Updated: Jun 12, 2022
Posted on Medium in June 2021
An original Netflix show I have recently binged on? Read about Huge in France here! Funny enough, part of me wants to think of it as a response from the French people to Americans who made Emily in Paris. It is, however, likely to be another way around as Huge in France is a 2019 production released one year before Emily in Paris.
As much as Emily in Paris portrays a young vivid always-smiling hard-working American girl among pessimist poker-faced snob French who are attached to specific standards and traditions when it comes to fashion, food, and prestige, Huge in France shows how ridiculous American everyday culture might seem to the eyes of the French. Materialist life, broken relationships ruled by habit, monogamy, and social/financial status, the American common sense of fame, success, and beauty are all mocked and sometimes make you laugh hard, especially if you are not born and raised in the U.S.
The story is about a real-life French comedian Gad Elmaleh, who produced the show and played himself as a character moving to the U.S. to bond with his teenage son, Luke (Jordan Ver Hoeve). Luke lives with his mom, Gad’s ex-girlfriend Vivian (Erinn Hayes), a housewife and a rich Instagrammer, and he is about to make a career in modeling under the guidance of his stepdad, Jason(Matthew Del Negro), a former wanna-be actor and now a model, babysitting Luke full-time. The tension is created between the fours characters centering around some predictable elements of jealousy, sex, and father-son bonding. As Gad’s main challenge and the core of comedy, Gad found himself to be a “nobody” in the U.S, coming from the French culture, where he used to a well-known rich celebrity in the show industry to the U.S., where anything excluding its pop culture is looked down upon. The problem and the unfriendliness of his destination, being right at the gate: Making jokes about American gates is something you can rarely find on American comedies.
“He’s famous!” “oh really?” “I mean, in France.” “oh, ok.”
What I liked about this show is the funny but shocking portray of cultural differences. I read many reviews about this show, and I surprisingly did not see anyone pointing at this as the central theme. You will hear from the film critiques that the main theme is fame and the existential problems Gad faces, but I had difficulty agreeing with that.
I believe this show is all about laughter. It tells us about how knowing a language is far from knowing a culture. Not knowing a culture won’t let us approach people and make deep bonds like Gad struggling with his son and his new environment. Do you think laughter has no borders and the comedy industry is exportable/importable? Then watch this show and see how culture speaks the loudest when it comes to jokes. “Dick jokes” that were not funny for Gad would give the American audience lots of belly laughs in a culture that approaching a girl when you lack some appearance, such as famous/rich/successful vibe, can be interpreted as harassment. (Well, with exaggerated lenses of comedy at least!)
I specifically liked that Gad actually never gets to tell any joke during the story -not considering the last episode! (Did I just spoil anything?!) It’s as if his character is intentionally not supposed to be funny. These tricks and mind-games confuse the TV show audience because most show consumers nowadays are supposed to be delivered a straight-ahead story, especially when it is labeled a comedy. The characters are not likable; you can’t hate them either. You stay neutral during the show and have some bitter laughs because everything in this comedian’s life story is funnier than him.
I think you should watch Huge in France if you like a funny panorama of contrasts between French and North American culture. More than that, watch it if you are a [wanna-be] comedian or just interested in stand-up comedy. Watch it if you sometimes felt rather frustrated watching Emily in Paris because of how French people were screened. HUGE in France, with its bitter sarcasm initially scarred in the capital letters of in the word “huge,” might be less funny than what you expect from a Netflix comedy- but it will make you laugh for a reason or none.