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Emily in Paris: Innocent Rom-Com or Queer-Baiting?

When Emily in Paris was released at the beginning of October, it seemed to be the only thing anyone talked about. And not necessarily because it was particularly good, but because in the midst of a pandemic some good old-fashioned escapism was exactly what audiences needed. From Darren Star (the creator of Sex and the City), it follows Emily (Lily Collins), a young American from Chicago, who is sent to Paris to work at a PR company. Cue every single stereotype about French people, wine drinking before midday and many, many identical looking French love-interests. And there is where it gets interesting, because aside from many other problems the show has (including lacking some serious diversity), it also does a good job of queer-baiting.

For those unfamiliar with the term, queer-baiting is the phenomenon in which there are constant insinuations towards a characters sexuality – and therefore appeal to LGBTQ-audiences- only for the character to end up in a heterosexual relationship after all. We’ve seen it in Riverdale (Veronica and Betty), Pitch Perfect (Becca and Chloe) and Supergirl (Kara and Lena). In Emily in Paris, this queer-baiting takes the form of Emily and Camille (Camille Razat): girlfriend of Emily’s neighbour Gabriel (Lucas Bravo).

Initially, it seems clear that Emily and Gabriel will end up together, until we meet Camille. Camille, isn’t portrayed like the usual ‘girlfriend of the main character’s love interest’: she’s sweet, isn’t jealous and takes an immediate liking towards Emily. They quickly become friends, but the show immediately hints that there might be something more to it. The first time Emily and Camille meet, Emily accidentally kisses Camille on the lips, but when she says sorry, Camille simply replies with ‘I’m not’.

We see Camille and Emily be extremely close, they hold hands, Emily is invited on dates with Camille and Gabriel and at one point they even post a picture of the two of them in bed with the tag ‘get in bed with us’, followed by a shot of Gabriel longingly staring at the photo. While you could simply brush it off as the two women being close friends, in a show full of not-so-subtle innuendos, this never really seems the case. On top of that, Emily has another close female friend Mindy (played by Ashley Park) whom she doesn’t treat in the same way.

Even if Camille and Emily didn’t end up exclusively together, a trio including Gabriel could have been interesting. Seeing how they would develop a relationship between the three of them would have provided something new in a show that relies entirely on clichés and common tropes. Lucas Bravo who plays Gabriel even revealed in an interview that the flirting between Camille and Emily was entirely intentional and that they were ‘hinting’ at a threesome.

Sadly, it never goes beyond these hints and in the end (spoiler!), Emily goes straight for Gabriel once she finds out his relationship with Camille has ended. And so, what could have been a redeeming quality in an otherwise average show (posing to be sexually enlightened), turns out to be nothing more than queer-baiting. The only thing we can hope for is that they make it right in season 2, even just because Camille deserved a lot better.

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