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  • Writer's pictureEmily Schoenbeck

It's a Devil Eat Devil World

“Everybody wants this. Everybody wants to be us.” - Miranda Priestly, The Devil Wears Prada

[Note: This is a review of the film, The Devil Wears Prada, and includes spoilers for plot points throughout the film.]

God calls every person to make exceptional use of the gifts they have been given. No matter how diverse the skills and talents in question may be, it is one belief that unifies them all under a shared goal: to pursue excellence for God’s glory. Released in 2006, The Devil Wears Prada is about people with talent, exceptional talent, and it asks just how far should people go to cultivate their skills.

The film follows Andrea “Andy” Sachs, an aspiring reporter, who begrudgingly takes a job at Runway, a fashion magazine, despite having no interest in, or even really respect for, the fashion industry. Andy serves as one of two assistants to Miranda Priestly, the terrifying editor-in-chief of the magazine. Miranda’s expectations are high, unreasonably so, but her insistence on perfection from everyone around her leads to exceptional displays of talent from her staff, Andy included. Under Miranda’s deliciously devilish guidance, equal parts tutelage and terror, Andy rises in the esteem of her colleagues as her own esteem for the fashion industry rises. Her rise comes at a cost, however. Andy becomes increasingly distant from the person she thought she was––someone un-materialistic, justice-oriented, dedicated to her loved ones. But the more distant she becomes, the more she excels at her job and surpasses even her own measure of her abilities.

Miranda Priestly is antagonistic to Andy, but she is not the antagonist. She isn’t out to get Andy or anyone else for that matter. She has become the best at what she does by demanding excellence of herself and those she works with. Her taste, vision, and dedication drive Runway to new heights. Many people acknowledge that no one can do what she does. Her demanding nature doesn’t arise from any sadistic impulse. She has climbed her way up a cut-throat industry and risen to prominence in a field that even as it caters to women still often demeans them. She has done exactly what is necessary to exercise her talents to the utmost. And Andy, who is often run frantic by Miranda’s demands, admires her ambition; she’s tempted to be like her.

What does it mean to pursue excellence in an unjust world? As children, we’re often taught to be kind, to do our part as best we can, and to trust everything will work out in the end. But then, why do so many selfish people get ahead? The wicked run a lot of this world. And it’s hard to pursue excellence while under the thumb of people who wish you ill.

We could take away from this reality that it’s our job, then, to get ahead. In the movie, Miranda is professionally backed into a corner near the end of the film, and she sacrifices a colleague to maintain her position. She stays on top. Yes, it’s brutal, but she didn’t create the situation, she just overcame it. The world isn’t fair, so neither is she. If we’re at the top, no one can prevent us from using our talents to the best of our abilities and no lack of resources will keep us from making the most of them.

And that might have been a well-enough place to leave it, if not for the problem of hope.

As terrifying and magnificent as Miranda is, the film is not her story. It’s Andy’s. The film is about whether or not Andy follows Miranda’s path. It’s about what Andy is prepared to do to get ahead. When Andy sees Miranda cut short another colleague’s career to protect her own, she’s horrified. When Andy confronts her, Miranda notes all the little things Andy has done to get ahead and explains that making these difficult choices is part of being people like them, people at the top. Miranda sees a bright future for Andy, because she thinks Andy has the ability to climb over other people if necessary. She makes it clear Andy can achieve excellence Miranda’s way.

But Andy doesn’t. After this conversation with Miranda, she quits. She refuses to build her career on the backs of other people. She starts applying again for journalism jobs and strikes out into a promising but uncertain future. She refuses to believe her talents can only prosper at the expense of others. Andy chooses hope.

We are called to pursue excellence for the glory of God. God sees nothing glorifying in diminishing our brothers and sisters. Building ourselves up at the cost of other people precludes us from the true excellence God calls us to. If we can’t pursue our present course without doing that, then we are called to change course.

That’s seldom easy, and it’s often unfair. Miranda and Andy should be able to express their talents to their full potential without being pushed to trade in their convictions. But since that isn’t the world we live in, we have to find better ways of pursuing excellence. We can’t walk the same old roads to new destinations. We can’t build a just world with injustice; we only end up increasing the number of unjust people in the world. We have to be a people of faith. People who have the faith to strike out into an uncertain but promising future.

In the meantime, we can take comfort knowing we don’t walk alone.

The film ends with Miranda Priestly sending a memo to the newspaper where Andy has applied. She strongly recommends her for the job. Even the film’s devil lives in hope of a better way.

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1 comentário

Grace O
Grace O
16 de out. de 2022

fantastic read, thanks Emily!

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