Image: Nate being a total ass in The Devil Wears Prada. Image Source.
A while back we re-shared what we thought was a pretty niche meme which then, in its speedy popularity, was evidently not niche at all:
Since then, we’ve not only been bidding goodnight to the Internet and singling out one crappy human who is not deserving of our goodnight, but we’ve been thinking about Nate. Andy’s boyfriend in The Devil Wears Prada is played by Adrian Grenier, who if he was being described in a male-written profile for a major publication, would have his handsomeness described thusly: the effortless, static, but somehow alive, looks of a Botticelli Angel whose ringlets you want to reach out and touch, even though, like all great paintings, you’re not supposed to. This feels important to add: I stood next to Adrian Grenier in a bar once and can confirm he is the kind of person that asks if his rum & coke “is free” because “you know.”
There are two readings of The Devil Wears Prada. The first happened when it was released in 2006 and we all sort of agreed that “no job was worth your life,” without recognising that the subtext was, more specifically, “no job was worth a woman’s life.” The lesson I gleaned from the movie eleven years ago wasn’t just that women can’t have it all but that “all” was a specific set of things: be nice, be a successful mother, be a successful businessperson, be a successful friend. You can have a couple, but certainly not the full set.
The film’s attitude towards perceived female failure becomes clearer when you watch it through a fourth-wave lens; the second read. The question of whether women can “have it all” is redundant to the degree that until certain legislations shift – maternity leave, the pay gap – we can’t, and alternately, because we can if there weren’t so many messed-up measures of what’s “successful” for women. From the outset, the stakes are higher. We know that comparatively, men don’t have to do much, other than show-up, to be considered successful. Or, as in Nate’s case, worthy of our time.
Nate (and most of Andy’s friendship group) is the absolute pits throughout The Devil Wears Prada. When Andy gets an incredibly high-profile role, he mocks her. When Andy begins – in her first major step towards her career goal – to transform, and learn: he mocks her. When Andy struggles in this transformation, guess what? He mocks her. And let’s not skip past the time she was late for his birthday and he threw a complete hissyfit. All the while, her closest friends enable this truly yucky behaviour. The bar is just set that low for men.
Andy’s success at her job is suddenly only measurable by how well her relationship with her boyfriend is going. The question of whether Nate should buck up, and maybe support Andy through an incredibly important, and difficult, time is never raised. (From the beginning of the movie we know the job is only for a year, ffs.) The backdrop to all of this is of course the epic, brilliant Miranda Priestly, played by Meryl Streep, who is inevitably given a major “failure” storyline because she, as the film points out, is a terrible Mother as a result of the energy she has invested in her job. Oh, how this shits me. The threat is that if Andy doesn’t start showing up to Nate’s birthday on time, she too will end up crying alone on a very expensive sofa. Or, like Emily (played by Emily Blunt), hit by a car.
We’ve all dated, or know friends who have dated (maybe still are dating) a Nate. It’s more or less the common thing. “Boys will be boys” is the tune to which these relationships play out. At the end of the The Devil Wears Prada, we watch as Andy ponders whether or not to move to Chicago TO SUPPORT HER MAN. It’s brutal in its subtlety. “Behind every great man is a great woman” is another song on the soundtrack to the lives of women who are expected to care-give, often at the expense of their own self-care. I say self-care, because isn’t it strange how there’s a specific phrase that has come to remind women to invest in themselves. In the cis, heterosexual world, the labour of sustaining a relationship is a female expectation so naturally, it’s free. Nate doesn’t even do the bare minimum, because it’s just not what blokes do. He just pouts when his woman is a couple of hours late to party that will happen every single fucking year of his life.
When I started this article I thought it might be funny, until I realised just how many Nates I know. In this new era of corporate feminism, which demands that women do more until they shatter the glass ceiling, it’s important to remember that women don’t have to do anything, especially when, for every Miranda or Andy, there’s a man sulking in the background. It would be better for everyone if they just stopped sulking, and did literally anything else, so that women stop feeling guilty about just about every aspect of their lives. Your birthdays aren’t what we’ll be writing about in our memoirs.
We don’t have an agenda or anything but: