Irked by the “offensive” and “stereotypical” portrayal of a Ukrainian character in the second season of Netflix‘s Emily in Paris, Ukraine’s cultural minister Oleksandr Tkachenko has issued a complaint to the streaming service, The Guardian reported.
Made by Sex and the City creator Darren Star, Emily in Paris follows the life of the titular character, played by Lilly Collins, a marketing executive who is hired by a Parisian agency Savoir. The first season aired in October 2020. Subsequently, the second season of the show premiered on Netflix on December 22, 2021. Both the seasons are primarily set in Paris.
While the first season was a huge hit in the US, the series was criticised, particularly in France, for stereotypical portrayal of the city and its residents. Several local reviewers and critics lashed out at the show for portraying and normalising cliches about French culture.
The show’s makers, this time, are facing backlash over the problematic portrayal of a character named Petra, a Ukrainian woman in Emily’s French study class.
In the show, Petra, played by Ukrainian actor Daria Panchenko, is afraid of being deported and has bad fashion sense (in a show with well-dressed characters). She is also shown stealing expensive clothes and accessories while she is out shopping with Emily in one of the scenes.
Taking offence to the portrayal, Tkachenko according to a Mirror report, said in a Telegram post “In the 1990s and 2000s, Ukrainian guys were portrayed mainly as gangsters. Over time this has changed. However, not in this case.”
“In Emily in Paris we have a caricature of a Ukrainian woman which is unacceptable. It is also offensive. Is that how Ukrainians are seen abroad? (As people) who steal, want to get everything for free, be afraid of deportation? This should not be so,” he added.
Speaking to the publication about Netflix’s responce to the complaint letter, Tkachenko said “They thanked me for the feedback. But they heard about the concern of Ukrainian viewers with the image of a Ukrainian woman. We agreed that in 2022, we will be in close contact to prevent such cases.”
Collins, in an interview with Elle UK, in December before the release of the second season of the show, had said that the creators have made changes in terms of representation following the criticism that the first season garnered.
“For me as Emily, but also as a producer on [the show], after season one, hearing people’s thoughts, concerns, questions, likes, dislikes, just feelings about it, there were certain things that spoke to the time that we’re living in and what’s right, and moral and correct and should be done. And [that was] something that I felt passionate about. [The producers] all believed in the same things. And I really wanted diversity and inclusion in front of and behind the camera to be something that we really put our focus on, in a lot of ways. Hiring new people in front of the camera, also giving new storylines to different characters, which was really important,” she said.