Reader L.C. thinks I should have plugged sensible shoes, not stiletto heels, in my screed on “The Devil Wears Prada” (see “These Prada Boots Were Made for Walking–Right Out of the Movie,” July 7).
“What an idiotic comment about high heels in ‘The Devil Wears Prada.’ I suppose I am an ideologue if I say they are terrible for women’s feet? Are doctors all ideologues too? They say the same thing–are they not to be trusted as much as the fashion industry?
“The problem with this website is its smug and often nasty tone towards women the writers disagree with. his sort of tone does nothing for the powers of persuasion–I am often amazed by how put-off I am by the contributions even when I agree in principle. Why don’t you drop the smugness?
“Oh, and the writer has only just discovered that fashion magazines encourage the wearing of expensive high heels? Gee, I wonder why. Must be disinterested support for those women who dare to ignore the ideologues and ruin their feet.”
At the risk of sounding idiotic, smug, and often nasty, let me rise to my ruined feet and say: This movie isn’t about podiatry. It’s about fashion and elegance. High heels lengthen women’s legs and make them look great. Expensive high heels make them look even better–and the better-quality expensive shoes, having been designed and manufactured with care, are actually surprisingly comfortable. Trust me.
Sad to say, however, although “The Devil Wears Prada,” isn’t about podiatry, it is about the evils of capitalism (yes, that tired old Hollywood anti-corporate cliche is back in service once again). In fact, L.C., “Prada” delivers quite an anti-high-heel message, with the Jimmy Choo slingbacks that the pure-hearted Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) is obliged to wear at work standing in (so to speak) for the superficiality and manipulativeness of the fashion industry. Andy has to doff those earnest low-heeled clunkers left over from her years as a crusading college newspaper editor covering unionizing janitors (note that it’s “janitors”–Hollywood’s idea of little people–plus “union”–Hollywood’s idea of good).
My own favorite character in “Prada” was the “devil” herself, Miranda Priestly. I can’t say that I cared much for Meryl Streep’s doughy physique and performance. Why wasn’t the wickedly zingy Glenn Close, Cruella DeVille herself (if you want a devil, for heaven’s sake!), in the part of Miranda? Indeed, Streep played Miranda as part Close imitation, part Martha Stewart imitation.
But I never could understand what was supposed to be so bad about Miranda. She does, after all (plot spoiler alert), give Andy the break that lands her on the obvious fictional equivalent of the New York Times (note the Howell Raines lookalike playing the city editor of the “Mirror”) despite the fact that Andy has walked out on her job in the middle of a key assignment, leaving Miranda in the lurch and an expensive magazine-owned cellphone under three feet of water. I’d say Miranda has a pretty big heart.
Yes, Miranda is a nightmare to work for–but it’s no fun, either, walking the razor of being the top editor, where the buck always stops, of a fashion magazine whose every page, every photo, every line of type must look absolutely perfect, or else. To survive in that world, you need the eye of an artist, the ability to work like a dog night and day (the multi-hundred-page Vogue-clone Runway comes out every single month), nerves of steel, a neurotic perfectionism, and the capacity to work miracles: rip out a whole segment of the magazine just because it doesn’t look right and start over–at midnight just before presstime if needs be. Miranda is tough on her assistants, but that’s because she’s training them to do her job.
Furthermore, I never could understand why it was supposed to be so immoral for Andy to take Emily’s place on the coveted trip to Paris. Emily was already out of the picture, having blown it at the magazine bash by not remembering an important name for Miranda that she had been paid to memorize. So what was Andy supposed to say to Miranda: “No, I won’t go, because I’m so high-minded”? That would have done nothing for Emily but would have cost Andy her job.
And speaking of high-mindedness, I found Andy’s coterie of impoverished artsy pals sitting around the downtown cafe like extras from “Rent” and looking down their noses at her sell-out job pretty tiresome. Most holier-than-thou of all was her sous-chef boyfriend, Nate (Adrian “Get a Haircut or Stay Away From My Soup” Grenier), pouting like a spoiled child because she had to–guess what?–work late and miss his birthday party! Hell, she had a demanding job! It’s called putting out a magazine. And it can mean being at the beck and call of another human being, like other demanding jobs. I’ve had those kinds of jobs myself, and believe me, my husband has always been mature enough to understand that I can’t always drop everything to be with him, even on his birthday. Nate & Co. don’t seem to understand that when you have a responsible job, you actually have to work hard at it.
And that leads me to my final (for now) complaint about “Prada”: it failed to portray either the grueling routine of putting out a magazine (with its complex ballet of multiple deadlines and its multiple emergencies ranging from late copy to prima donna writers who need hand-holding to missing art) or the fashion world that Runway was supposed to cover. We saw one photo shoot and a snippet of a runway show, period. Almost no clothes–and aren’t clothes what a fashion magazine is all about about?–and the clothes we did glimpse were pretty unexciting. Producing fashion isn’t merely a matter of manipulating consumer tastes, as “Prada” insists, but of calling upon a melange of crafts and techniques to turn out creations that at best, are sumptuous, beautifully sewn minor works of art.
But the message of “Prada” is that fashionable clothes are tainted with corruption–so at the end (spoiler alert again), Andy turns over the free wardrobe she has acquired at Runway to Emily as though it were the spoils of crime, and embarks for her new, “more pure” newspaper job clad in the blue jeans and worn leather jacket in which she started out (although I couldn’t help noticing that she had kept back a pair of very high-heeled boots).
I can’t wait for Andy to spend a few weeks at the “Mirror”/NYT. She’ll find out what cutthroat, backbiting, nasty-office-politics-plagued life at a publication is really like.