Is Miranda Priestly really such a she-devil? Most articles I've seen reviewing the movie The Devil Wears Prada dwell on the satanic awfulness of the editor-in-chief of the Vogue magazine stand-in Runway, but is she really that bad?
Yes, it would be nice if she said "please" and "thank you" once in a while. And sure, some of her demands come awfully close to hazing rituals. A pre-publication copy of the new Harry Potter manuscript for her twins? Please. I've suffered enough bosses from hell to know them when I see them, and Miranda Priestley is indeed a piece of work. (Pause for a minute and consider the irony of Hollywood studio executives casting that particular stone.)
But she's also insanely good at her job, in an industry that is ruthlessly difficult to succeed in, with bottom-line responsibility for the success of the magazine month after month after month. People generally aren't entrusted with big, competitive business operations if they're not fiendishly demanding and great at what they do.
And, refreshingly, she makes good on her promise that she'll open any doors for those among her assistants who knock her socks off. Andy Sachs -- the protagonist and recent Northwestern graduate with aspirations to a writing career -- doesn't even last a full year with Miranda and still lands at her dream writing job, no questions asked, because Miranda gave her the thumbs up to her publishing colleagues. We should all pray for bosses like that.
One fashion insider did come to the character's defense. Woody Hochswender, former features editor at Harper's Bazaar and style reporter for the New York Times, confirmed recently that the "intense awe and groveling" by the assistants and the "imperial fashion presence" and "tyranny" of the editor-in-chief are quite true to life. He points out that the top job requires the Miranda Priestleys to be "ruthless, peremptory and supremely organized in order to meet deadlines," and that the real-life assistants largely behave like "private-school girls itching to cause some mayhem." He describes, from his own experience, "fashionable, leggy, well-bred, socially adept young women who might not otherwise be gainfully employed," who are chronically late, lose tens of thousands of dollars worth of furs and jewelry, and use the corporate FedEx account to mail drugs to their boyfriends. Sometimes people get the bosses they deserve.
So most of Miranda's antics didn't make me want to call Amnesty International, and perhaps I am in the minority. The scene that really sent me into apoplexy? When Andy's father -- a nice, tweedy, caring man -- flies in form the Midwest to give her a pep talk at a nice restaurant. He sees how hard she's working, how she's at Miranda's beck and call even during dinner, so he leans over the restaurant table and asks Andy, rhetorically, "You turned down Stanford Law School for this?"
It appears that the entire country is still gripped by the delusion that our best and brightest young people need to be lawyers, that getting into -- and graduating from -- a fancypants law school is the end-all-be-all of existence. I guess Andy's parents get an A+ in parenting if Andy goes marching off to law school instead of pursuing the career she really loves and wants to give a chance. And here she is making an actual living in the publishing industry, having landed a job with one of the industry's titans and positioned herself to work her way up. Is her dad really so ignorant that he thought she would start out anywhere but the bottom of the totem pole? In any job? Does he have any idea what abuse and abject degradation young associates suffer at prestigious law firms? (Miranda Priestley wouldn't even register as interesting as a law firm partner.)
At least the movie's ending confirms that Andy made the right choice. She landed her dream job, in no small part thanks to the much-maligned Miranda.