The Devil Wears Prada is probably one of my most watched movies of all time.
It’s about a young woman named Andy (Anne Hathaway) who, upon starting her first job out of college at a fashion magazine, finds herself to be the classic fish out of water stereotype. She graduated from Northwestern University with the intention of becoming a journalist, but like most millennials Andy couldn’t find a job anywhere until finally she got an assistant position at Runway.
She knows nothing about fashion, nothing about Runway, and nothing about her new boss – Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep). But Miranda is a living legend to people in the fashion industry. She’s tough as nails, but the absolute best at what she does and everyone knows it. After several failed attempts to find a competent assistant in the sea of fashionistas, Miranda takes a chance on tasteless, frumpy Andy.
So Andy has the typical post grad job. She’s a level one assistant, the kind who books travel and goes on coffee runs or trips to the printers for her boss. She stays late, gets paid little, and in her mind contributes seemingly nothing of value to the magazine itself. She hates the job, feels she is overqualified for it, and her unhappiness is evident to both herself and her coworkers.
Then she has a half breakdown/half confrontation at work with one her superiors, Nigel (Stanley Tucci).
Andy: She hates me Nigel.
Nigel: And that’s my problem because…Oh, wait. No, it’s not my problem.
Andy: I don’t know what else I can do because if I do something right, it’s unacknowledged. She doesn’t even say thank you. But if I do something wrong…she is vicious.
Nigel: So quit.
Nigel: I can get another girl to take your job in five minutes. One who really wants it.
Andy: No, I don’t want to quit. That’s not fair. But, I, you know, I’m just saying that I would just like a little credit…for the fact that I’m killing myself trying.
Nigel: Andy, be serious. You are not trying. You are whining. What is it that you want me to say to you, huh? Do you want me to say, “Poor Andy. Miranda’s picking on you. Poor you. Poor Andy?” Hmm? Wake up, six. She’s just doing her job. Don’t you know that you are working at the place that published some of the greatest artists of the century? Halston, Lagerfeld, de la Renta. And what they did, what they created was greater than art because you live your life in it. Well, not you obviously, but some people. You think this is just a magazine, hmm? This is not just a magazine. This is a shining beacon of hope for…oh, I don’t know…let’s say a young boy growing up in Rhode Island with six brothers pretending to go to soccer practice when he was really going to sewing classes and reading Runway under the covers at night with a flashlight. You have no idea how many legends have walked these halls. And what’s worse, you don’t care. Because this place, where so many people would die to work, you only deign to work. And you want to know why she doesn’t kiss you on the forehead and give you a gold star on your homework at the end of the day. Wake up, sweetheart.
There are a lot of themes in this movie, but when I watched it the first few times in high school and college I don’t think I quite understood what Nigel was really talking about. Or at least not on an emotional level. And of course what he’s talking about here is pride.
Andy acts as though she is entitled to a better job, which means she’s taking the one she has for granted. She thinks she’s above the work that she was hired to do and demands recognition of that. But the truth is she has very few skills and she’s replaceable. Not to mention her poor attitude towards the magazine’s work is insulting to the many other hardworking employees of Runway – like Nigel – who believe in what they’re doing.
After this conversation with Nigel, Andy takes a deep breath and makes a decision. If she’s going to continue being Miranda’s assistant, well, then she’s going to be the best damn assistant Miranda has ever had. She sacrifices her own misplaced pride, throws herself wholeheartedly into her work (even develops some interest in fashion), and by the end of the movie proves to Miranda that she’s capable of greatness. She earns the respect of her peers instead of believing herself to be entitled to it.
There are other themes in this movie including great discussions to be had about female role models, women in positions of authority being seen as “bitchy,” the ethics of the fashion industry, etc. But I love this movie because I’ve always been able to relate to Andy on a personal level. In some ways I’ve always felt like a fish out of water trying to prove myself and now I also know what it’s like to feel undervalued at work, even if it’s really just my pride talking.
So while on the surface this movie appears to be about makeovers and fashion, there’s really a lot more layers to it.
Have you seen The Devil Wears Prada? Did you like it? What themes stood out to you? Let me know your thoughts in the comments down below.