Faminism: Food in The Devil Wears Prada
Someone searched for “faminism the devil wears prada” on here. Spelling error aside, why the hell not? Let’s talk about food in Prada.
It gets overshadowed by the fashion, but food is actually used a lot in this movie to delineate the differences between the culture at Runway and Andy’s lifestyle. Unlike fashion, however, it’s not Andy’s complete cluelessness about the topic that draws the line between the worlds she walks in, but in the appreciation of it.
The movie’s opening scene, which shows Andy getting ready for her day in contrast to several Clackers doing the same, even demonstrates the difference between the meals they choose for breakfast. Andy buys an onion bagel from a corner shop, whereas another woman is shown carefully counting out almonds into a dish. Another pours herself a very meager serving of bran flakes into a measuring cup.
In some ways, the idea of food is almost sacrilegious to the Runway set. To the lower ranks, it’s considered a necessary evil. Any more than is absolutely needed to not die is disgusting, and it’s certainly not meant to be savored or enjoyed. That Nigel, the magazine’s art director, can smell the onion in the air even though the bagel Andy ate for breakfast is long gone is not just offensive in an olfactory sense to these people.
There is the errant defector in the ranks, but she scrambles to hide her sins just like all the other clog-wearing clowns and liplinerless peons when they know the queen’s arrival is impending.
Nigel is quick to criticize Andy’s choice of corn chowder for lunch, telling her that cellulite is a key ingredient in it.
Andy is supposedly a size 6 which is “the new 14″ compared to the rest of the female staff’s 2’s and 4’s. (Are we really buying that from Anne Hathaway though? My belief was not suspended for that line.) That Andy is “not skinny” is another point towards her apparent unsuitability for the Runway office and her eating real food is clearly the reason for it. (Andy does manage to bring herself down to a size 4 before the end of the movie, incidentally.)
Her diet is also a factor her co-workers consider when assessing her worth. Even after she’s “drinking the Kool-Aid” as her boyfriend puts it, and is clacking along with the rest of them, that she eats more than six almonds for breakfast is still seen as a flaw in her character. When Emily learns that Miranda decided to take Andy to Fashion Week in her place, she is enraged.
“You don’t deserve it,” she tells Andy. “You eat carbs, for Christ’s sake!”
She says this while scarfing down a dinner roll right after having eaten a pudding cup, bitter and resigned to the fact that all her hard work will be for nothing. She had been literally dieting her ass off for months on the expectation that she would be the one going to France. Earlier, she explained her diet to Andy as such, “I don’t eat anything, and then when I feel like I’m about to pass out, I eat a cube of cheese.”
By contrast, cheese is plentiful in Andy’s home life. Her boyfriend Nate is a chef and though he works at a restaurant with paper napkins, he’s demonstrably a connoisseur. He might still be making grill cheeses for dinner, but he uses eight dollars worth of Jarlsberg for them. They live in a small apartment, one they mention worrying about making the rent on, but his grocery list prioritizes cheese, wine, and strawberries at $5 a piece.
As Andy becomes more acclimated to her job, he becomes increasingly threatened by it. The predominant argument coming from him (and Andy’s best friend Lily) is that it’s changing her into some superficial glamazon who only cares about belts and handbags. However, there’s a point at which Nate defends himself by saying that he makes port wine reductions all day and is not “in the Peace Corps”, which suggests that he finds Andy’s becoming more cultured and sophisticated as a result of her job intrusive on their lives and that he feels inferior comparatively (as well he should, since he always looks like a dirty hippie). He uses his knowledge of fine food as a means of putting himself back on Andy’s level.
You know who gets to eat whatever the hell she wants though? Miranda Priestly. Not that she does, of course. We’re often shown people rushing to get Miranda food and drink, but we never actually SEE her partaking of it.
The closest she ever comes to eating on screen is having a cup of Starbucks in her hand.
Nonetheless, we know that she lunches and that she must be a connoisseur on some level, if she is able to decide definitively that she wants tortes filled with warm rhubarb compote and not dacquoise.
One other interesting contrast is Miranda’s ability to waste food. Where Nate is quick to snatch up the grill cheese Andy rejected, both because it is delicious and because it cost at least eight dollars, Miranda is able to turn down an presumably very expensive steak simply because she made a lunch date between the time she ordered it and when she found it on her desk as asked.
Andy, having not only been made to fetch this steak at the usual frantic pace, but also to beg the restaurant to make it well before opening time while also doing all of Miranda’s other assigned tasks AND trying to obtain an unpublished Harry Potter manuscript, finds this change of plans to be too much.
Her boyfriend, had he seen this, would have probably lost his shit at the idea that someone would turn down such a masterful meal and that Andy threw it in the sink.
As you can see, it is through these situations that food is used in The Devil Wears Prada to demonstrate difference in the values of her friends and those of the people she works with, exacerbating the tension between them.