Ukraine’s culture minister has filed a complaint to streaming giant Netflix over its portrayal of a Ukrainian character in hit TV series Emily in Paris.
Writing on Telegram, Oleksandr Tkachenko said the show’s depiction was “a caricature of a Ukrainian woman” and was “unacceptable”, “insulting” and “offensive”.
“Netflix is well acquainted with Ukraine. It is enough to say that most of the streets of Paris in [Jeanne Claude Van Damme’s latest film], The Last Mercenary, were shot in Kyiv,” he said. “Europeans and Americans have heard about our artists, the conductor Oksana Liniv, tennis player Elina Svitolina, singer Jamal, designer Vita Kin, to name but a few. But this is probably not enough. And we will have to continue to fight stereotypes.” Ukrainian media outlets also confirmed that Tkachenko had contacted Netflix directly.
Played by actor Daria Panchenko, Emily in Paris’s Ukrainian character, Petra, meets the protagonist at French classes during the show’s second season. But viewers soon find out that Petra is a shoplifter who is terrified of being deported.
Emily in Paris has been derided for its rampant use of stereotypes — primarily of Americans and French people — since its launch in 2020. Yet the relative lack of representation of Ukrainian characters in English-language films means that Petra’s portrayal has caused particular outrage among Ukrainians on social media.
“American writers keep making Ukrainian female characters prostitutes/bimbos/mail order brides/criminals and there’s no fucking end to this so I’m gonna have to step in and write the complex human ones okay?” wrote filmmaker Maryna Bogdan on Twitter.
Following early criticism, the show’s main actor and producer, Lily Collins, told American Vogue that “diversity and inclusion were really important” for its second season.
While receiving mixed reviews, Emily in Paris is one of the most popular comedy shows on Netflix, its first series in 2020 being watched by 58 million households.