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.
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
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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