Tuesday, 19 July 2016

The Devil Wears Self Pity

One of my deepest, if not very well kept, secrets is my love for trashy chick lit. Yes, I do have a degree in English literature and therefore love me some of the classics and anything with a twisted plot/some kind of addiction/death etc, but give me 400 pages of a blonde hunting round New York for the love of her life and I'm as happy as a stoner in Amsterdam.

When the film adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada came out in 2006, I was as obsessed as the rest of them. A plucky fresh-out-of-university Anne Hathaway making her way into the snake pit of post grad employment with nothing but a satchel and an ill fitting riding boot by her side, only to emerge phoenix like from the ashes of her Forever 21 wardrobe with help from her fairy godfather Stanley Tucci, before none-to-politely telling her boss to fuck herself sideways and returning home, tail between her legs, to try and win back her ex? What's not to love about that shit? I watched the film a bajillion times and, during a particularly traumatic travel experience that left me stranded in a French airport for 16 hours, picked up the book and begun to fall in love with Andy Sachs all over again.

During my most recent, and far less traumatic, trip to France, I decided I couldn't possibly go any where even remotely fashion week related without re-reading one of my old favs. I downloaded the first and second novels onto my ancient iPad to save space in my suitcase and set to work flicking through, eager to remember why I adored each and every line and wanted so badly to be Andrea all those years ago.

Oh how wrong I was.

Call me cynical, call me a millennial, call me whatever you want, but thirty (admittedly very small) pages in I wanted to throw my phone at the self righteous Miss Sachs. To secure the job that "a million girls would die for" and spend it finding mini victories in forbidden fag breaks and fantasising about spitting in the coffee of the most adored-yet-feared woman in fashion made me simultaneously seethe and wince. Originally published a petrifying 13 years ago in 2003, my job prospects may not have been as horrifying, but reading from the perspective of a woman who has been chewed up, spat out and then swallowed again only to be regurgitated onto her bedroom floor onto a pile of rejection emails, my ability to feel anything other than frustration and near hatred for the long suffering assistant was impossible.

I'm not disputing that it's a good novel, or indeed a good film. Weisberger is one of my favourite authors and I've reread Chasing Harry Winston going on about a thousand times. But, if even one of the most skilled and talented writers of women's fiction can't portray a strong and dominating female lead without making her hated by everyone in the continental US, then there may not be much hope for female literature as a whole.

Women can be strong, successful and well liked, and I'm pretty sure it's possible to create these characters without turning them into the devil incarnate.

But, I have to say, if I had to choose only two, I'd be strong and successful any day of the week. My career has always and will always trump other people's opinions of me, hands down.


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