In Which I Think People Are Missing the Point of The Devil Wears Prada

Devil Wears Prada

Several weeks ago, I watched The Devil Wears Prada for the first time. The movie was released in 2006 (and the book, which I haven’t read, in 2003), so I thought I was a little late to this party.  Imagine my surprise, then, to come across recent articles on the Internet where people were talking about how much they loved the movie and how many times they’ve seen it.  Imagine my greater surprise to see many, many people saying how they think Andy’s boyfriend Nick is a horrible person for breaking up with her and “not supporting her career.” I generally try not to be too snarky online, but in my complete bafflement I must ask: Did these people even watch the same movie that I did???

The entire point of The Devil Wears Prada is to show how Andy’s career (and her boss, Miranda Priestly) take over her life in completely unreasonable ways. Even if we ignore the other issues the movie raises about the fashion magazine industry (for example, how much the employees are judged on appearance and how frequently Andy is insulted for being “too fat” or eating the “wrong” things), the core argument of the movie is that Andy is consumed by her job–and that she has to be consumed if she wants to keep it, if she wants what people in the industry call “success.”

Nick breaks up with Andy because he literally never sees her. One prime example is when Andy is responsible for delivering “the book” (the mock-up of the magazine issue) to Miranda.  “The book” isn’t done until 10 pm. Andy must wait in the office until it is done. Then, she must deliver it to Miranda’s home. Then she has to go to her own home (which is likely nowhere near Miranda’s since Miranda is rich and Andy is not). Basically, Andy probably got up at 6 am to go to work, and she will not return to her apartment until, say, midnight, when she will immediately go to sleep so she can get up at 6 am the next day.

It’s one thing for Nick to feel generally happy for Andy if this is the type of life she wants to lead (and the movie suggests it’s not anyway). It’s another thing to expect that Nick will stay in a relationship for someone he sees only on the weekends (and maybe not even then).  Nick-critics have argued, for instance, that he’s a baby for being upset that Andy misses his birthday celebrations because, as an adult, he should realize they can celebrate on a day that isn’t actually his birthday.  But the argument of the movie is that there is no other day. Andy will never be free.  She will never have more than a few minutes here and there to spend with him.

People may leave watching The Devil Wears Prada with different views on the fashion magazine industry. (Is it fair to expect this level of commitment from people? Should they have to choose between a career and a relationship? Between a career and any other outside interests? Is that what it honestly takes to be “the best?”)  However, Nick isn’t the one who signed up for the lifestyle; Andy is.  I think he gets a free pass for breaking up with someone he literally never sees anyway. That doesn’t make him a bad person; it makes him someone who actually wants a relationship with his girlfriend.

Briana

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37 thoughts on “In Which I Think People Are Missing the Point of The Devil Wears Prada

  1. Carrie @ Cat on the Bookshelf says:

    I never particularly faulted Nick for “not supporting her career,” but I do feel heartbroken like Andy when they do break up. I take some issue with the rest of their friend group for seeming to turn on Andy because she starts looking like others in her job. Then I think about that it’s probably because they don’t see her either, and they especially do not understand how some of her work connections are mostly from networking and doing each other favors. I’m thinking of the “some hot fashion guy.” It did turn into friends with benefits later, but it wasn’t that yet when Lily confronted her.

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yeah, I think the question of what Andy is wearing is the least of the problems. It’s not unreasonable for someone to have to dress a certain way to fit the the standards of their job. It seems as if her friends are snotty because they want to make fun of “fashion people.” I doubt they’d be mocking her if she started dressing more professionally or wearing more tailored or more expensive clothes because she was working at a law firm, for instance. Also, it seems kind of mean to basically say, “How dare you wear nice clothes?! The REAL you dresses in unflattering sweaters and looks like a slob!” Thinking people are “fake” or “vain” because they wear designers clothes or put some thought into what they wear is a mentality that should be left in high school. Unless someone’s *really* too obsessed with appearance, which doesn’t seem to be what happens to Andy. She kind of just changes her sense of style.

      Yeah, it is sad when Nick and Andy break up! I totally get it, though. He no longer feels as if they actually are in a relationship. I think the time issue–that he never sees her and she probably only talks about work they are together–is more convincing than “the REAL Andy, the Andy I love, would wear flats, not heels!!!”

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  2. Olga Polomoshnova says:

    I read the book when it first came out. I was a graduate then, fresh from university and having certain ideas about success. The book made me re-consider everything I saw as success, showed me a different side of a fascinating career — the side I didn’t like. I learnt to value my job because it gave me freedom to be who I was. It isn’t as glamorous as working for a fashion mag, but it doesn’t consume me and put me into limits, leaves me time for myself and my dear ones. For that I’m forever grateful to this story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I’ve briefly met someone people who used to work at lifestyle magazines of this type, and they basically confirmed that they are like this and it was part of the reason they left for more casual magazines, like food magazines. Someone who works for one *currently* basically mocked the idea of work-life balance and said anyone who actually wanted to succeed and have a career needed to put in the hours (like she did, of course). I’ve never been particularly interested in fashion, beauty, etc. myself, but talking to some of these people confirmed the fact I would never apply to work at one of these places. I kind of like hanging out with my family, having hobbies, etc. I think very few jobs are worth giving up the rest of your life for, unless it is something you are extremely passionate about and something that is really impacting the world in a noticeable and positive way.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Jheelam says:

        “I think very few jobs are worth giving up the rest of your life for, unless it is something you are extremely passionate about”- Touché.

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      • Olga Polomoshnova says:

        I totally agree with you! Some of the people I know gave up a lot of their time and lives to reach certain heights in their careers. But they later regretted about it as it didn’t really pay off. They were left with no hobbies, no friends and a job they hated on their hands. Once they changed their jobs, life became much better for them.

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        • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

          Yeah, I could see it if you really loved the job or if you were doing something like finding a cure for cancer. Would I personally give up all my outside interests to work on a lifestyle magazine and try to push consumers into purchasing more sunglasses? No.

          Also, Andy doesn’t actually want to be working for a fashion magazine anyway. I have more sympathy for Miranda and Emily making sacrifices to be there because…they actually want to be.

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  3. Vera says:

    Such an great post. It’s really interesting what some of us value, isn’t it? If someone values career or perhaps even success or recognition, Nick’s choice may certainly deemed as ‘unsupportive’. To me, his choice was utterly logical. I want to spend time with people I love. If they don’t have time for me, it’s their choice and is absolutely ok but I won’t be in a relationship where I won’t get to see that person at all because that goes against what I value.

    I read the book when it came out and it definitely reminded me that to me, career is not everything and living in line with my values is what is important to me. 💕

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I think Nick is in the toughest position because he’s dating her. I don’t think being completely career-focused is *necessarily* a bad thing, if that’s really what you want out of life, but you have to understand that you’re unlikely to have very close friends, a strong romantic relationship, good ties with your family, etc. if you never talk to people outside of your job. I can imagine myself “supporting” a friend who chose this lifestyle by wishing them well, hanging out with them the few times they’re available, etc. But, I agree, I would never date (or marry!) someone like this because it would basically feel like “supporting” a stranger.

      Yes! I’ve met people in real-life who kind of scoffed at the idea of work-life balance and insisted the “secret” to success is to work, work, work. That’s great for them, I guess, but I’ll be looking for a different job…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. H.P. says:

    Lots of people work these kinds of jobs and get and stay happily married. Lots of people work jobs that are just as bad and with much worse pay/career prospects and get and stay happily married. But some people only want things that are easy.

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I’m sure they do. I have no personal experience with working for lifestyle magazines, but I have heard from several people who quit the industry (or went to more “relaxed” magazines like food ones) because it was like this and I’ve heard from people still working on lifestyle magazines who directly said things like “You cannot have work-life balance. Do not apply to work here if you are not willing to put in the hours.” So I give a lot of credence to portrayals like this, or at least to the fact that a lot of people perceive the industry as people extremely time-consuming and cutthroat. I don’t have an issue with people who want to put a lot of time into the careers, but I also think it’s understandable if there are people who don’t want to date or be close friends with someone they don’t see very often. You just have to find people who agree with you that career is a top priority and don’t mind if you organize your life that way.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Tammy says:

    I’m always glad when women are shown as ambitious, and I think it makes people uncomfortable. I don’t like the fact that ambition should be punished, though. There’s nothing wrong with it, and with Andy, she knew her job was simply a stepping stone on the path to her real goal. I loved this movie and book and I can’t wait to read the sequel!

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I think part of my personal struggle with Andy is that she didn’t actually want to work on fashion/lifestyle magazines anyway, you know? I get that the position with Miranda was so prestigious she felt that it would be a good stepping stone to a more “serious” journalist career, but I have more sympathy for Miranda and Emily who are putting in the same crazy hours and intense work ethic but actually very much like fashion and want to be with that magazine. Andy seemed to be giving up her personal life and her relationships and her mental health for something she didn’t really want, which makes it harder for me to think “You go, girl!” :p

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  6. Cailin says:

    I totally agree with you. I never thought he was bad for breaking up with Andy, seemed like a reasonable choice considering her crazy choices. I think a lot of people do actually miss the point of this movie. And at the end, I think you see that Miranda actually admires Andy for having the balls to quit

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Now I’m surprised with how many people are agreeing with me, since all the comments on the articles I was reading were like “Yeah, Nick is total jerk! Down with Nick!” 😛

      I also liked the end. Choosing career sort “work outed” for Miranda because she became The Best (though obviously the movie shows what she gave up, too), but I also think it would be kind of horrifying to put that much into your career and then NOT become the head of a magazine or whatever you were aiming for.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. k8neville says:

    Great post. The good thing that Andy learned from her job is that in order to truly succeed you have to be committed — the speech Miranda gives about the color choice working its way down to department stores is a reflection of Miranda’s commitment. Andy, a young and idealistic person, is attracted by that level of commitment. But the industry, ultimately, doesn’t offer enough positive outlets for Andy’s idealism. I always thought that Andy’s friends were drawn to her idealism, and saw before she did that the fashion industry would take her passion and drive it into the shallows. All of her friends wanted and were pursuing success, but not at any cost. I left that movie feeling that Andy would be a success at her new career and might even bump into Miranda someday

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yeah, I think that’s one of the parts of the movie I struggle with. It turns out that Andy is very, very committed…to a job she really doesn’t like. She learns to respect the fashion industry and that the people who work there aren’t stupid or completely shallow just because they like fashion and beauty, but it’s never her own passion. She’s also so committed that she can’t be committed to anything else in her life, like her friends, family, or romantic relationship. I think she also learns that, while of course you need to put time and effort into your career to do well at it, you also need to put time and effort into other things you value.

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  8. shelfishforbooks says:

    I like the movie quite a lot – while the fashion industry is presented with many flaws, I loved the whole hierarchy of the magazine business – not to mention – I love Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt and Anne Hathaway!! I really liked that in the end Andy was able to reclaim herself, after losing herself to the fashion industry. Great discussion post! ❤️

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  9. Grab the Lapels says:

    I think this movie is SUPPOSED to be cute and fun, but after I watched it, I just felt bad. I’m not sure what work practices are like in other countries, but in the United States, if you don’t commit your whore life to your job, you can be replaced. I feel like that’s the message we live with, especially since the recession: you are not talented it unique, and there are 100 people coming at the bit to replace you. I’ve had nothing but work anxiety as an adult as a result of the message that The Devil Wear Prada so astutely conveys. This mentality from both myself and employers has kept me from having a CAREER as opposed to a job.

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I think that’s one of the great parts about the movie. It seems as if it should be really fun. It’s about a young beautiful college grad getting a prestigious “dream job” working for the glamorous fashion magazine industry! Then the movie goes on and you see how very not fun it in, even as people keep telling Andy it’s the opportunity of a lifetime and a million other people would kill to be in her shoes.

      Yeah, the direct comments about how replaceable Andy is struck me, too. Also, it seems as if just about *everyone* is replaceable. Likely even Miranda is, to some extent. Which really drives home the question of “Is it worth giving up everything else for your career if it might not even work out?” I think Nigel getting passed over for the big promotion is a great example of that. He’s done everything “right” and given up everything to “succeed” at this job, and he still doesn’t get the promotion. So what does he have left? That’s kind of horrifying to think about.

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        • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

          Yet at the same time, everyone wants really specific experience. So, on one hand, you’re replaceable and “anyone else can do your job.” But then when you’re job hunting it’s like “I see you have experience knitting red scarves, but we need someone to knit green scarves here, so we’re going to have to pass.” Although I keep hearing the economy is better, people are hiring, etc., so maybe that will improve.

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  10. mander-lee says:

    I watched this movie a really long time ago, and ended up generally liking it. I saw a post on Tumblr discussing this very issue from the movie some time back, and I think one of the reasons a lot of women were disappointed with Nick’s decision to break-off their relationship is that I don’t think there are really that many movies about women who are ambitious and who go after their dreams with a ruthlessness that Andy showed here. We don’t get to see this scenario very often, whereas there are tons and tons of movies about men who pursue their dreams, who go away on missions months on end, who live the fast-paced hustle and bustle of Wall Street or Silicon Valley, and still get to keep the girl even though she appears for only a few seconds every once in a while. The Devil Wears Prada tells a very specific story about a very specific career and a specific girl, and it’s a valid story, but viewed from a distance, it’s still just another story that reinforces certain narratives about ambitious women. I think people just wanted to see a different kind of story for a change, and it’s unfortunate that TDWP gets some flack for that.

    On a different note, I was about to suggest The Intern, which also features Anne Hathaway in a role of a super successful woman, but then I remembered that her husband cheated on her there, so… maybe not the best example either.

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      That’s interesting because someone else mentioned in a comment that a lot of movies show women breaking up with guys who are so career-focused they don’t actually spend time with them, and people cheer for the woman. So I guess there are both kinds of movie! I do think there’s a gender component, though. Like, if a woman stays with a career-focused guy, she’s often portrayed as some kind of trophy wife gold-digger in the book/movie, as though she’s in the relationship because she likes the money or the social status (or she’s financially dependent on the guy because she’s not employed herself)–not necessarily because she cares about the guy too deeply. I think the difficulty is having a strong, close romantic relationship with someone who puts all their hours into succeeding at their job and not into succeeding at their relationship.

      But, yeah, since The Devil Wears Prada is a fictionalized memoir, I think it’s fair as a reflection of the author’s own experiences and the decisions she made, if nothing else.

      I haven’t watched The Intern, but I might give it a try sometime anyway!

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      • mander-lee says:

        Sure, and I think what type of movie you see also depends on the genre. For the comment below, I see that scenario (girl-chooses-more-dedicated-guy) more often in movies targeted for women. On the other hand, the type I was talking about above usually appear in movies targeted for men. I guess what I’m trying to get at is that movies for women usually emphasize romantic relationships, and when there’s work involved, the conflict is usually a tug-of-war between her work and her partner. On the other hand, movies for men get to have them do all these super-involved work, and still have them go home to a girlfriend/wife that’s patiently waiting for them. That was the juxtaposition I was going for. And I think it’s a little sad that the collective message being sent here is that a woman has to choose between relationships and demanding careers, whereas men seem to be able to have both no questions asked. =/

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  11. Krysta says:

    I find it interesting Nick gets criticized for wanting to have a relationship/actually see the person he’s dating. Especially since I think there are many examples of films in which the woman, torn between a man in a high-powered career and the guy next door is shown to choose the man with a less prestigious career simply because he’s actually there for her. Women like those films because they want a man who is committed to them and to the relationship over a man who has more money but doesn’t seem invested in them. But if we flip the genders, suddenly the reaction of Nick is incomprehensible to women?

    The reality is that everyone only has so much time in the day. Here Andy is shown as choosing her career over the people in her life. That’s fine. I know many people who gave up all their free time to pursue a career. They have few friends and generally aren’t dating anyone because they literally don’t have the ability to meet anyone, much less maintain a relationship. But that’s what they want. They made a choice to commit themselves to the career (even though I know many of them are actually upset and frustrated that this means they are still single). Clearly this didn’t make Andy or Nick happy, however, and it’s surprising to me that audience members don’t respect characters who value relationships over social status. That is a valid choice.

    I haven’t seen this film, but I do like that it seems to highlight the sacrifices people make to be in certain careers. I know people who have said they have no time to see their children because they are always working, trying to advance. Sadly, I think so many people have spent so much time trying to advance, that they feel they can’t leave even when the work-life balance (or lack thereof) makes them unhappy. To leave for another job would mean that all the years they spent not seeing their family would have been truly wasted, so they stay in order to be able to say to themselves, “I may have missed my children growing up,but I finally got the title I always wanted.” 😦

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yeah, I don’t think it’s so much that he’s “threatened” by Andy’s success but really about the fact that he never sees her. She has a limited amount of time and she is using it ALL to succeed at her job. That’s a valid life choice, if it’s what she wants, but I think people have to recognize that if they literally never talk to their friends, SO’s, family, etc. then it’s going to be hard to have a close relationship with them, and some people are just going to disappear from their lives to hang out with other people.

      Good point about it being difficult to leave a job you’ve put so much time into. I know people completing PhD programs who are miserable but have literally told me things like “I’ve spent seven years here doing this. I can’t leave now.” Sounds…not fun.

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  12. (Danielle) Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

    I cannot really comment as I have never seen this film or read the book (no real desire) but from what you say, I cannot find myself faulting Nick from what you present here. I do feel we make compromises in relationships, but to what extent? I am not willing to sacrifice my happiness or someone else’s for any company or corporation.

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yeah, this was one of those cases where Nick and Andy sort of agreed upfront that she would put effort into her career (she would work this terrible job for one year to “get her foot in the door” and then apply for new jobs), but the reality of the situation just ended up being harder than it sounded in principle. On one hand, a year sounds like a “short” sacrifice. On the other hand. trying to be in a relationship with someone you don’t really see for an entire year is actually really hard.

      It kind of reminded me of the number of people in academia I know who lived apart from their spouses for a while because it’s so hard to get grad school/post-doc/tenure track positions at the same university. A lot of them really struggle in their relationships even though they go into the long-distance thing with really great intentions and the idea it’s only temporary.

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      • (Danielle) Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

        Ah my nonhubs and I lived on opposite sides of the country for almost two years. So I have the not seeing someone bit dialed. But I really feel like the long distance relationship was a blessing in disguise for us. Not without hurdles, but we are an incredibly strong couple now and so much better for it. But that being said, it challenged us to no end before I moved here. So I do understand how so many long distance or similar relationships do not last.

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  13. Samantha Duffy says:

    Truthfully, I feel like this is a situation that comes around a lot more frequently than we would like to admit. With the world we live in currently (technologically speaking) we as employees are expected to always be connected and thinking about work. I know from personal experience that my fiance (while NOT working in a typically demanding industry like fashion or magazines) is still receiving, reading and responding to emails well into the evening and even on weekends. We can be on a vacation and he is forced to take conference calls and sometimes troubleshoot problems/answer questions. I think that with the ability to see and answer work related questions at anytime technology has in turn given us an opportunity to develop an unhealthy relationship with our jobs. At the time the movie came out, it was a little ridiculous to think that the demands of Andy’s job took up that much of her time (or that should would be on call basically 24/7) but watching it now, that message does not go through like it may have once done. We are immune to these circumstances because they have become more regular and understandable.

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  14. The Adventures of Meg says:

    I completely agree with you. I think women should pursue their careers and should be ambitious, however, it is unfair to kind of “push Nick to the side” and expect him to be happy with that. It is important to take a step back and actually think about what is important to you…ones career or being present in our loved ones lives and being present for their special occasions/achievements as much as they are present for yours.

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Agreed! I know a lot of people want Andy to have a career and someone who “supports her career,” but I think we have to remember that Nick is also a person. He’s not just an abstract concept filling the role of boyfriend. He’s allowed to want to actually see Andy once in a while and have her celebrate his birthday, etc. and he doesn’t “owe” it to Andy to stay in the relationship if it’s become something he doesn’t want! If she wants the career and the guy, she needs to find a guy whose interests align with her own.

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