Lighten Up, It’s Just Fashion

If you’re gay or a woman, you’ve probably already seen The Devil Wears Prada for one of the following reasons:

1. It has the word “Prada” in the title
2. Meryl Streep’s “botched circumcision” hairstyle
3. Anne Hathaway flirting with the dark side (of lip stick)
4. You also believe 4 is the new 2
5. You are an evil, self-absorbed powerbitch in a Chanel suit and D&G sunglasses
6. You read Vogue or you dance to “Vogue” (or both: give yourself two bonus points)
7. You are Christopher Lowell

If you are a man, you probably saw this film because:

1. You know a gay or a woman and are trying to get one of them to sleep with you.
That’s okay—nobody’s judging—and if you’re looking for a way to waste two hours you could be worse off (let me recommend The Da Vinci Code). The Devil Wears Prada seems to be one of those rare examples of that perjorative genre “Chick Lit” that “rises above” its station in life.

Although it skewers the things you’d expect (skinny models, dieting, Casual Corner, powerbitching, working motherhood, and feminine ambition), I thought The Devil Wears Prada was cleverly done, well-acted, and, in the end, formulaic but enjoyable. Northwestern journalism grad Andie Sachs, in a desperate attempt to get any job in publishing, goes before Queen Bee of the Fashionistas Miranda Priestly in an effort to land a thankless, low paying gig as a professional asssitant.

What makes the film unique among its peers is that it doesn’t allow any of these characters to be as two dimensional as you’d expect. Instead of being only an emotionless powerbitch, Streep’s Priestly responds to one of Andie’s chuckles over choosing between two nearly identical belts by busting out what must be the greatest Why Fashion Matters manifesto, explaining how the color of Andie’s sweater was selected for her years before by intrepid, groundbreaking designers whose ideas, then distilled, trickled down through the culture to the bargain basement sweater bin where Andie undoubtedly located it. It’s a moment that Streep nails perfectly—she treats the opportunity to school the holier-than-thou Andie with both grace and bite, politely and firmly putting her in her place.

This is also a film to enjoy if you’ve ever worked for an unmanageable supervisor: the micromanager, the monopolizer, the Holy Grail seeker, the seagull, the soulcrusher, or the diva (or divo, because men are not immune to this syndrome). Everyone in their youth has been cursed with the prison of the wrong job, the wrong boss, or both, and we can all identify with Andie’s desire to balance to golden experience of working with publishing’s most powerful woman and with her desire to do something of value with her life outside the walls of her local Starbucks.

What I learned from watching this film is that New York looks pretty after a rain and that Anne Hathaway could run hurdles in three inch Jimmy Choo heels. As I left the theater, I was reminded of Project Runway‘s Santino singing his little designer manta: “Lighten up, it’s just fashion…lighten up, it’s just fashion…”

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