When on October 22, 2017 they exploded at the Eiffel Tower the fireworks announcing the closure of the series Sense8the spectators were astonished: they did not know that it was the filming of a scene from the wachowski seriesissued in Netflix.
The episode is titled amor vincit omnia and if the title makes sense with the narrative of the series, it also illustrates a cliché that the audiovisual industry uses without regard to expense, that of Paris as the capital of love.
The clichés and stereotypes have a bad press: often indicate lack of originality or creative laziness. That’s why you can quickly go from an amused smile –at the photo frenzy of Chinese couples in wedding clothes around the Eiffel Tower– to a strong irritation.
In the globalized imaginary, Paris evokes the cliché of romantic loveand one would like the city not to be reduced to that.
play with clichés
American series produced since the late 90s have taken advantage of the stereotypes of a city that symbolizes love, fashion or gastronomy to set them against the values of the American “home sweet home”.
so, in Gilmore Girls (2000-2006), deeply rooted in Stars Hollow, an imaginary small town in Connecticut, Lorelei marries the father of her daughter, Christopher, in Paris (season 7, episode 7). Yet this Paris, glimpsed from a view of the Seine and a stroll through the market, is an unreal cliché, almost false, just like the heroine’s wedding. He hotel service in paris is also mediocrethe French don’t work like the Americans… The characters can’t wait to return to the United States!
Similarly, in sex in new york (1998-2004), Carrie Bradshaw sadly walks through the city and calls her friend in Manhattan to express her disappointment. She soils her pretty shoes with the inevitable dog feces and lies in the rain in Dior (season 9, episodes 19 and 20). Even if he finds love again on the Pont des Arts, long live New York!
The wonderful Mrs. Maisel (2017-2019) offers a romantic and bohemian parisian foray closer to the original cliché, by fitting it into the general tone of the series. The series plays with the stereotypes of bohemian life in New York in the 50s and 60s at the service of the emancipation of its heroine.
In the second season, Midge’s mother, Rose Weissman, no longer supports the rigidity of her married life and the social conventions of New York and moves to the French capital. Her husband, who has gone looking for her, also transforms from her. Tony Shalhoub, who plays the latter character, I declare that:
In Paris they rejuvenate, wear softer clothes and drink more! This city makes them let themselves go. The love she gives off breathes new life into their relationship.”
As capital of love, it is also a place of newfound freedom and creativity. This nod to the cliché of Paris in the 50s as a city of emancipation for Americans it is not without its subtlety and humor, as it meets the parallel stereotype of an idealized New York. Nostalgia for the “good old days” feeds on clichés, the series tells us.
The geolocation of the stereotype
But, What Paris is it about? Many are exasperated by the recurrence of places and the conformism that this expresses: it is common to see the Seine, some bridges, in particular the Pont des Arts (remember that the little love locks, now extinct, invaded Instagram at the time), the Eiffel Tower and Montmartre.
not to mention the routes that are made and the implausible distances: take the metro at Abbesses and get off at Arts et metiers or go from Montmartre to the Eiffel Tower in just a few steps…
In the name of dramatic efficiency, fictional time and places are constructed far from reality, even when they aspire to a certain degree of realism. It is necessary to move quickly from one place to another in action. The logistical and economic conditions of filming are also a factor in the production of stereotypes by the industry itself.
He constant increase in filming in Parisinterrupted during the pandemic, has resumed strongly, with 102 feature films and 76 series that have meant 7,000 days of work.
Tax credits and aid funds are intended to promote Paris and the Île-de-France region, as proclaimed by the slogan “Choose Paris” at the annual salon of the same name. This represents almost 19,000 permanent jobs and one salary mass of 1,900 million eurosincluding temporary contracts.
The fight against the relocation of filming It is therefore strong and the competition between locations very real.
It is practiced in the same way in the United States. It must be remembered that filming locations are sometimes disconnected from the places staged by the series. The three versions of CSI were shot in Hollywood studios, although they were located respectively in Las Vegas, New York and Miami.
Dick Wolf, the creator of Law, rejected the call of the Californian spotlights to shoot in New York and give his series the gray atmosphere of the city. But for NYPD cops, Steven Bochco chose Hollywood, and the result was acclaimed by critics and viewers alike. The impression of veracity of a series is not necessarily linked to its geolocation.
‘Emily in Paris’: the height of the cliché or the effectiveness of dreams?
Since its launch in October 2020, Emily in Paris It has been a worldwide success. matched only by the sarcasm that has accompanied her in France.
Its creator, Darren Starr, who already had made us dream of a glamorous New York in sex in new york, applied the same iconographic procedures. He chose emblematic places (the bakery, the Place de l’Estrapade, the cafés with terraces) and recurring walks (the quays, the Seine bridges, the illuminations).
This time it offers the American vision of Paris of a young heroine in improbable outfits, the daughter instagrammer of Carrie Bradshaw in the #PostMeToo era. exasperating the criticsthe capital is both idealized and old-fashioned, the arrogant and inhospitable Parisians. With American clichés versus Parisian clichés, the series makes fun of these oppositions, which could be reminiscent of those between the provinces and the capital.
However, it has created a spectacular property craze among Anglo-Saxons and invites tourists to a Emily-in-Paris touras it happened with the Big Apple and sex in new york. sleep is priceless.
construction and deconstruction
It could even be affirmed that, most of the time, the representation of a city makes sense precisely combining stereotypes and updating those same stereotypes.
This is the case of the American series that closely associate Washington monuments with presidential powerto the point of completely invading the credit titles of house of cards. Miami combines a gleaming storefront with underlying violent crime (Two cops in Miami, Dexter). New York is such a powerful symbol that the credits of the sopranos they simply play out of town for the New Jersey suburbs to evoke the strength of the bond.
But it is a city little known iconographically that has taken all the laurels: Baltimore, with The Wire. By refusing to make moral judgments, David Simon and Ed Burns’ series immerses viewers in Baltimore’s open-air drug market and forces them to reject all associated stereotypes. In doing so, he holds up a mirror to an urban condition that goes beyond the city itself and speaks to the whole world.
The same goes for Paris. This explains the success of the series Spiral in France and abroad since 2005. Choosing empty and abandoned spaces for its criminal investigations, in contrast to the Palais de Justice de la Cité or the law offices of western Paris, the series examines a city at once recognizable and unknowable, near and far. A city that is the image of its characters and vice versaarticulating the stereotypes of places and heroes in a permanent change.
Far from any binary judgment about stereotypes, the series gain in wealth by questioning themsometimes delving into our memory to revive old disappeared neighborhoods, such as the Palace of Justice in the days of the Île de la Cité, or the Quai des Orfèvres, the scene of so many police series, starting with Maigret.
Will Paris always be Paris?
Far from being fixed the image of Paris evolves profoundly through the series. We could extend this reflection to the image of France in other places, from the neighborhoods of Marseille (Plus belle la vie) to the emigrant areas of Calais (Years and Years), which renew the perspectives of the stories.
So that, no representation of Paris can claim to offer a unique and objective image. Their stereotypes are outdated, fragmentary, a source of frustration or nostalgia. They also constitute a form of fictitious inheritance for any new writing, any new perspective.
In fact, all of them contribute to making Paris an elusive place, at the same time “always” Paris and “never” Pariscaptivating creators time and time again.
Monika SiejkaChercheuse Teacher in storytelling, leadership and management, University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (UVSQ) – University Paris-Saclay
This article was originally published on The Conversation. read the original.