May 26, 2024

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Emily in Paris: Parisians face influx of Netflix hero’s fans

4 min read

A woman walks past a graffiti reading "Emily Not Welcome" scrawled on part of the facade of the building where the fictional character Emily Cooper lives, at 1 Place de d'Estrapade, in Paris, Wednesday, April 19, 2023. The immense success of the Netflix series "Emily in Paris" has transformed a quiet, untouched square in the French capital into a tourist magnet. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

PARIS (AP) — The immense success of the Netflix series “Emily in Paris” has transformed a quiet, untouched square in the French capital into a tourist magnet.

In the historic Latin Quarter and just a short walk from the magnificent, domed Pantheon, tucked so deeply away that you could easily miss it, lies the Place de l’Estrapade. For diehard, beret-wearing fans of the show, this sliver of a neighborhood has become a landmark of its own.

That’s because this is where the fictional character Emily Cooper, a 20-something American portrayed by Lily Collins, lives, dines and savors French pastries from the local bakery.

The newfound attention can be disruptive for the real people who live and work here, but the show is also igniting a new passion for Paris — and even anti-Emily graffiti has become part of the attraction.

The romantic comedy, whose third season was released in December, traces Emily’s adventures and misadventures in her Parisian career and love life.

On a sunny weekday, the square bustles with tourists from the U.S. and far beyond, taking photos, video and selfies.

It’s all here: Emily’s apartment building at 1 Place de d’Estrapade, where she lives next to would-be love interest Gabriel. The restaurant where Gabriel — portrayed by French actor Lucas Bravo — is the chef. And, of course, the bakery she loves.

Dancer Riskya Octaviana from Jakarta, Indonesia, came directly to Paris after performing in Germany because of how much she loves the show. After twirling on the square, Emily-style, she said, “Emily is my big friend.”

Elizabeth and Ruben Mercado celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in Paris and visited Emily’s neighborhood as part of their trip. Elizabeth Mercado said she prepared by binge-watching the show just before they left.

“We’ve been trying to practice the small bits of French that we picked up during the show,” she said.

Tourists make a point of stopping and snacking at Boulangerie Moderne, the Modern Bakery featured in the series. The tourist infusion has boosted profits, acknowledges owner Thierry Rabineau.

But the flipside to fame has come in online comments. Some people, many posting anonymously, have slammed the quality of his bakery. Rabineau thinks the show has mistakenly given viewers the impression that he’s running a luxury pastry shop instead of a standard local bakery selling croissants at 1.30 euros ($1.43) each.

“People are writing comments, saying it’s overpriced, it’s not good. It’s disgusting. This baffles me,” Rabineau said. “It’s a modern bakery, a small neighborhood bakery.”

He’s aware how lucky he is that the show came along. “We are profiting from a current situation. … But in two or three years, there won’t be any more tourism and we will have to be here to survive,” he said.

Stephanie Jamin, who lives on the square and crosses paths with the throngs of tourists on a daily basis, has had to adjust to residing in a go-to place on the tourist map. She says the people themselves aren’t a nuisance, but the crowds can be imposing.

“We have become an ultra-touristy district, whereas it was a small square still a bit preserved from tourism,” she said.

Another resident emerging from Emily’s apartment building said they were allergic to the show. “Emily Not Welcome” is even scrawled in red graffiti on part of the facade.

But the graffiti, too, is drawing fans, with visitors taking pictures of themselves pointing to the disparaging remark. Among them was Abdullah Najarri, a medical internist from Berlin who calls the series “entertaining.”

“I got to see a lot of Paris through that series, actually, and the lifestyle and and the clichés — partly true, partly not, so that it’s nice,” he said.

Croatian digital creator Sladana Grzincic, touring Paris wearing a white beret, sunglasses and a striped blue and white sweater, was photographed taking a jump and a twirl in front of Emily’s apartment.

Seeing the real neighborhood makes her eager for the next season, which she said she will watch “a bit differently because I was here and on the same spots where she’s filming that.”

Season four is in the works, but the release date remains unknown.

Resident Jamin remains philosophical about the fascination with her neighborhood.

“It is as ephemeral as the series is,” she said. After the Emily frenzy subsides, “there are people like all the shopkeepers of the district who will have benefited enormously from it, and it allowed them to start up again after COVID. They needed that.”

“There will inevitably be an end. Emily is not Victor Hugo. She will not be inducted into the Pantheon,” Jamin said. “She will go home and everything will be fine.”

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