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.

Andy Sachs' onion bagel.

A clacker counting out almonds for breakfast.

Another clacker measuring out bran flakes.

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.

She can't know you were eating fruit salad. Or eating at all.

Nigel is quick to criticize Andy’s choice of corn chowder for lunch, telling her that cellulite is a key ingredient in it.

Really? You're eating THAT for the run-through?

CARBS CARBS CARBS CARBS CARBS CARBS

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.)

SALAD SALAD CARBS SALAD

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!”

EVERYTHING WAS FOR NAUGHT EAt ALL the PUDDING

YOU EAT CARBS, YOU MOTHERFUCKING SNAKE IN THE GRASS.

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.”

I thought the flesh was going to melt off her face.

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.

We spent a whole semester on potatoes.

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.

Emily rushing to pour Miranda's morning Pelligrino.

Andy rushing to get Miranda her Starbucks.

Andy rushing to get Miranda's eggs.

Andy rushing to get Miranda a steak lunch.

The closest she ever comes to eating on screen is having a cup of Starbucks in her hand.

Miranda touching food.

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.

A beautifully presented steak lunch.

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.

AKHFKAJHSDKJABDKAJSHDLKAHDKAJDKASJDHAKJH!

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 Andy’s friends and those of the people she works with, exacerbating the tension between them.

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  1. Simon 2014.07.22 5:23pm

    A very interesting discussion! I’ve seen (and sometimes engaged in) conversations in which food is used to point out the differences and similarities in different regions, countries, and cultures, especially how, coincidentally, it can serve to exclude other racial groups within the same geographical boundaries, but to analyze it within this microcosm of fashion is a fresh angle.

    • DJ 2014.07.25 2:31pm

      This is that post I was referring to the other night when we were talking about this.

  2. Jess 2014.07.23 3:18am

    This is such a good write up! I really like this movie and I always felt hungry after watching it (subliminal messages? that delicious looking steak??). I honestly didn’t even pick up on most of this stuff that you’ve pointed out.

    • DJ 2014.07.23 10:59am

      Thank you. It didn’t actually occur to me either until I saw that search result and I really thought about it. It just turned out to be a lucky coincidence that there actually was a lot to say about food and hunger with Prada beyond just HAHA MODELS DON’T EAT.

  3. Aylish 2022.10.21 9:32pm

    Thanks for writing such a thoughtful piece and sharing it online. Love the accompanying images – they really bring it home. This is a super old blog post article, but it still inspired me to comment. I don’t usually post on blogs like this. But maybe someone out there will get something out of my words. I sure hope so. 🙂

    When I first watched The Devil Wears Prada, I remember sniggering at the silly models counting almonds and measuring Grape Nuts for breakfast. But now that I’m 42 years old and spend most of my waking hours in front of a computer, I am struggling to lose weight to get back down to what I used to look like in my 30s. Now I am literally counting cashews (a handful has an appalling amount of fat and calories) and if I eat Grape Nuts it is only a few tablespoons on top of fat free yogurt. The idea of eating a bagel with cream cheese is laughable, I can’t remember the last time I purchased bread intending to eat it myself, and the comment about cellulite in corn chowder sounds like something I’d say in my own head.

    Our portion sizes, msg-laden packaged foods, and American food culture are making us overweight – and then our media is making us depressed by showing us bodies which are only attainable to those who eat very unlike our friends and families. (Have you ever gone out to eat with folks and tried to stick to a diet-friendly food order? It’s either a salad with protein on top or sub this and put that on the side and I’ll have seltzer because I still want to be able to drink socially – and everyone rolls their eyes and jokes that seltzer is for ninnies while they stuff french fries into their faces while you pretend your $20 plate of lettuce and their company is worth you even leaving the house today.)

    Sure you could say we all need to exercise more, but to burn a bagel with cream cheese you have to run approximately 2 miles. But if you have dessert, or a couple beers, or opt for the creamy soup instead of vegetable, guess what – that’s more miles you have to run. How many miles can you run? The recommended dietary caloric intake for an adult is 2,000 calories, but the average American eats over 3,600 calories a day. That is a difference of approximately 1 pound of body fat! That means most people are just putting on weight like gang busters just by living their average lifestyles. No wonder people are yo-yo-ing on diets – you’re either gaining weight or losing weight. On a more long term basis all of this is killing us with cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, not to mention stress-exacerbated hypertension and cancer. LOL!

    Apart from my food rant, this movie always kind of bothered me because I feel like if Andy wanted to pursue a career in fashion magazine journalism, then she was doing all the right things when she dug her heels in and started to do as they do “when in France”. At 23 and just out of college, anyone working in a competitive industry basically has to claw their way through all kinds of really horrible a-holes to get to a middle management position where you actually have your ideas listened to and no longer have to go through the hazing boot-camp of being an administrative assistant or intern. Film and TV, lawyers, wall street financial folks, architects, designers, medical fields – guaranteed the first few years are thankless. Andy actually dug her heels in and started to man up (woman up?) to the demands of her job and then started to see results. Unfortunately at a fashion magazine part of living the corporate culture is being able to WEAR the fashion that you’re writing about and selling and unfortunately you don’t fit into any of the free sample sizes unless you’re a 2 or a 4. Sure if she was independently wealthy she could have just bought those couture items in a size 14, but if she wanted the free handouts, they’re all sample sizes which are size 2 and 4 – that’s just the way the industry works. Sure she could have bucked the system, been the average-sized average-dressed smart girl who had other talents that somehow over shone how she didn’t fit in, but she wasn’t amazing enough to pull that off. She wasn’t succeeding at the work part of her job, and it just ground salt into her wounds that additionally, everyone looked at her like she didn’t belong there and resented her carb eating and judgy comments because they were starving and cranky AF. To try to win an ally and mentor (Nigel) she decided to “play the game” of the work culture.

    Andy did eventually end up quitting and working somewhere that had a culture that was more “her”. But that doesn’t mean that for lower ranks the fashion industry is full of miserable mean people and traditional journalism isn’t. Just out of college my roommate who had a degree in journalism had to wake up before dawn and commute an hour to work at a small town newspaper on the other side of Boston and you know what thankless job she had to do for the first year? Write obituaries. Can you imagine anything more depressing? She certainly seemed depressed. But she stuck it out because she was passionate about hopefully working in that industry one day at a better position.

    While Miranda may have been evil, the fashion magazine culture as a whole isn’t evil. Andy wasn’t a sell-out for wanting to work there. She was just trying to become interested in something that previously didn’t interest her, and trying on a new lifestyle for size. Ultimately, the prize of a job in the fashion industry just wasn’t worth putting up with Miranda’s shit any longer. If she was truly an aspiring fashion journalist, or loved the magazine, then she might have stuck it out and really felt the triumph of making it in such a cut throat industry. But – she couldn’t find a job she wanted and settled for working somewhere she didn’t admire, and so when things got too hard, she was out. No big deal, it’s just that if you’ve got that rough of a road to travel you’d better be passionate about where it’s leading.

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