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Emily in Paris and Ted Lasso: Two Different Ways to Acculturate

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

Emily in Paris (link to IMDb) is a Netflix comedy-drama first released in 2020. It is about an American marketing executive named Emily, who incidentally ends up in Paris, and provides an American point of view on marketing and, perhaps, life.

Ted Lasso (link to IMDb) is an Apple TV comedy-sports first released also in 2020. It is about a football coach (as in American football) named Ted Lasso, hired by a professional soccer team (as in the other football) in England, as part of a plot by the new owner to ensure failure for the team.

Have you seen any of these shows? Well, I have; however, my intention in these paragraphs is to focus on the cultural aspects displayed on each of these shows. Which one did I like better? That’s for another time… perhaps.

Both shows are tackling the acculturation of their main characters, basically, by portraying the process of an American adopting and adjusting to a new cultural environment when they move to Paris, France, and Richmond, England, respectively.

Same premise, right? Well… yes. However, the way the writers of each show approached it is entirely different.

While both shows have an undeniable flavor of American exceptionalism (we’ll discuss it some other time), they go in different directions as each story evolves.

You see, Emily [in Paris] brings this American exceptionalism to her coworkers in France, clearly acknowledging that the United States is different from other nations. However, such “American way” is represented as the best way of dealing with professional and personal challenges, leaving the French characters, at times, wondering, “how did we not think about that before?” I guess I don’t need to tell you that this show was not well received in France.

And there’s a reason for that. The show, seems to me, was designed for American audiences, therefore portraying life in Paris –and Parisians– as an American outsider sees them –or expects them to be. You know, the fashion capital of the world, the working to live philosophy, but also highlighting the flirtatious, sexist, and backward ways of thinking of some characters. Yes, this is a typical case of [outdated] stereotyping; however, this is as realistic as it comes for everyone who has not lived in Paris or shared meaningful conversations with Parisians. I mean, after all, who does not have a mental image of how living in Paris is?

On the other hand, we have Ted Lasso. This is the complete opposite. You see, Ted brings a different kind of exceptionalism to the fictitious Richmond FC. Ted is a walking cultural cliche of how Americans are seen in England (and in many other parts of the world, for that matter). He does his best to adopt the cultural ways of his new home, learning about the culture while implementing his unique coaching style. The audience is left wondering if such exceptionalism will rescue a soccer team (sorry! – football team) in trouble—a classical happy ending.

I’d say that Ted Lasso aims to a middle ground in terms of cultural adjustment between Ted and his employers, aiming to generalizing rather than stereotyping.

I have to say that one aspect I like about both shows is that they are “pick me up shows,” in a time when we desperately needed them. In the middle of a pandemic and a Hollywood plagued with realism cutting it too close to negativism, it was refreshing to follow a couple of tv characters bursting with optimism.

Have you seen these shows? What’s your take?

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