Emily in Paris Has Made an Enemy With Ukraine

 Lily Collins as Emily in episode 202 of Emily in Paris
Carole Bethuel/Netflix © 2021

Viewers of Emily in Paris never seem to be happy. For two seasons in a row now, the audience of the Netflix show has found a list of things to complain about. Emily’s wardrobe is an easy target, the portrayal of the French was a big one last year, and now, Ukrainians have stepped in, and they are not happy with one specific part of Emily season two.

In a scene from the show, Emily makes a new friend in her French class, a girl name Petra originally from Kyiv. Communicating through shared broken French, the two girls suffer a miscommunication as Emily tries to explain that she got a product for free through her marketing job. Petra, a kleptomaniac, thinks Emily shares in her vice and takes her new friend for a shopping spree, ending in the two girls running out of the store wearing loads of stolen products. Not long after the scene, and the entire second season, premiered on Netflix, did Ukrainians begin to speak out about the scene and the portrayal of Petra on the show.

Lily Collins as Emily and Daria Panchenko as Petra in episode for of Emily in Paris.

Stéphanie Branchu

Ukraine’s culture minister, Oleksandr Tkachenko, called the show’s depiction of a Ukrainian woman “unacceptable” and “offensive” in a post on the messaging app, Telegram. According to CNN, he wrote, “Is this how Ukrainians are seen abroad? They steal, want to get everything for free, be afraid of deportation? That should not be the case.” Tkachenko continued, saying globalization has brought Ukrainian culture to the rest of the world and has educated others about the country, “but this is probably not enough.” He cites the past portrayals of Ukrainian men in the ‘90s and 2000s as gangsters as a continuing problem to this day. “We will have to continue to fight stereotypes,” he said.

Emily in Paris is used to getting called out for generalizations. The first season brought a lot of criticism surrounding the show’s portrayal of Paris and the French. Many thought the writers focused on stereotypes in their storytelling, with many of the French characters being mean, chain-smoking, and unfaithful to their spouses. This season has brought more criticism with its new character Alfie, a Brit who—you guessed it—loves nothing more than watching football at his favorite pub. Of course, it can be argued that Petra’s portrayal is more damaging than those representing other nationalities, but it’s also important to remember that there are kleptos hailing from all corners of the globe and one character on a campy Netflix show should never stand as full representation for any group of people.