By Xander Brett, Third Year, History of Art and French
The Croft Magazine // In his fourth Letter from Paris, Xander Brett explains why Emily in Paris proves the French love England, and why the new curfew isn't a lockdown.
(To see Xander report on the recent attack on Samuel Paty, stay tuned for next weeks article).
18th October, 2020
On Wednesday evening the curfew fades to insignificance. The fourth series of Dix pour cent (Call My Agent) will air. Worldwide, audiences wait patiently for it to appear on Netflix, having gone global in 2015 to inspire spin-offs in Canada, Spain, and soon the UK. But, while you wait, there’s always Emily in Paris. Sharing stars with Dix pour cent, this Netflix original has caused shockwaves on both sides of the Channel, and both sides of the Atlantic. In the UK, it’s light-drama. In America, it’s documentary. We can be grateful travel is banned, or I’m sure the streets would now be full of American sightseers eagerly ticking off its locations.
As it is, there are no tourists from Asia or America and, starting last night, from 9pm to 6am no-one is permitted to leave their home without proof of working commitments, medical necessity or long-distance travel. Contrary to British opinion, however, this is not a lockdown. The restaurants and bars are open without reservations or noticeable distancing, private parties take place during the day and the offices, universities, cinemas and theatres are all open. Not for France the bubbles and isolation. No European country is subject to quarantine on arrival here. Sure, France now has well over 200,000 cases but, just because when UK cases increase, the population demand rules on everything from school sizes to breakfast choices, it doesn’t mean other countries are the same. It’s sad how fast our lockdown spirit has given way to blaming and moaning. Perhaps the UK is jealous of France’s freedom… their ability to live without the confines of health and safety? I’d like to think the overreaction is down to difficulties in reporting. But the Paris correspondents are still here. They’re just not given space on the front pages back home.
For the French, Emily in Paris has confirmed their prejudges of America. More than confirming their anti-American sentiment, however, Emily in Paris reminded the French of their love of England. That the English took the series as comedy reminds the French how much they admire us, and how sad they are this love isn’t visibly reciprocated. Britain is everything France wants to be. They see similarities in our quaint traditions and regional identities; in our stubbornness and inability to speak international languages. Unlike Australians and Americans, when Brits come to France, they’re polite and respectful. Our proximity makes comprehension easier, but Brits understand the French more than any other non-Continental country. We love France – just look at our cookbooks and holiday choices – but we’re too scared to admit it.
When Britain lost its empire, it refused a European identity. We thought we were a special case… and island apart. We still drive on the left, use different plugs and measure in miles and yards. We exacerbated Brussels and convinced ourselves they exacerbated us more. But of all the European Union countries, it was France that understood us best. When we decided continued membership was futile, the French took the hardest emotional hit. They lost friends and culture. They lost Agatha Christie, the royal family and funny words. The French have never been afraid to admit they love us. Even post-Brexit, it’s time we fessed up too.
Listen to Xander's weekly Burst Radio podcast 'Letters from Paris'.
Featured Image: Epigram / Xander Brett