Could Gabriel from 'Emily in Paris' be a sign of progress?
A lot of you may have given in watching the new Netflix series Emily In Paris, and who could blame you?
Midnight in Paris, Paris, I Love You, Two Days In Paris... there's something mesmerising about watching a fish out of water doing whatever-the-fuck in Paris. What Paris is actually like is irrelevant, and it's probably better you haven't been, because these guys are usually selling an anglophone fantasy of Parisian life rather than Paris itself. As Shirley Li writes of Emily In Paris in The Atlantic, it's like creator Darren Star was "inspired by a Francophile’s Pinterest board".
Reactions to the show have been mixed, but really, the consensus among women seems something along the lines of: "It wasn't very good, but I watched all of it". And basically, same.
In Emily In Paris, actress Lily Collins stars as Emily Cooper, a 20-something Chicago marketing executive flown to Paris to bring "American eyes" to the Parisian branch of her company in place of her pregnant boss Madeleine (Kate Walsh). The all-American Emily, who doesn’t speak French apart from some “Rosetta Stone on the plane”, is all set to to model a bunch of berets and ruffle some Parisian feathers. Sacré dieu, etc. You get the picture.
Emily herself is pretty boring, but like other shows helmed by creator Darren Star, a vanilla lead with well-coiffed hair (think Liza Miller in Younger) is redeemed by a more interesting supporting cast. In Emily In Paris, that cast includes Emily’s deeply unimpressed French boss Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu), her co-workers Julien (Samuel Arnold) and Luc (Bruno Gouery) and her new Parisian mates Mindy (Ashley Park) and Camille (Camille Razat).
And of course there's Gabriel (Lucas Bravo), one of Emily's love interests whose defining feature is being hot and French. Oh, and a chef, obviously. But that's basically his whole thing.
Yep, after downing the entire first series of Emily In Paris, we don't really know who Gabriel is. (Side note: we do know much about the guy who plays him, though, thanks to our much stalking.) The most we know is that he’s a talented chef keen to open a restaurant off his own bat rather than accept anyone's financial help. Other than that, he's just some guy who answers the door shirtless and lets you use his shower while being French; a projection screen for all the shapes of your basic straight girl fantasies to take form. Basically, the point of Gabriel is his hotness. And maybe that's fine?
One thing white male characters haven’t traditionally lacked is complexity; they're not usually there to be beautiful. Of course, whether in TV or film, it’s women that tend to be the pretty ones with nothing to say. A 2016 study gauging the levels of inequity in popular cinema from 2007-2015 found that females were over three times as likely as their male counterparts to be shown in revealing outfits (which makes sense given that about 92% of the films looked at were directed by men).
Then there’s the indie version of shitty female characterisation: the Manic Pixie Girl (MPDG) exemplified by Natalie Portman in Garden State, Mélanie Laurent in Beginners, Alessandra Mastronardi in Master of None and Zooey Deschanel in basically everything. The MPDG is usually a lively and quirky woman who "exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures”. Notably, Melanie Laurent’s main 'character' quirk in Beginners is also that she is French.
So could Lucas Bravo as Gabriel be TV's first Manic Pixie Dream Boy? Not quite. While he is, like the MPDG, a static character defined mostly by a his French chefness, he does have his own goals and is technically unavailable (both are no-nos for true MPDGs). But he's not too far off. And you know, we’ve been putting up with male fantasy bullshit for so long, and in this pandemic? In this economy? The people deserve to have bad female characterisation turned on its head. The people deserve a Gabriel.
Emily in Paris is streaming now on Netflix Australia.
Main Image Credit: Emily in Paris, Netflix