Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Drstaceyny's Movie Review: The Devil Wears Prada (in a Size 2, of Course)


I didn’t read the book, so the movie was my entry to the weight-obsessed consciousness of the fashion world portrayed here. It seems that one of the major plot lines involves Anne Hathaway’s (Andrea’s) weight. She is, at the story’s outset, a Size 6, which in industry terms is decidedly “fat,” as Meryl Streep’s character, Miranda Priestly, so ungraciously informs her. Early on, we learn the truth about models’ sizes—that a Size 2 is the new 4, and a 0, the new 2. Andrea’s size is equated with her matronly cabled sweaters, her sensible shoes, and her wide-eyed naïveté about clothing and the fashion world she encounters. Luckily for Andrea (and for audiences, who, by our very nature, pull for a happy ending), she encounters Dolce and Gabbana, becomes intimate with Chanel, and drops to a Size 4 before the credits roll. Phew. . .

Interestingly, the movie’s sub-text on weight doesn’t focus on Ms. Hathaway, but rather on Emily Blunt, who plays Ms. Priestly’s first assistant, Emily. In an interview with Liz Smith*, Ms. Blunt reported she had to drop weight in order to secure the roll. How much weight? During her interview with Ms. Smith, Ms. Blunt reported:

“I can eat now. . . You know, Prada was the only movie I’ve ever done where they wanted me to lose weight. I went in, and this woman asked, “How much do you weigh?’ And I told her and she made a face. And then she said, ‘You have to get in shape.’ And I said, ‘Well, really, I think I am in shape.’ She shook her head like, ‘poor thing.’ So I had to ask, ‘Look, just how thin do you want me?’ And she said, ‘On-the-edge-of-sickness thin.’ So, I figured, ‘Great, I’ll call you from the emergency room.’"

So, here’s a movie (whose audience, by the way, was filled with young girls) that glorifies sickly thinness and shuns a Size 6 as “fat.” In a country where the average woman wears a Size 14, what messages are we sending (and receiving)? Why are Andrea’s talents as an assistant (a job, for which, she’s overqualified) directly proportionate to her size? And, did Ms. Blunt actually drop the requested weight, and if so, did she endanger her health in order to play this part? At one point in the film, Emily's character cries, "I'm just one stomach flu from my goal weight!" Another fine example of art imitating life. . .

*sent in by a dear reader

9 comments:

PalmTreeChick said...

Very interesting. Anne Hathaway was on "The View" the other day (when Star was still a part of the show. Ha). They discussed the weight issues on the show a little bit. That was really the only part that caught my attention.

I agree with you, what kind of message is that movie relaying to young girls?

ps22 said...

I agree....the movie, the book, the fashion, the actresses....its all such mixed messages. I didn't really like the book, I felt the writing and overall plot was pretty bland and naive. I had heard the movie was cute (and better than the book), so this news is disappointing. As a liberal myself, this is my problem with liberal Hollywood - always trying to appear with social responsibility and activism, but continually selling out behind the scenes. "I have lots of money, but I drive an electric car and so should you!" (never mind that I'll advertise for a company that promotes disordered eating, lose 15 pounds for a movie, get a nose job, and won't settle for less than $15 million a gig). "But really - I'm so in touch with humanity." They think they are progressive and bloody saints for putting a black rap group in the Oscars...never mind its half their business that perpetuates negative racial, gender, sexual, and weight stereotypes.

Laurel said...

Ha! I saw this movie on Sunday and instantly thought of Stacey's blog when Anne Hathaway's character victoriously announced that she was now a size 4.

One of my girlfriends leaned over and whispered "Don't they know that teenager girls are seeing this movie???"

I suppose I'm hyper aware of this issue because I've been following your blog, but all my girlfriends noticed that this movie had such an obvious mixed message. We are supposed to rejoice as the heroine rejects the cutthroat get ahead tactics of her boss and takes the job she really should have had all along at a "serious" publication... but we aren't supposed to question that she embraces the smaller dress size.

I'm glad you wrote about it!

Haley-O said...

I have to see this movie before commenting on this one--because it's my sense, from the commercials for it anyway, that the movie's totally satirizing the fashion industry's and our culture's ridiculous obsession with ridiculous waist measurements. I listened to the book on tape on a (long) drive to Montreal last year, and I don't remember feeling like I needed to crash diet after listening to it....BUT, if the movie is satirizing our obsession with ridiculous waist measurements, then they need to self-re-examine....It seems hypocritical and stupid that they tried to make a girl who's supposed to be a size 6 in the movie (saw this in the commercial) look unnaturally emaciated....craziness...

drstaceyny said...

Ptc--yes, I believe Star Jones is the perfect person with whom to discuss one's weight.

Ps22--what excellent points! (definitely some mixed messages and behind-the-scenes sell-outs!) Not to say that it's NOT hard out here for a pimp. . . .

Laurel--I'm glad ppl are noticing these things (the awareness is important!) You knew I'd have to write about it. ; )

Haley--it is somewhat of a satire, and I think as educated adults we can recognize that (though, I think there's a part of the message that still seeps in), but think about an 8-year-old girl--is she going to get the satire? And there were plenty of them (at least in my audience)!

Teacher lady said...

I'm surprised that I'm writing this, but I saw the movie on Tuesday, and I thought it was total irony or satire or whatever literary device you want to call it. Especially when Meryl Streep says, "I'll hire the fat, smart girl" to Anne Hathaway when it's clear Anne Hathaway is fat on no planet in the universe - that's why it was funny. It wouldn't have been funny if she was actually fat. And yes, I agree there are so many destructive images presented in the media every day, but: 1.) This was a PG-13 movie, which means 8-year-old girls had to have someone buy their ticket and (ideally) sit and watch the movie with them - (or, newsflash - parent can say, "No, I don't want you seeing a PG-13 movie,") and perhaps use the whole experience as a "teachable moment." For example, "Honey, you realized why it was funny when Miranda called Andi fat, right? Let's talk about what 'fat' means to you." I'm certainly not trying to blame parents when they have enough to do, trying to counteract all the negative images in the media that surround their daughters, but: 2.) They don't have to take their kid to see the movie - unlike billboards and magazine covers, no one is FORCED to subject themselves or their children to movies.

drstaceyny said...

TL--I agree--it is satire and was funny b/c Anne Hathaway is clearly NOT fat (though she did have to gain 10 lbs for the early parts of the movie--I didn't even notice the difference b/w that and her at the end!), but I think, as with most humor, it's only funny b/c there's a part of it that's true. We can all agree that AH is not fat--but the fashion/celebrity industry wouldn't--and if you're a teenager (or adult, for that matter) and trying to conform to the advertised ideals, a Size 6 does start to seem a little hefty, especially when (on film) put up against Size 2 characters.

I don't believe we should censor movies (or other media), and I second your opinion that parents need to intervene. I just wonder how often they do. Not every little girl has a TL for a mom who's informed and has the time, energy, perspective, and general wherewithal to broach such conversations. I would LOVE to have this kind of conversation with my daughter, but then again, this is my field.

Interesting ideas--I wonder if mothers who have taken their daughter to see this film have any reactions. . . .

WifeMomChocoholic said...

The canyon that exists between TV & movie stars, singers, and models and "real women" is absolutely sickening. Even "real" people who appear on shows like American Idol suddenly feel pressure to shape up and lose weight.

Anonymous said...

I often hear my male friends complain about women who whine about being fat (when most of the time they are far from it) - I agree with them, yet I always find myself saying "You just don't get it, it's a girl thing. We all have this complex about our weight."

Watching Devil Wears Prada was, for me, pure asthetic indulgence, for the fashion. But I couldn't help cringing when Stanley Tucci said 6 was the new 14. As someone who hovers between 4 and 6, suddenly I found myself hyperaware of any plush areas on my body and the satirical aspect played second fiddle in my mind.

Lately though, I've come to terms with my weight and often joke that men who date the stick thin model types are displaying latent homosexuality. Still, for a few months I was consumed with the "0 is the new 2" theory. I can't imagine how it might affect a population littered with impressionable young girls who might not even register the irony, only the words.