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.