Chances are that anything that you have watched as a teenager needs a careful second look before you can form opinions about it that hold, especially when it is the cult favourite The Devil Wears Prada and particularly when you now have some idea about the world that the now-15-year-old movie first postulated in 2006. While watching the world of Miranda Priestly (played by Meryl Streep) and Andy Sachs (played by Anne Hathaway) back then, little did I know how similar my views about a lot of things shown in the movie would be and yet, how different.
“My boss is straight out of The Devil Wears Prada” is a phrase I have heard many, many times over the years of working in the journalism industry, often hinted at women in leadership positions. But my question is what is so wrong with having a boss like Miranda in the first place?
Of course the movie is based on Lauren Weisberger’s roman-à-clef of the same name that was famously based on her real-life experiences and has since had a number of sequels that dwell on Andy’s post-Miranda life and flashbacks from her “traumatic” job at the fictitious Runway magazine that shows Miranda as a ruthless boss. However, I do beg to differ with that blanket opinion. Without commenting on the book that I admit to never having read, the film seems to be more nuanced in its portrayal of Miranda where you do catch glimpses of a vulnerable woman. Granted, her terse, short sentences and that menacingly-low volume could be nerve-racking for anyone and that sometimes her demands were simply unreasonable but I am sure that most of the criticism she faced would not have been directed to a male in a leadership position. Also, some of the demands made by Miranda from Andy and Emily Charlton (played by Emily Blunt) appeared to be outrageously hyperbolic!
Miranda seems to be a boss who has not a strand of hair and neither an issue out of place as she handles it all — including attempts of professional sabotage and problems in her marriage. In fact, the only two issues I have with her are her myopic, judgemental views about fashion (and what people choose to wear) and her absolute lack of interest in the growth of her employees. The latter, still, gets a shot at redemption when Miranda is shown giving Andy a good recommendation for her next job, despite her having abandoned Miranda in Paris in the middle of a high-pressure situation.
Who is the perfect employee?
Well, definitely not Andy. But neither are Emily and Nigel Kipling (played by Stanley Tucci). Let us begin with Andy. Who goes to a job interview without knowing the entire purview of what they would be interviewed for, including not knowing her potential boss’ name, who is clearly a famous personality in the industry? Neither did she do any homework nor did she look like she cared, yet landed the job simply because Miranda took a chance on her. Of course, she made up for it later by eventually outsmarting (and out-dressing) Emily but it is quite evident from the film that she never took to the job wholeheartedly.
Though Emily and Nigel both seemed to be great fits for their respective roles in the movie, they both eventually fell prey to Miranda’s order of business. One could say that they were both unlucky despite having worked their best for years but being a good employee also means knowing their own limits and their surroundings to be able to adapt.
Friend or foe
Though Andy thinks that her boyfriend Nate (played by Adrian Grenier) is her soulmate but he is truly the kind of boyfriend that I would not wish for anyone. Having clashing world views does not warrant the consistent belittling that Andy kept facing in the hands of Nate, in the form of snarky comments about her life in the fashion industry. Clearly in the movie, Andy herself was struggling to feel at home at Runway and Nate didn’t help matters — he was the kind of boyfriend that I would definitely advice my friends to part ways with pronto. But that’s not all. Andy’s set of friends that she shares with Nate also don’t seem to have her back most of the time. The fashion and journalism industries with our fast-paced deadline-driven lives can often get draining without a tribe of steadfast friendships that Andy seemed to lack.
Adrian Grenier, who played the role of Andy’s boyfriend Nate, with Hathaway in a scene from the movie
Of course it is important to dress right but in my experience, it is safe to say that they never involved wearing Chanel and Prada on the daily while running errands or rushing from one assignment to the next. Fashion weeks can be fun too but not when you have to run back to file stories and meet deadlines.
If you work for an Indian fashion magazine or are a fashion writer in this country, you know that there are ample opportunities for us to take out our designer clothes, dress well and strut around in heels at events and fashion shows. But it also means that we mostly know how to beat the humidity with a messy top bun and make it look fashionable, mix high-low brands to merge a fancy designer top with classic Levi’s bootcuts and a pair of comfy Nike Cortez sneakers so that you can run around the newsroom to grab printouts, meet deadlines and get the story done.
However, I think that in 2021, nobody who writes on fashion will hold straitjacketed views about sizes and non-inclusivity to judge someone else for what they are “not” wearing right, like Andy was subjected to.
And trust me that we all have difficult days when the biggest achievement for us is to turn up at work — irrespective of whether we are put together like an employee from Runway or one of those women shown in the opening montage of the movie, or if we have thrown on the first thing we found, barely managing to hold ourselves together.
Every time I have watched The Devil Wears Prada in the last few years, I have often scoffed at a lot of scenes. But I have also watched the movie multiple times and for me, like for many, it remains one that I go back to when I want to watch something feel-good. Therefore, it is no surprise that 15 years since its release, the movie still remains endearing to many but it always helps to remember to not take things such as “goal weight”, “cerulean blue” and the lack of “groundbreaking” ideas for spring too seriously.