Ideas

Netflix Stereotype? A Real Ukrainian In Paris Sets The Record Straight

Ukraine's culture minister has attempted to make a bonafide diplomatic incident out of the depiction of a character from Kyiv in the vapid Netflix series "Emily in Paris." A native Kyiv writer based in France is outraged too, but at her own country's false pride and a government minister wasting everyone's time.

Netflix Stereotype? A Real Ukrainian In Paris Sets The Record Straight

Real Ukrainian in real Ukraine

Anna Akage

-Essay-

PARIS — So Ukraine’s Minister of Culture Oleksandr Tkachenko has written a letter to Netflix, expressing the outrage that he and his fellow Ukrainians feel about the ugly stereotypes of a character from Kyiv who recently appeared in the Netflix series Emily in Paris. As a Ukrainian in Paris, I have a letter for Minister Tkachenko…


Let's start with the fact that you should not only first watch the show, which has already been widely discussed for its stereotypes about French and Americans, Paris and baguettes with berets. But watch it very carefully. Take your time, which you apparently have plenty of.

The pettiness of Ukraine's civil servants

Against the backdrop of the nightmarish outfits and cheesy acting of the main character, it's hard to notice anything else at all. I would write more on this if I were a fashion blogger or entertainment critic, but that’s not my job. And yours?

Further, the cabinet minister makes a fundamental mistake when he speaks of this "unacceptable stereotype." If Netflix had wanted to portray a truly stereotypical Ukrainian, the show would have featured a hot brunette with silicone lips, 4D lashes and a Turkish boyfriend — not a pathetic thief in a shiny beanie. Who in Kyiv wears such a thing? Knowing the stereotypes of their fellow citizens should definitely be part of the job of the Minister of Culture! I myself would write like the native Kievan that I am, but don't I have better things to do?

The Ukrainian minister clearly does not. And this letter of his to a multinational tech and film company is worse than all the Ukrainian characters in all the trashy soap operas, because nothing embarrasses Ukraine more than the pettiness of its civil servants. The Minister's letter is a testimony of parochialism and provincialism, with its echoes of the Soviet era when it was customary to filter all the world's media in the hope of seeing or hearing something about one's own country. As if only a passing mention in foreign media makes us legitimate, real.

Lily Collins as Emily with Daria Panchenko as her Ukrainian friend Petra

Stéphanie Branchu/Netflix

Real people have real concerns

Did you know, for example, that a Ukrainian NGO, funded by an international donor organization, wrote an in-depth report that a certain kind of soup is Ukrainian, and not Russian — and that all who write or say otherwise are enemies, provocateurs and fascists?

It was also a Ukrainian who designed the first rocket, won every boxing belt, invented gunpowder, built pyramids and may have actually flipped the switch on the big bang. As if this Ukrainian-Ukrainian, the most important and the best and the most advanced, has anything to do with how millions of real Ukrainians live in real Ukraine.

My sister works in Kyiv as a surgical assistant, and stands through 10-hour neurosurgeries for 400 euros a month — even if prices in Kyiv supermarkets are similar to those in Paris. She hasn't seen a single episode of Emily in Paris, Monsieur Culture Minister. She doesn't have the time.

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Ideas

The Shortage Of Politicians From The Sciences Is A Threat To Democracy

It's not just the specifics of issues such as climate change, cybersecurity and COVID-19, but rather democracy itself and being able to dialogue with those who have lost trust in the facts that the governments are giving us.

Far-right group America First speaks at an anti-vaccine protest in front of Pfizer world headquarters in New York City, U.S.A.

Rozena Crossman

-Analysis-

PARIS — Ahead of the upcoming French national election, Paris-based daily Les Échos published a tally of the educational background of past presidents. Writer and economist Jean Peyrelevade found that in the post-War period, only one head of state (Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, a 1951 graduate of the École Polytechnique) claimed a math or science degree.

Every other past president had studied law, political science, philosophy and the like — just like all the major candidate on the ballot this spring.

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