Netflix's Popular Series Deemed 'Offensive' by Ukraine Minister for Depiction of Character

A Ukrainian politician called an episode of Emily in Paris Season 2 "offensive" for featuring a Ukrainian character who meets Lily Collins' Emily Cooper. Ukraine's minister of culture Oleksandr Tkachenko called the character "unacceptable" and said it was proof the country has to continue fighting stereotypes. The show was also criticized by French media when Season 1 was released last year for its stereotypical depiction of French culture.

In an episode of Emily in Paris Season 2, Emily learns that she has to repeat her first French-language class and meets Petra, a Ukrainian woman who also does not understand French played by Daria Panchenko. Emily tried to befriend Petra outside of the class, but she was shocked when Petra stole clothes from a store and encouraged Emily to do the same. The two women ran off, but Emily did not stay friends with Petra.

Two days after the new season was released in late December, Tkachenko took to his official Telegram page to call out Petra. "In Emily in Paris, we have a caricature of a Ukrainian woman, which is unacceptable. On the other hand, it is also offensive," Tkachenko wrote on the social network, reports CNN. "Will Ukrainians be seen as such abroad? Who steals, wants to get everything for free, be afraid of deportation? That should not be the case."

Tkachenko called Emily in Paris a "pretty good entertainment series," but he still had plenty of criticisms. He noted that Netflix worked in Ukraine before when Kyiv stood in for Paris in the movie The Last Mercenary. Tkachenko also pointed to Ukraine's influence on art abroad and how Ukrainians were stereotyped as villains during the 1990s and 2000s.

"In addition, with the popularization of our culture, Europeans and Americans have heard about our artists and beyond. At least about the conductor Oksana Lyniv, tennis player Elina Svitolina, singer Jamala, designer Vita Kin," the culture minister wrote. "But this is probably not enough. And we will have to continue to fight stereotypes. Because if in the '90s and 2000s Ukrainian guys were portrayed mostly as gangsters, over time that has changed."

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Netflix has not commented on Tkachenko's criticisms, but this is not the first time the show has been targeted for its stereotypical portrayal of life in Paris and France. Twitter users were also not pleased with Lucien Laviscount's character Alfie, who becomes Emily's new love interest after they meet in their French class. "Alfie in Emily in Paris really is the stereotypical British guy who loves to go to the pub," reads one tweet.

Despite the lukewarm response from critics in the U.S. and elsewhere, Emily in Paris has still built a huge fanbase. The first season was Netflix's most popular comedy series of 2020. Season 2 holds the number two spot on Netflix's Global Top 10 chart from Dec. 20-26, with over 107.64 million hours viewed by households around the world.