Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Prada, Schmada: The Devil wears your soul as an overcoat

...and then mocks you for your nakedness, and blames you for the cold.

Yeah, I saw the movie. Twice, as it happens, even though I thought it sucked the first time through. Why? 1) desperate need of air conditioning 2) the only other option, the one I'd paid to go into, was The Watery Vaguely New Age Tart by M Nachas Ramalamadingdong or whoever it is; twenty minutes of that and Devil Wears Prada was lookin' positively Felliniesque. Orson Welles and Billy Wilder all wrapped into one, dude.

and it did have Meryl Streep, who is, as she often is, worth the price of admission all by herself. The actor who plays the British assistant is funny, too.

All in all I tend to agree with this Pajiba review That is, to wit: the book (which I also read this week, sitting in the air conditioned Barnes and Noble; if you are detecting a subtext here, Gentle Reader, you are not wrong) was good bitchy fun; the movie watered it down and poured treacle all over it. The end, especially...

Well, without giving it away. Let's just say that my experience of pathological fucking narcissists and their enabling toadies is rather different.

Paradoxically, I realized afterward, this is one of the few instances where giving a character more depth and layers than she had in the book actually made the story less realistic and compelling. Some people really are completely two-dimensional; there is no there there; that's the whole point. That's what makes them so frigging deadly.

Although. The methods "Miranda" used in both the book and the movie were actually pretty dead-on. As were the ways in which people tend to respond to them.

It goes something like this:

1) Act completely unpredictably. People naturally respond in a certain way to what's called "intermittent reinforcement;" it's the same transaction that keeps gamblers and addicts hooked. And lab mice. Push the button, get a food pellet; predictable, you'll only push the button when you're hungry. Push the button, nothing ever happens; pretty quickly you'll stop pushing it and try something else. Push the button and every once in a blue moon, at random times, you get a pellet; you'll keep pressing that sucker till you drop dead from exhaustion.* Not even because you're that hungry, necessarily; because you're now convinced that you must have done something right (ahhh) to get that special payoff; and clearly it is a very special payoff, simply because it is so rare. Now if only you can just figure out what it is you did, so you can do it again.

*Which comes in really handy during those sixteen hour days.

1a) Sooner or later, hunger and exhaustion will become self-reinforcing tools in themselves, as they tend to make you weak and suggestible and put you in something of an altered state.

2) Be so unspeakably vile and abusive that even the faintest sign of a glimmer of a nod of humanity seems like an immense payoff.

2a) Scare the crap out of people; your goal is not to get them to "like" you; your goal is to get them to do whatever you want because anything is preferable to your awesome, terrible wrath.

2b) (this is actually one of the few places where i thought the movie got it more right than the book): If you can convince your victim erm target erm...well, anyway...that they're "special," that you only treat them so badly because you see something in them, they'll be yours for life. Fear alone will only get you so far. Fear plus the promise, however faint, of approval, even love...ahhh. Kingdoms are built on that.

3) Have some sort of talent; act in such a way that all but convinces people that nobody else can do what you can. Sell yourself as an amazingly precious and rare commodity.

(Tag line throughout: "A million girls would kill for this job.")

This is how abusive relationships of all sorts work; this is how cults work. And incidentally it maaayyyy just have something to do with advanced capitalism...of which the fashion industry, at least as presented here (and there seems to be a consensus that this is not an exaggeration), is one of the more bluntly raw examples.

Or, well. A million girls would kill for this job. Jobs are scarce, and this one is SPECIAL. And most people couldn't hack working for such a tough boss. But you might just be one in a million; doesn't that feel good? Everybody wants to look like that. Most people can't afford those clothes, that degree of thinness. But, ahhh, the splendid splendid warm glow of specialness to know that YOU can.

Or, in the words of Eve Harrington:

Imagine... to know, every night, that different hundreds of people love you... They smile, their eyes shine - you've pleased them, they want you, you belong. Anything's worth that.

Including your soul.

And the devil may not wear Prada, after all.

You might find the devil in academia. In finance, wearing a bowtie. Or, well...

But however the devil clothes hirself, rest assured:

It came off your back.

That's how you know it's the devil.

When you feel the chill.

16 comments:

antiprincess said...

"Be so unspeakably vile and abusive that even the faintest sign of a glimmer of a nod of humanity seems like an immense payoff."

timely.

belledame222 said...

timeless, that one, really.

but, yah.

SUEB0B said...

A genius post.

I realized that I worked for this person, though his name was Jim not Miranda. Unpredictable, moody, a total narcissist. Check, check, check.

The only good thing I got out of the deal was Bradley. He and I banded together to protect ourselves from The Evil and ended up having fabulous, deep, meaningful lovemaking. Ah, dear Bradley...but I digress.

Bradley worked there for 2 weeks, me for 3. Before Brad quit, he said "I have not yet seen the beast. But I have seen the shadow of the beast, and it is time to get out." He was right. That last week was hell.

Buttercup said...

"You might find the devil in academia. In finance, wearing a bowtie. Or, well..."

Don't forget law. I too work for that narcissist you so brilliantly describe. In my world, she goes by the name "Dragon Lady." I despise her with the white hot intensity of ten thousand blazing suns.

Sly Civilian said...

Yup, yup. And AC can be worth a lot...i've made many a faustian bargain to be cooled to 72 degrees.

And just a thing...i got wickedly behind on reading and so i feel odd commenting on dead threads, but i wanted to say it's been some great reading.

belledame222 said...

thanks!

and feel free to comment on older threads--I still read 'em even if no one else does.

Dan L-K said...

If you can convince your victim erm target erm...well, anyway...that they're "special," that you only treat them so badly because you see something in them, they'll be yours for life. Fear alone will only get you so far. Fear plus the promise, however faint, of approval, even love...ahhh. Kingdoms are built on that.

Bells go off.

"Look how bad everyone in the world sucks! But you might be alright... with a little work. That's why I give you such a hard time; it takes pressure to make a diamond."

Blackamazon said...

Awesome post. I though t of you today as I was thinking of going to my fave restarauntin ASToria
and realized they still dont have power. i wondered hwo you were

belledame222 said...

Hey, thanks, BA. We've had the power back since late Sunday, thank fuck. food-related businesses still just now reopening, though, esp. if they had dairy or seafood and suchlike.

Which restaurant in Astoria?

Say, whereabouts are you based, anyway?

amy said...

You lost me at "M Nachas Ramalamadingdong" -- I'm still laughing.

You're at your best when you're sardonic, a rare talent.

belledame222 said...

oh dear, and here i was trying to be more Zen and sweetness and light and shit.

oh well. thanks!

Stroll said...

This is an awesome post indeed. I saw this movie twice too. I enjoyed it, though it's not groundbreaking filmmaking, it was a "cute" diversion for a couple hours. My review is forthcoming--the thing I hated most is how she's all supposed to have changed and changed again, but she never changed a bit. Anyway. To get off topic, you live in Astoria?!

belledame222 said...

No, over the way, Sunnyside. Used to be in Astoria. You're there? Do you guys have power back yet?

Sage said...

I have no intention of seeing the film or reading the book, but I love the analysis!!

Stroll said...

I'm in Astoria--we were lucky and unaffected by the power outages. But I was cat-sitting for two weeks in Sunnyside, where only half the apartment lost power. Wierd.

belledame222 said...

yah, we had that for a few days befoer the actual blackout in this building. first the AC would chug feebly, the computer and TV would work, and the lights were at half mast. then the AC would work fine and the kitchen lights would be out, but the bedroom lights would work fine. then (my favorite bit) the AC *and the fan* (why i don't know) would not move a click; but the computer was working. then we had a blackout and nothing was working for two days.

anyway, cool--more Queens folk! more New Yawkers--well, I knew you lived in the city, BA.
we should meet up for cawfee or somethin'.