Emily in Paris is a Spy

Emily in Paris is a Netflix original series starring Lily Collins as Emily (the main character, whose name is Emily), who finds herself in Paris (the city of Paris), and makes a social media account titled “@emilyinparis,” a subtle nod to the fact that her name is Emily, and she is in Paris. The show has infinitely broad appeal; it has a high budget, as any good money laundering scheme should. It is funny, as the script contains jokes. Multiple jokes, sometimes, even. It is a touching coming-of-age story, following a 30-year old marketing executive living in a large metropolitan area, who finds herself relocated to a different large metropolitan area, thrust into an exotic new role as a marketing executive. At a time when travel is infeasible, the show offers viewers escapism by way of breathtaking views of the same 3 streets in Paris that they had permits to film in. The series offers biting social commentary, raising pressing questions like:

  • “What if American go other place?”
  • “Will we ever see a peaceful resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict?”
  • “What if Sex and the City lady have iPhone”? 
  • “How will actors around the globe respond to the imminent famine, humanitarian crises, and struggles over increasingly finite resources brought on by the looming consequences of climate change?”
  • “How will actors in this show respond to awkward dialogue from a script that was written by a poorly trained machine learning algorithm?”

As an Emily in Paris superfan (potentially the only one), I was immensely relieved by the show’s renewal. But as the second season is coming out in over a year, and I have nothing else to look forward to, I was faced with an important dilemma: do I try finding something else which would give my life any amount of meaning or purpose, or do I hibernate like bear? As I was entering hyperphagia and readying my den, a thought struck me. What if Emily in Paris was not who she seemed? What if she was neither named Emily, nor (dare I say it) in Paris at all? This was blasphemy, of course, heretical ravings of a lunatic unable to grasp the sublimity of Lily Collins’ gospel. And yet, the thought festered, growing louder and more jarring, like a pop song from the Emily in Paris soundtrack. Eventually, I could bear it no longer: as I rewatched the series for the 9th time, I began to pick up on subtle cues I hadn’t noticed before, minute details which began to coalesce into a greater, unmistakable picture. 1 picture, 2, 3, 24, before I knew it I had a whole slideshow, and not long after a video. Not a good video–it was artificially lit and used too much B-Roll–but it was there. My mind galloped, my chest pounded, my heart stopped, then raced, then swam, then cycled. Before I knew it I had done a triathlon. A triathlon which led unmistakably to one place: Emily in Paris is a spy.

Now I don’t expect you to simply “take my word” for it. While I am the world’s foremost authority on the show Emily in Paris, I know very little about other things, potentially discrediting me from making “claims” or having “opinions.” That said, I encourage you to view my evidence with a healthy dose of skepticism (a few milligrams, more would risk skepsis), draw your own conclusions, and mail them to me so I can hang them up on my fridge to show how proud of you I am 🙂

The Backstory

It’s no secret that Emily in Paris is one of the best-written characters ever. Not only does she have a name and location, Emily in Paris has many other outstanding qualities as well. She is a girlboss, similar to Hillary Rodham Clinton. Eerily similar. In an interview, showrunner Darren Star (of Emily in Paris fame) has stated that Emily’s character was “pretty much totally based off of Hillary Clinton, yeah.” When solicited for comment, Hillary Clinton said, “who are you, how do you have this number?” Very evasive, Ms. Clinton. What are you hiding? Could it be the truth (about Emily in Paris)? 

What is a secret is who Emily herself is, and why. Firstly, allow us to recount what we know about “Emily.” Her name is Emily Cooper, and she is from a small suburb of Chicago. She received a “Master’s in Marketing,” her mother is a math teacher, and her father breeds dogs. Not just any dogs, mind you, weimaraners. An oddly specific detail, like something you would include when playing “2 truths and a lie.” Or, in Emily’s case, “2 lies and a truth”, or “3 lies and no truth.” 

Now already I take issue with these credentials. Not because I find them implausible; quite the opposite, I feel them too plausible. A backstory so generic as to be functionally unverifiable. In other words, the type of thing a spy would have, probably. If the show is to be believed, we learn little about Emily because the French simply don’t care enough to ask her about herself. Now I’ve only been to France once, but the people didn’t seem particularly invested in me, so this one they’ll get a pass on.

Me on set of my short-lived spinoff series, “Bod in da EU.” It was cancelled following Brexit. 

But then we have Mindy. Mindy, Mindy, Mindy. Your breath smells awfully…Mindy. With a hint of…deceit? No, also Mindy. Mindy is an American working in Paris as an au pair, on the run from her father, a wealthy Chinese Zipper mogul, making her an au pair-ess heiress in Paris. She’s also Emily’s friend, perhaps the only one. The two meet in a park or something idk doesn’t matter. And yet, they don’t seem to discuss much, outside of Emily’s sexual exploits and Mindy’s harrowing escapades in evading the rhadamanthine clutches of her overbearing father while pursuing her latent passions for singing. (The former is, of course, more interesting). 

Do I think Mindy a spy? No, probably not. In fact, I would be more inclined to believe she’s from Chicago than Emily, if only so I could call it the “Mindy City.” I believe Mindy to be more of an asset that Emily utilizes. Mindy gives Emily a witness, someone who can attest to her character, or lend credence to her mere existence. She’s also a humanizing figure, carefully placed to dispel claims that Emily is “cruel” or “evil” or “robotic”, like Checkers with Nixon. “Did you just compare Mindy to a dog?” you ask. No, I compared her to Richard Nixon.

But the lack of specificity in Emily’s personal anecdotes make me question her true upbringing. She claims to love “Chicago,” yet never once quotes a Chief Keef lyric. Curious, that’s that shit I don’t like. Lying about being from Chicago is a form of stolen valor. It is a federal crime, carrying a maximum sentence of 2 years and a fine of $60619—and it’s time Emily pays up. 

And then there’s Doug. Doug is Emily’s boyfriend while in Chicago, who refuses to leave Chicago for any reason and promptly breaks up with Emily once she herself leaves Chicago, his Chi-town chauvinism overpowering whatever feelings he had developed for her over the course of their two minute long exposition date. Doug is not a person, but some perverted facsimile of a person concocted to give Emily a more detailed backstory. He engages in phone sex in which both he and Emily can only see each other’s faces the entire time. They remove their clothes, ostensibly, but never pan down to reveal nudity, instead keeping the cameras fixated on their chalky visages. Maybe Doug’s into that? Maybe, but that would require Doug to have any semblance of desire or preference, sullying his otherwise featureless personality. I think not.  

Finally, we have Emily’s “American” boss, Madeline. As the show would have you believe, Madeline got pregnant from having “too much going away sex,” barring her departure to Paris, and nominating Emily as her replacement. So is Madeline, Madelyin’? Well, this again seems awfully convenient, although theoretically possible—I am told that pregnancy is a result of sex. The whole thing does make me doubt, in a broader sense, the story’s construction. For instance, if Madeline and Emily were who they claimed to be, why didn’t they refer to it as “Chicagoing away sex?” More questions than answers, and as I preemptively stockpiled on interrobangs, I’m left only with exclamation marks. Let us proceed! 

The Language

One of Emily’s defining characteristics (there aren’t that many to choose from) is her complete ineptitude with French. Not only does she (claim to) not understand the language, Emily performs every possible mistake, faux pas, and “oopsie whoopsie” that an English speaker could feasibly make among French company. Is this simply a consequence of the clever writing team repeatedly exploiting the same whimsical scenario to beat laughter from the fading whinnies of a dying horse? Maybe. But what if Emily’s mistakes aren’t rooted in American ignorance and a refusal to download Duolingo? What if, instead, she’s doing it intentionally?

We see repeatedly that Emily’s lack of lingual comprehension lures her colleagues into a condition of communicative confidence. As soon as they determine she can’t understand them, they get to work, using French to blatantly insult her in her presence, secure in the belief that she can’t decipher their exchange (well actually no one does any work, but I digress). This is true of most of Emily’s encounters—once they learn she’s a dumb American (“Un Américain stupide”), they immediately unfilter. But what if this was Emily’s plan all along? She doesn’t need to establish a rapport or gain anyone’s trust, steal secrets, blackmail, or torture. All she needs to do is convince people she can’t understand them, and they’ll spill their secrets, netting the information she desires.

I wouldn’t be so confident in this claim if it weren’t a running theme throughout the entire series. I can understand perfectly how someone could come to a country with no knowledge of the native language. But after months of living in Paris, and ostensibly taking French classes, Emily manages to have just one successful exchange in the language, an appallingly bad reenactment of the hospital scene from Three Colors: Blue, where she breaks a window and swallows a bottle of unlabeled medication (not the pills, the bottle itself). It’s one thing if she could easily live without it, but clearly not speaking French is a detriment in her daily life, so the lack of adaptation seems odd to me. In other circumstances, I would accept that the speaker might be self-conscious about their accent or pronunciation, and choose to converse in their native language. I’ve been there myself, purposefully withholding my fluency in Latin for fear of being admonished for my elocution (once I ensure other Latin speakers have left my vicinity, it’s exsecutus for you hoes). Yet Emily doesn’t seem particularly self-conscious (or aware) in any other aspect of her life, leading me to my next point…

The Outfits 

You might be wondering why anyone, let alone a spy, let alone a spy posing as a marketing executive for luxury fashion brands, would dress in such a conspicuous way. To understand this, we’ll need to dive deeper, and examine the fundamental ideological undercurrent of the series. I speak, of course, about fascism. 

You see, in fascism (and fashion) there’s a thing called the “big lie,” (große Lüge), pioneered by fascism (and fashion) icon Adolf Hitler. The idea here is that if you concoct a narrative so fantastical as beyond the realm of reason, people will believe that there’s “no way he’s making all that shit up,” and think there’s some truth to what you’re saying. 

American fashion designer and guy with two first names Rick Owens once said:

“Working out is modern couture. No outfit is going to make you look or feel as good as having a fit body. Buy less clothing and go to the gym instead.”  

Not only is this advice kind of ableist and not particularly good during a pandemic, Emily disproves it within one episode. How an attractive woman in good shape, with many gorgeous, well-fitting pieces, still manages to dress like a clown most of the time is impressive, and this is speaking from experience as someone who also dresses like a clown. 

But her appalling lack of fashion sense works, insofar as the sum total of her fits throw others off her scent, in the way of being suspicious (a senseless census meant for scentless consensus, end of sentence.) Surely no one would believe that a spy would draw so much attention to themselves, so Emily manages to hide in plain sight.

So long as Emily maintains the air of obliviousness and the fashion sense of a monkey with a typewriter, no one will suspect that she’s a cunning mastermind stealing their secrets; orchestrating their demise, like a conductor who’s not very good at conducting. Emily’s garishness causes others to lower their guards, and when they do, she strikes. 

Edit: I’d like to extend my deepest apologies to typewriter monkey. Somehow he got word of my comments and drafted a response. Amidst the thousands of pages of gibberish, there was a sincere, heartfelt letter describing the pain my insult had caused him—I’d inadvertently prayed on his insecurities, “hitting him in the heart as hard as his return key” (his words, not mine). I’m sorry, typewriter monkey. In the future I’ll try to be more considerate of others’ feelings.

Anyway, back to treason.  

The Police

As a narc myself, I don’t throw the term “cop energy” around lightly, but Emily Cooper exudes it. It’s practically dripping off her, coalescing into a puddle at the foot of her obnoxiously colorful boots. I’m actually surprised no one in the show ever warns her of this safety hazard, or places a “caution: wet” sign at her feet. While it’s hard to convey the extent of Emily’s cop-ness in words, here are just a few examples: 

When asked if she has “any pot” by a teenager (as teenagers communicate), Emily responds that “Marijuana is highly illegal in France.” 

When asked by Gabriel to help him cheat on his girlfriend, she admonishes him for thinking about cheating, then proceeds to do it anyway.

When asked to stop killing people, she goes ahead and kills about 1000 each year anyway, disproportionately people of color. Wait, sorry, that’s the actual police. Talk about awkward! Oh heavens, I’m so clumsy, I seem to have dropped this Donate to Bail Funds link

Maybe you see where I’m going with this. I’ll allege, you assume, that Emily’s cop-like tendencies stem from her innate cop reflexes, having presumably undergone law enforcement training in pursuit of her career in espionage. This is incorrect. I don’t think Emily is genuinely a cop. In fact, I think she has no respect for the law whatsoever. I think she thinks she’s above the law, like that § thing and the number denoting the section of the statute. But, as part of her alias, she operates under the guise of lawfulness. Everyone assumes her a scrupulous, upstanding citizen, in turn giving her plausible deniability for wrongdoing. Let’s consider another situation by contrast: 

In episode 8 of the show, Emily has sex with a 17-year-old. Now it’s not clear what age Emily is (she probably wouldn’t disclose that, for obvious reasons), but Lily Collins is about 30, so we’ll estimate somewhere there. Because the series takes place in France, and (as the show is very insistent to remind us), French people are horny and place little value in consent laws, no one seems to mind this. In fact, Emily not only faces no repercussions, the host even offers to get her a train out of the situation. But does she quit while she’s “ahead?” No, she stays at the chateau. 

This a level of boldness only seen in this article four times to this point, in each of the section headers. 

Any normal American social media personality placed in this situation would think either “oh shit I’m gonna get cancelled for this,” or, “man I sure hope I do well at the next Smash tournament.” Yet Emily barely reacts. Why would she? At this point Emily’s more desensitized to violence and wrongdoing than I am to bad writing, meaning she’s done at least 36 blog posts of violence and wrongdoing. That’s a lot. 

The Social Media Presence

While the supposed focal point of the series is Emily’s titular Instagram profile, the account is relatively inconsequential to the plot. Emily utilizes it occasionally to promote one of her brands, or otherwise engage in viral marketing shenanigans, but it ends up rarely mattering. Nonetheless, Emily’s audience grows steadily over the course of the first season, reaching tens of thousands. 

Now you might be wondering why a spy would purposefully choose to garner such a large following. 

For one, this gives Emily a versatile alibi that she can exploit to throw others off her scent. Once she establishes a pattern of regularly reporting her location at any given point in time, she can (in the future) have others post on her behalf, disguising her true whereabouts.

Furthermore, her clout grants an undue amount of influence, and privileged access to important events and people. In episode 5, Emily gets invited to an “influencer” event run by a makeup company, even managing to get the ear of their marketing director. She then uses the ear to circumvent the firm’s biometric security measures, gaining access to a secured vault containing top-secret information. In retrospect, I probably should’ve figured out the spy thing at that point, but not all of us can be as perceptive as Ms. Paris.

For the record, I don’t just think that Emily’s social media presence was an undertaking in service of her espionage—I think it was directly fabricated by it. Let’s think about Emily’s supposed “organic growth.” She begins the series with only a few hundred followers, and in a short amount of time amasses thousands more, all the while posting content that’s neither interesting, nor original, nor particularly good. I mean I do that too, and no one fucking reads anything I write. What’s the deal with that? 

Here’s the deal with that: while Emily and myself have similar qualities of posting, I no longer have the full backing of the military-industrial complex. That’s right, you heard me. Emily in Paris was astroturfed. How else would she get retweeted by first lady of France, Brigitte Macron? I mean France was founded in 463 AD, so the fact that someone who’s 1558 years old knows how to use the internet seems odd. Granted, the country could’ve initially been populated by just men, but presumably they got women eventually. Then again, “fraternitie” was their slogan for a while… 

I’m gonna drop this for now, but I’m onto you, France. You and your… demographics. 

The Reveal

Now all this raises an obvious question: who is Emily in Paris spying for, and to what end? The simplest explanation would be that she’s American, but I’m not so sure. I think the CIA could probably come up with a better background than “from around Chicago,” and while Americans are stupid, I doubt they’d choose to present themselves as quite this naive to foreigners. In fact, I don’t think other Americans would buy that Emily herself is a “Yank”; Mindy doesn’t even seem convinced, just lonely and willing to ignore red flags. Additionally, I don’t think that Emily could be spying for one of America’s geopolitical rivals. China, Russia, Belgium—all would probably have much better intel and be able to create convincingly fake Americans. So Emily’s from an American-allied country, whose people can put on convincing US accents, speak French, and at least 3 of whom (Emily, Madeline, Doug) are very, very white. While there are at least 2 possibilities, I think there’s one clear answer. But we can say it at the same time to make sure we’re on the same page. Ok, ready? 3, 2- Canada! Sorry, I got excited. 

Indeed, I believe Emily is Canadian. As Canadian as Tim Horton’s, before it was bought out by a Brazilian company. This would be a fitting role for Lily Collins, herself part American, part British Columbian. Which part of Canada I can’t say for sure. The French fluency would make me lean Quebecois, but all I know for sure is she could not be from Canada’s West Coast. Her violent tendencies preclude her from being a pacificist. I don’t feel the need to justify this point anymore, as my argument is airtight. 

So we’ve found the X, now onto the “why” (my teaching license was revoked for this pun). The show doesn’t give us that much info here—they purposefully choose to obfuscate the true nature of Emily’s nefarious dealings, opting instead to focus on the inane goings-on in her day to day life. And yet, I think I have enough information to come up with a good guess. 

See, there is one more detail of Ms. Cooper’s personal life that the show takes exception to mention. Something seemingly inconsequential, played mostly for laughs, yet oddly menacing in greater context. Emily’s specialty before entering Savoir? Pharmaceuticals. Advertising pharmaceuticals. Now this premise is just laughably absurd—why would there be an industry built around marketing medicine, a thing that is prescribed by trained medical professionals, directly to ordinary consumers? What kind of a ridiculous, backwards healthcare system would allow that sort of thing to take place? And even if there were an industry for marketing pharmaceuticals, surely it would consist of highly educated people who are knowledgeable about the substances they’re merchandising? Yet Emily possesses no such background, at least not that she mentions. So why would this be the case? Well I believe Emily to be a scientist, a very educated one indeed. And I believe her whole mission in Paris rests on this single fact.

Consider this: Emily transfers to Savoir and, despite having no respect from her boss or coworkers, she’s magically able to take on a big client: Antoine. Antoine is the owner of a perfume company, as well as Paramour to Emily’s boss, Sylvie. Antoine falls under Emily’s charm instantly, becoming immediately drawn to whichever parts of her that he wants to do sex with (idk how all that works, I’m not French). Emily, of course, agrees. But why would our favorite Canadian spy want to work with a perfume company? It’s simple. Emily is trying to attain a biological weapon in the form of perfume, and she believes Antoine can deliver.

For what reason does she want this? This is where my theory becomes a bit speculative. The show doesn’t give us any inclination of what ultimate goal Emily has. However, I do have a guess.

In episode 7, Emily tells Gabriel, “I’m not somebody who can share a crepe, I need the whole crepe.” I believe “crepe” in this case refers to “lithium mines in Bolivia.” But how would perfume help her secure this? Well, ask yourself this: what is perfume used for? 

There are two answers. The first one, “to induce headaches,” is more accurate, but also irrelevant in this context. Why would you think I was referring to that? You silly goose. 

The second one? To seduce people by making them go: “damn shawty, whatever specific combination of scents meant to imitate plants you’ve sprayed on yourself is very distinctive, and I appreciate the self-expression you’ve demonstrated in doing so. Such a display of personal taste makes me want to reciprocate vulnerability in turn, and perhaps over time we can become intimately acquainted with each other’s emotions, thoughts, and feelings, building up a connection based on mutual trust and respect.”

And THAT’S when you take their lithium.

Specifically, I think Emily is trying to manufacture some sort of “simp juice” potion that she can use to win over the hearts and minds (as she has mine) of powerful men and women, which she will then somehow utilize to to acquire copious amounts of lithium for the Canadian government, which they can use to finally make some triple A batteries (Canada has had a massive triple A battery shortage for the last 20 years, although this has caused relatively few problems).

Armed with their newfound(land) surplus of batteries, Canada will finally be…

In charge. 

Editor’s Note: Hope she sees this bro

Postscript

Emily. Emily was in Paris. Or was she?

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