There is no argument that The Devil Wears Prada was a classic once it debuted. It had everything: Meryl Streep playing the boss lady (Miranda Priestley) who we loathed but loved at the same time because of her incredible sass; her epic burn of Andrea (played by Anne Hathaway) remains one of my top favorite drags of all time. There’s a fashion makeover with an entire montage set to the music of Madonna’s ‘Vogue’ because why not? There’s descent to the dark side: we watch as Andrea goes from a sweet and “angelic” writer to a corrupt fashionista “as soon as she put on those Chanel boots,” according to her bratty co-worker Emily (played by Emily Blunt). We get scenes of NYC and Paris. We get a love triangle. Then we finally get to relax when Andrea decides her days of sinning for the sake of fashion are over. Wow. What a rollercoaster of gorgeously outfitted emotions, am I right?
It all seemed so simple and cute when I first watched the movie at 13. This was around the time I began burying my face in magazines like Vogue and dedicating countless hours researching designers, brands, and fashion photographers. I was convinced that one day I would be an Editor at some top notch magazine, so when The Devil Wears Prada came out I watched it with wide, doe eyes, believing this was an inside look at my future life in the fashion world (and wow it was chic).
Now 10 years later, while I still hold a special place in my heart for all things fashion, it isn’t my primary concern. Not to say that I’ve “grown up” because working in fashion is not a childish dream, but I’ve acquired different passions and priorities that I want to put before fashion right now. This change became evident to me the other night when I went over to my friend’s house and we decided to watch it. I was giddy. The few pleasant memories of my childhood rushed to the front of my mind and my inner teen was ready to be swept up in all the glamorous drama of the fashion world.
The opening sequence was just as I remembered: a window into the private morning routines of working women set to a bubbly tune (and suddenly I felt like I needed to go shopping).
Andrea (Hathaway) steps into the Runway office and begins to go on about how she knows NOTHING. NADA. About this magazine and “haha lol I’m just here for a reference and I did no research I’m just smarter than all these dumb fashion people.”
Um…Okay. This wasn’t how I remembered it. This was really annoying, not quirky and innocent like I used to think. How are you going to go into a job interview and not do any kind of research about the company, the boss, the work environment or anything? And it’s not like she didn’t have access to do this research. She is a college grad, who was accepted into Stanford Law but instead decided to pursue a journalism career aka she knows how the interview process goes and most likely has access to a computer.
I guess as a person who has spent countless hours researching companies and putting in a lot of time to try and get a job, it was insulting to see her walk in and say she doesn’t even know where she is at – then still land the job. This also highlights another major point about the way this movie interacts with race: Brown and black women know damn well that they can’t just goof on these things. They have to go in prepared. They have to be as perfect as possible. Andrea’s unconcerned attitude toward the interview proves that, in reality, only a white woman could have played this role because only white women can afford to have this attitude.
Maybe I would be more forgiving if she had a kick-ass interview, but it went terribly. She said, “basically it’s this or Auto Universe,” then gave a smile and a tiny shrug. Miranda dismisses her and just as Andrea is about to walk away (upset and somehow shocked that the interview didn’t go well) she turns and gives one little speech about how she’s different, smart, and will work hard – which lands her the job. I really shouldn’t be surprised by this, yet here I am.
So as I continue watching this movie, increasingly skeptical of it, I can’t help but focus on Andrea’s disregard of her own privilege. At one point her friend says to her, “a million girls would kill for that job.” She shrugs her shoulders and says, “Yeah, great, thing is I’m not one of them.” THEN GIRL LEAVE. Like, what? You’re taking up valuable space. This is someone’s dream job and you’re just going to take it because you eventually need a good reference?
I hated her character after this. In fact, now that I think about it, I don’t think I ever liked her character or rooted for her. She was always whining and pouting while receiving tons of help from everyone and taking all of it for granted. Even at the end, when she walked out on Priestley, I didn’t really care that much – I just thought about how gorgeous her dress was and how one day I need to go to Paris to throw my phone in a cool fountain then walk away, free as a bird.
The reason I was dazzled by the movie in the first place was because of Meryl, the fashion, and the Romance of it all: choosing whatever clothes you want from a huge closet, going to Paris, going to parties, living in NYC. I won’t be too hard on myself about it, at 13 it’s hard not to get swept up in all of those things. But I am glad I can see through it now. This isn’t to say it ruined the movie for me, I just see it in a different way now. I can still enjoy watching it while staying aware of its problematic moments. Which, besides Andrea’s unchecked privilege, there is also tons of harmful fatphobic language (whether done to make fun of the industry or not isn’t quite clear) and few women of color with speaking roles. Even though it was cool to see women in lead roles, and Andrea’s line, “I’m not your baby” is a classic, I just imagine how much more different and interesting it would have been if Andrea was Latina or if Miranda was a black woman.
I think people are really tired of seeing the same type of actors on the big screen and the same type of stories. We want more. I want more. I want Hollywood to finally get things right and stop selling out because they’re afraid they won’t make money. They know that isn’t true and it has become a sorry excuse. So while this movie is fun for some reasons, I really hope that the days of creating movies like these comes to an end.