âMore romantic, elegant, deepâ: why Americans love Real Girlfriends in Paris | Fashion
Concealing ranch dressing in your handbag, worrying about the carbs in la soupe, wondering if youâll ever find a French lover who likes to Netflix and chill: here are just a few of the new world-old world challenges the protagonists face in the first episode of Real Girlfriends in Paris, a reality TV show with its debut on 6 September on Hayu and Bravo.
As one may presume from the title of the show, the programme follows six American women in their 20s and 30s, looking for meaning, for a change and, mostly, for love. As different as Anya Firestone, Emily Gorelik, Margaux Lignel, Kacey Margo, Adja Toure and Victoria Zitoâs backgrounds are (respectively: a tour guide, a design management student, an aspiring entrepreneur, an English teacher, a Cornell graduate and a fashion designer), the one thing they have in common is their passion and monolithic vision of Paris. As the trailerâs voiceover points out, these nouvelles Parisiennes are adrift in âthe most beautiful city in the world â¦ a fairytaleâ â that is, an enchanted, heavily Disneyfied and filtered vision of France, which features the women performing Parisian-ness to a T: drinking wine round the clock, wearing trenchcoats and berets, eating crepes, loudly discussing sex. A choice of cliches so familiar and vivid that local press immediately labelled it âthe reality TV version of Emily in Parisâ, with French Elle declaring it âdirectly inspiredâ by Darren Starâs comedy drama. What do the two have in common? Both shows are seen, by the French media, as a âguilty pleasureâ that âone loves hatingâ â for their glorious inaccuracy (Paris limited to a handful of bridges and mimes, emaciated women smoking in turtle necks, not to mention an entire alcoholic population).
One thing is for the sure: Real Girlfriends in Paris, in production for its third season, closely follows the well-trodden path of an old fantasy, updated for the Instagram age by Star. Locations for Emily in Paris are listed on Google Maps and marked on city guides. They have become sought-after selfie locations for tourists and locals â âI feel like a tourist in my own city,â confessed Alicia, 18, a fan of the show who grew up in Paris. Outfits featured in the show, and documented on numerous Instagram accounts, are having booming sales. Not to mention the peak in US-originating tourism in France this summer â une coÃ¯ncidence?
Real Girlfriends in Paris and Emily in Paris bring to light a longstanding Francophilia in American cinema and entertainment â from An American in Paris to Moulin Rouge, Sex and the City, Midnight in Paris and, more recently, The French Dispatch. Itâs a topic of fascination that has led to dedicated books (Why France? American Historians Reflect on an Enduring Fascination, edited by Laura Lee Downs and StÃ©phane Gerson), a multitude of podcasts and even standup stints.
To historian Robert O Paxton, the expat experience provides something of a âmid-Atlantic identityâ, floating somewhere between the two cultures, yet keeping a critical distance from both. âIt enabled me to move about freely in both the European space and the American space without ever becoming enclosed in either one,â he writes.
The passage between consumed or shattered cliches, well-known benefits and new experiences is what many women describe when moving to possibly the most cinematic and amply portrayed of cities. Breckyn, a 32-year-old dancer and choreographer who moved to Paris last November from New York, recalls America seeing the French capital as the sum of âa sparkly Eiffel Tower, film noir, sensuality, gentle, romantic, the city of lights â but you need to be ready for a really aggressive energy, like in most big citiesâ.
Nevertheless, she moved for âhigher standard of living conditions, healthier, better, more wholesome lifestyle, where travelling is affordable and also culturally acceptableâ, unlike in New York where âhustling is the norm in a fear-based society â¦ where everything feels like a struggle,â she says. However, what she cherishes today is the multicultural dimension, âeverything you donât see in the cliches, the diversity in cultures, perspectivesâ. She adds that she was surprised to discover âpeople willing to argue, debate, fight over a topic and remain friendsâ.
In addition to a more balanced life, it is also the promise of love, hand-in-hand with savoir-vivre, that attracts others. Hyo, 37, a student at the Paris School of Business who also moved from New York in July, says she has always been fascinated by âthe culture and the music, which seems to carry a special philosophical depthâ, listing the singer Tallisker and electronic musician Jean-Michel Jarre. She is âkeen on finding love and definitely into French men, who are more romantic, elegant, deep, and can hold real discussions and live in the presentâ.
Going from cliche to reality is also the challenge that Shawn, a 36-year-old entrepreneur from New York, is facing. âFriends often say, âYour life feels like Emily in Paris, going out drinking or to incredible restaurantsâ but no place is perfect and the show isnât supposed to be looked at as anything other than a fantasy,â she says, after discovering, among other things, the difficulty of French bureaucracy and everyday reality.
These, along with the political complexity and the crottes de chien, are certainly less likely to show up in Emilyâs or the Real Girlfriendsâ Paris, focused as they are on the Pont Neuf, free healthcare and French men.
Et pourquoi pas? Nevertheless, the countryâs multicultural history, landscape and rich cultural productions beyond the PÃ©riphÃ©rique might be worth a dig for these new TV heroines.