The Theme of Pride in The Devil Wears Prada


Vanity is one of the most recognizable forms of pride. We want everyone to notice our possessions, our accomplishments, or our appearance. We may also believe that we are better than other people, at least in certain areas. We may become so arrogant that we actually believe that we are as knowledgeable, capable, beautiful and important as we want people to think that we are.

People who receive lots of admiration or hold lots of power can develop an inflated sense of their own importance. Miranda Priestly, the boss in The Devil Wears Prada determines what clothing and which models will appear in her very influential Runway magazine. She believes that she, and she alone, decides what people will buy and wear. She treats those around her with disdain, dismissing major designers with a purse of her lips, calling models “fat,” and treating her staff disrespectfully. Protagonist Andrea comes into the job because Miranda decides to take a chance and “hire the smart, fat girl.” She is called “fat” a number of times throughout the movie. Everyone in the movie has a fixation about weight, and dropping a dress size is the ultimate affirmation of self-worth. Andrea’s co-worker Emily declares that she’s “one stomach flu away from reaching my goal weight,” while size six Andrea is told by Nigel, the office designer, that size six is “the new fourteen.”  

In this world of fashion, image defines the person. Miranda always looks the part and is ready to criticize anyone who does not meet her fashion standards.

Nigel, in an attempt to make Andrea look presentable for her new job, declares, “We have to get to the beauty department, and God knows how long that’s going to take.” Eventually Andrea begins to look the part. In the movie this transformation is viewed as a sell-out by her boyfriend. Andrea displays a certain kind of snobbery herself viewing herself as an intellectual who is merely using her stint in fashion as a stepping-stone in her writing career. Initially Miranda seems like a caricature to Andy but Andrea becomes more and more drawn into this self-absorbed existence.

Miranda sweeps into the office dumping her coat and purse on one of her assistants’ desks making demands like, “Find me that piece of paper I had in my hand yesterday morning.” She demands that her assistants, Andrea and Emily, run personal errands, treating every request as if it were a privilege for them to perform. She doesn’t bother to learn their names, calling both of them “Emily” although she sees them every day. When things don’t go her way, Miranda speaks in an affected near-whisper, expressing her deep disappointment and questioning the worth of those fail her. Her interactions with her staff generally end with the dismissive “that’s all.”

Miranda’s pride

To her credit, Miranda is fixated on putting out a great product. Her methods in accomplishing this, though, are to make everyone around her feel less important than she. She manipulates her employees by giving and withdrawing trust and approval in order to get them to do whatever she requires. Fear is her primary management method. She is willing to derail careers and manipulate people in order to get what she wants.

Miranda wields so much power in the fashion industry that she has no real friends. She seems to love her children but beyond that every other relationship seems superficial. People fear her, people pay homage to her, they do her bidding and say things she wants to hear. She is feared and somewhat admired but not loved. Miranda’s social relationships appear affectionate but never seem to delve below the surface of the fashionista image she protects. Eventually Andy realizes how alone Miranda really is. At about the same time it dawns upon Andy that she is becoming similarly obsessed with her job and that, while she is not as mean-spirited as Miranda, she is making many of the same relationship sacrifices.

Miranda’s pride causes her to insulate herself from the people around her. When she experiences personal crisis and Andy asks what she might do to help. Miranda simply says “your job.” Miranda can never let go of her powerful personana. Her behavior is a reflection of what she thinks she has to be in order to accomplish her work. Though she has reached the epitome of success in her industry her pride alienates her from experiencing the real joy that comes with sharing accomplishment with those we love.

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