. Also the other people in her office, including people who appeared to have been there for a long time or who are highly qualified at their jobs, are sort of portrayed to be obstacles for Emily because her cute, fun, effervescence is portrayed as this thing that should just always prevail and that we should automatically be on the side of even though with any kind of context she is completely unqualified for her job. While in theory these shows are meant to have you relate to the protagonist, you kind of leave the show feeling like you would just be one of the uggos who's getting walked over by Emily.

Number two is that chambre de bonne are apparently luxury penthouses when you open the door. Now, this one is really just a personal frustration for me because I actually lived in a chambre de bonne, like Emily does in the show. And for those who may need clarification, that just basically means maids' quarters.

It's the top floor of all of those old Haussmannian buildings in Paris that have the little sloped roofs and everything. It's that top floor where, unlike all of the other real floors of the building, it's very truncated and often the apartments are chopped up into very little tiny studios because that's where their maids lived in the building. They even, in many cases, had a separate elevator that they would take up and down so they didn't have to go through the actual lobby, which is how I got into my apartment whenever I came home.

But what frustrated me in particular about Emily's apartment is that when she opens the door it's one of those fantasy doll houses where it would be impossible for this apartment to fit into that space in real life. But it's overflowing with beautiful windows, which, fun fact, this window that we see Emily taking a selfie in would almost certainly not be in a chambre de bonne because, again, they're on the top floor under those sloping roofs, so they always have the world's weirdest, shittiest windows in practice. But she also has a nice kitchen, a nice bed area, little library nook, she has a beautiful shower.

Let me explain to you what my chambre de bonne looks like. And I have been digging for photos, but I think even 21-year-old Chelsea knew that that space was not something to memorialize in the image. So I don't have pictures of it, but to describe it-- so my chambre de bonne was 90 square feet total, which I don't know if you guys can relate to that spatially, but it's like half a room basically.

I had a shower in the kitchen, and that is true and accurate. My shower was in my kitchen. It was like a kitchenette with a shower in it.

My toilet was in the hallway that was a communal hallway that everyone had to share. So just the experience of going to the bathroom was highly traumatic. I had lofted bed, which actually prevented me from opening the one shoe box sized window that I had more than five inches.

So it was constantly very just moist in the apartment because of a lack of ventilation, which was a great textural experience. Also because it was a lofted bed with a very short ceiling, there was approximately six inches of space between your head and the ceiling when you were sleeping in the lofted bed. Which really speaks volumes to how desperate Mark was when he first met me that he was willing to frequently come over to that apartment and hang out with me, because I don't know if you guys have heard, but Mark's 6' 4", and that was definitely not adapted to his size.

Point being, while basically all sitcoms and rom-coms really push the limits of what a young fresh face in the city can expect in terms of their apartments, this one truly shot me right in the heart, because it could not be more misleading. Number three is that everything is fashion if you're a size double zero. So let's just take a brief tour through some of Emily's fashion moments.

We're loving it, we're living it, we're just vibing right along with her. These outfits are insane. Let's be clear, they're insane.

No one who is not Lily Collins wearing this outfit would be perceived as fashionable. And while they sort of make allusions to the fact that she's not perceived as super chic on the show, you're still, as a viewer, supposed to find her clothing aspirational. Which is a joke.

But actually this exact dynamic is sort of Darren Star's calling card. If we might recall some of Carrie Bradshaw's outfits, there were many, many looks that she wore that were just essentially a flex for being the size that she was, but made no coherent sense as an outfit and would have looked absurd on anyone else. See here, here, or here.

But what's particularly disappointing in this dynamic about Emily in Paris is how much one would have hoped that in the 20ish years since Sex-- and the City was the show, that we would have sort of evolved on this front. But it appears that while our mediums of communication and imagery may have changed, the fixation on thinness as an arbiter of chic or fashionable has pretty much remained the same. And it's interesting that Emily's stated profession in this show is basically social media expert, because while we often like to think of social media as a place that can kind of democratize image and expose us to a much, much wider range of body types and ideas of what is considered fashionable or aspirational.

In many cases social media has only served to homogenize this aspirational idea of thinness or beauty, leading to for example, the famous Instagram face that many Instagram models are working toward. Or the promulgation of things like "thinspiration" on social media platforms like TikTok. Weight loss videos are everywhere on TikTok.

Content tagged #weightlosscheck has nearly 285 million views for just one example. It's essentially never addressed on the show how Emily's thinness-- and to be clear, the actress Lily Collins is incredibly thin-- it's never quite addressed how that dynamic plays into both her perceived fashion sense as well as her relevance as an arbiter of social media cool. But it is, essentially, the teeny tiny elephant in every frame of the show.

And given that, like Carrie Bradshaw, Emily isn't just an average sized woman, but someone thinner than quite frankly, many models. It goes to show how little our idea of aspiration has evolved since Sex and the City on either front. Number four, when you move to Europe, money doesn't exist.

I feel like the undercurrent of this show, like any Darren Star joint, is really just the ambient unawareness of money in any form or fashion. There are a few moments here and there in the show where we understand that money exists in some vague capacity, like Gabriel's quest to purchase a literal restaurant, which is always extremely low stakes because a bunch of random people are constantly just offering him the startup capital for no reason. But even with those brief check ins, the overall vibe is just like, money?

Everyone is constantly decked out in head to toe couture. They're always being whisked away to various vacations and shopping trips. They're constantly dining out at nice restaurants, regardless of their employment status.

And frankly in 2020 like all that thin fashion business, it feels more outdated and out of touch than ever. In fact, the website The Dip actually did an episode by episode breakdown of what Emily had to spend to live her life in that episode, and the results are pretty obscene. Here's just one snapshot of the first episode, which in total cost her over $33,000, and there's 10 episodes.

Don't get me wrong, there is always an element of the escapism to these shows that's enjoyable, because who doesn't want to turn their head off every now and then and just be in a place where money doesn't matter and no one has problems. But there's a difference between being somewhat aspirational given the circumstances and trotting out yet another show where someone who seems to be basically at an intern level job is wearing outfits that routinely cost $20,000 or more. Darren Star definitely giving us some, OK boomer, vibes with these choices.

Number five is that billionaires just randomly choose to be nannies for the freedom. So I think the most personally offensive subplot on this show for me was Mindy. This is Emily's best friend, who is the daughter of the billionaire zipper king in China who has fled her home despite her father literally sending her pictures of the mansions and Rolls-Royces that he's bought her to entice her to come back.

Because she wants freedom, but also because she wants to escape the shame that she incurred by doing a bad singing performance on a singing competition show in China, which is like, I just really want to be smoking whatever that writer's room was smoking when they came up with her backstory because it's like, you guys could have just picked one route with that. But suffice it to say, they depict her as this girl who is turning away just endless, endless amounts of wealth and privilege to be a nanny/ au pair for a French family to live life on her own terms and experience Paris like, I guess, a real poor person. I don't really know what the goal was there.

And I have been an au pair, in Paris of all places. And let me tell you that while it can be a mutually enjoyable and beneficial experience-- it was for me-- it is also not billionaire rumspringa. People do it because they need the money and the stability.

I was a student, it provided me a place to live-- the aforementioned chambre de bonne-- and it also gave me a steady income that I could use to spend on a few things here and there. But I, of course, would not have done the job if I didn't need to, because it's hard work. And in fact, the reality of the au pair world is actually that it is often quite exploitative, particularly in hypercompetitive markets like Paris where many, many people want to go.

I happened to have a fairly wide pick of families when I moved to Paris because I was already bilingual, and therefore could integrate much more easily into a wider variety of families. Meaning that I could pick a home where, for example, I had my own separate living space rather than living with the family, which is often very common. But also I could negotiate a higher rate and just generally could advocate for myself more because I could move more freely around my host society.

But even in my own personal experience, I actually, with my at the time host mother who's now a friend of mine, freed my friend in the middle of the night by picking her up in a van from an exploitative and emotionally abusive host family. My friend was in Paris at the time as well being an au pair. And while I lucked out with a great situation, she ended up in a family that was so toxic for her that she literally had to leave in the middle of the night.

And my host mother at the time ended up writing an actual legal letter with attorneys and everything to that family, excoriating them for what they've done. And basically saying if they do anything to come after her that they would be basically defending my friend. And keep in mind, my friend who was put in this horrible situation was an American with a master's degree.

Imagine how people who do not have that level of privilege are often treated in these situations. In fact, au pairs, most of whom are women, are each charged as much as $2,500 to participate in what placement agencies and the State Department describe as a quote "cultural exchange" program for young people looking to practice their English and learn about American culture. Under the J-1 visa program, au pairs are placed in a home by a sponsor company and are tasked with caring for the host family's children, much like a live in nanny.

However, unlike live in nannies, au pairs have no guaranteed sick days or federal holidays. They earn a flat wage of $4.35 an hour after sponsor agencies deduct room and board from their pay, which lands them at $195.75 a week for 45 hours of work. In 2015, sponsor agencies received and forwarded to the State Department more than 3,500 complaints, according to an internal analysis obtained by Politico.

All of this is to say that portraying being an au pair as just another frivolous thing that rich people do to have a little fun is, to say the least, inaccurate and potentially dangerously misleading. Number six, don't bother to learn about the company you're entering. As mentioned earlier, the blatant level of disregard that Emily shows to her new company that she's entering from the language, to the office culture, to even just getting to know her colleagues or working collaboratively with them goes way past fantasy fulfillment and straight into insulting.

I jokingly tweeted during a live watch of the show that it's basically like shitty Madmen, but it really holds true after finishing the series. Essentially, like Don Draper, Emily just sort of wills her way into successful marketing campaigns that don't make sense on paper and shouldn't have worked in the context of her office dynamics, but just happen to all play out perfectly right because of her charm and/or often sexual appeal to a certain extent. But at least Don Draper actually put in several years of work at his company before he started sowing extreme levels of chaos with the client relationships.

And lest we forget, he did actually end up getting fired for his behavior. Plus he actually spoke the language of all of his co-workers and clients to be behaving in such a ridiculous way. It's interesting that only France's extremely strong labor protection laws stood between Emily and being rightfully canned.

But yet the way the show is framed is clearly intended to make us side with Emily and think that her company should be so lucky to have her, and that her boss was behaving completely irrationally to have tried to fire her. But even if we go along with all of the charmed encounters that Emily has with her various client relationships, we're still left with a portrait of an employee who, is at minimum, incapable of collaborating with any other employees, and seems in certain cases to have just pushed them out of the company. Like, what happened to that woman who worked on social media when Emily first arrived?

Did Emily kill her, what happened there? Unclear. Point being, Emily was a terrible employee.

Lastly, number seven is that talent matters less than rich friends. I think the ultimate takeaway of this show is that nothing really matters when compared to the rich people who can step in at the last minute and deus ex machina you out of whatever problem you might be having. These are people to buy you a restaurant, rich parents to fall back on, heavy hitting clients that will save a failing business, friends whose parents are rich enough to become clients, and so on and so forth.

And maybe this is the most depressing thing about this show in the context of 2020. Because even though Sex and the City was widely and rightfully derided for being insanely unrealistic financially-- and again, we did do a video around that topic, which I highly recommend-- the premise at the end of the day was that these were four 30-something working women who were largely supporting themselves and occasionally one another through their own careers. Whereas this show barely even pays lip service to the idea that you should be in any way attempting to stake your own claim in the world.

For example, Carrie Bradshaw had an episode long crisis at the age of roughly 35 when she realized that she had spent over $40,000 on shoes over the course of her adult lifetime. Meanwhile, Emily has apparently spent nearly $34,000 in one episode of this show at age 25 as a question mark intern question mark, and no one bats an eyelash. One would have hoped that Darren Star and the world in general, going through two recessions and a general feminist awakening, would have come to the conclusion that a show about women can still be very aspirational without completely abandoning the idea of self-sufficiency or pegging their entire interest to their love lives.

With Emily in Paris, although the setting has changed slightly, that entire dynamic of a woman being about the bag she has on her wrist and the man she has on her arm being her defining characteristics, has been made just as clear. The life lessons you draw from this show go well past just being rom-com frivolous into downright offensive. And while the show does provide a level of escapism that can be enjoyable when we're all looking down the barrel of quarantine number two, I find that its level of confection leaves you with more than a bit of a toothache.

This is my movie critic moment, I hope everyone liked it. And as I mentioned, this video is sponsored by Fidelity Investments. And they are here to help you reach your savings goals.

And if you're looking for an easy way to finally start investing what you save, check out Fidelity. As always, guys, thank you for watching. And do not forget to hit the Subscribe button and to come back every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday for new and awesome videos. [CHUCKLES] Huh, huh, huh.