Miranda Priestly – Character Analysis: Boss Or Villain?

For those of you who don’t know who Miranda Priestly is, she is the infamous editor-in-chief of Runway (a fictional fashion magazine) from the 2006 film: “The Devil Wears Prada”. Today’s post contains a brief plot summary and a detailed character analysis of Miranda Priestly. So, is she really the “bad guy” in this story?

miranda priestly character analysis the devil wears prada

Directed by David Frankel, the 2006 comedy-drama is based on a 2003 novel of the same name written by Lauren Weisberger. The film stars Anne Hathaway as Andrea Sachs and Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly. Today’s post is solely based on the film, not the novel.

Here’s a little recap, for those who don’t remember the plot very well.

The Devil Wears Prada (2006) – Plot Summary

Andrea Sachs is a fresh graduate and an aspiring journalist. One day, she stumbles upon Runway (a fashion magazine) and lands a job as Miranda Priestly’s junior assistant. Despite of having zero interest in fashion, Andrea puts up with Miranda’s insane demands with hopes of getting more job opportunities as a writer.

On the verge of quitting, Andrea goes to Nigel (Runway’s art director) for help. The man advises Andrea to try harder and with his help she changes her personal style by putting more effort into her looks and clothes. Andrea’s efforts do not go unnoticed and Miranda starts to give her more responsibilities.


The Devil Wears Prada [Novel]

After a while, Andrea starts to outperform Emily (senior assistant). One day, while picking up some items for Miranda, Emily gets into an accident. As a result, Miranda takes Andrea instead of Emily to one of the most important events of the year: “Paris Fashion Week”. Before going to Paris, Andrea and her boyfriend (Nate) break up.

In Paris, Andrea learns that Miranda is heading for her second divorce. Meanwhile, Nigel informs Andrea that he’s leaving Runway to work with James Holt, apparently Miranda was the one who recommended Nigel for the position. As agreed, Andrea meets Christian Thompson for dinner and they end up spending the night together. The day after, Andrea learns that Runway is trying to replace Miranda with Jacqueline Follet. Shocked, Andrea runs to Miranda’s hotel room to warn her boss but she ignores her.


The Devil Wears Prada (2006) [DVD]

Later on, Miranda announces Jacqueline as the new creative director of Holt. In the car, Miranda explains to Andrea that she was aware of the company’s plan of replacing her. In order to save her job, Miranda sacrificed Nigel’s promotion to keep Jacqueline away from Runway. Miranda ignores Andrea’s face of disapproval and reminds her assistant that she did the same to Emily. Angry at Miranda’s words, Andrea leaves the car and walks away from her boss.

Back in New York, Andrea starts looking for a new job and she gets a call from a major publishing company. During the interview, the editor explains to Andrea that he called Runway for some references. Miranda told the man that Andrea was her biggest disappointment, yet he would be a fool not to hire her. While walking by the Runway building, Andrea spots Miranda and waves at her, but she does not wave back. Inside the car, Miranda smiles to herself.

Miranda Priestly – Character Analysis

So who is Miranda Priestly? She is the editor-in-chief of a well-known high fashion magazine. Now, why does Miranda Priestly get such a bad reputation and does she really deserve it?

Let’s start with that trick that Miranda pulled on everyone at the end: sacrificing her good friend Nigel to keep her position in the company. Her actions (and morals) are indeed questionable, but anyone in her position would have done the same. There’s no doubt that Miranda betrayed Nigel, she took away her friend’s chance of working in another company and earning more money. However, there is something brilliant about the way how Miranda Priestly did it. Luring Jacqueline to take a position at another company, was definitely the best way to keep her competition away from Runway.

Some people might say that Miranda Priestly is not nice. On a surface level, she is cold as ice, she doesn’t smile and she’s not empathetic. Although, all those things said are true… Does Miranda Priestly have to act nice to do her job? No.

Now, let’s talk about Miranda’s behaviour towards Andrea. Sometimes, Miranda’s requests might sound insane to outsiders (people that do not work for her), but let’s not forget, Miranda hires people to do their job. Having said that, it doesn’t matter whether Miranda’s demands are reasonable or not, it’s not her job to figure whether her assistants can do it or not, but it’s their job to figure out how to do it.

All that said, Miranda Priestly is not really evil, she’s just doing her job as a boss. In addition, Miranda is just as demanding to others as she is to herself. The lady is a perfectionist, so why would she expect less from others? It’s easy to label Miranda as the bad guy when she’s standing next to someone as likeable / relatable as Andrea. Now, what if Miranda was a man? Would people still label her as a mean boss? Probably not.

By the way, Miranda Priestly owns up to who she is and what she wants, unlike Andrea Sachs. By the way, Miranda was right, Andrea could’ve said no the opportunity of going to Paris, but she didn’t. What was the worst that could’ve happened? Losing her job? When Andrea said yes to Miranda in that moment, she basically put her job above her loyalty towards Emily. How does that make Andrea morally better than Miranda? It doesn’t.

In the end, it’s clear that Miranda does not hold any grudges on Andrea for quitting her job at Runway, otherwise, she wouldn’t have given that recommendation. By the way, if Miranda tells another editor to hire Andrea, that means that she has earned that lady’s stamp of approval. Despite of what she said about Andrea and her being a disappointment, Miranda understands that people like Andrea do not belong in a place like Runway.

Final Thoughts

The story of “The Devil Wears Prada” is very cliché, but the film is actually quite enjoyable to watch. Fun fact? Apparently, Miranda Priestly is based on a real-life icon of the fashion industry: Anna Wintour (editor-in-chief of American Vogue).

Why is “The Devil Wears Prada” so popular? First, it was a huge commercial success. Second, it’s a memorable film and it has carved its own place in pop culture. Third, the story is highly relatable: maybe Andrea Sachs is an easier character to relate to than Miranda Priestly, but the film strikes a balance by showing the struggles of both sides.

Andrea Sachs just like Miranda Priestly has her own flaws too. Just like many fresh graduates, Andrea was looking for a job. Our protagonist does not like fashion and sort of makes fun of those who care about the subject, yet she accepted that offer at Runway. Isn’t that a bit hypocritical? After failing to bring Miranda back from a tropical storm, Andrea breaks down because her boss is disappointed at her. Then, Nigel tells her that she’s not trying hard enough. Despite of the harsh words, the man is right. So far, Andrea has been doing her job, but she never went the extra mile for Miranda. That’s why Miranda doesn’t respect her.

In the academic world, studying hard and getting good grades earns you almost an automatic stamp of approval from professors. However, in the workplace, there are no rules. After performing her duties as an assistant, Andrea was probably expecting a “thank you” from Miranda, which she never got and that made her upset. Now, Andrea did not do anything exceptional. Should anyone be cheering for Andrea for simply doing her job? Of course not, and that talk with Nigel was her wake up call.

By the way, Miranda teaches Andrea a very valuable lesson: people are a product of their own choices. Despite of blaming her lack of free time on Miranda, Andrea made that choice. It’s obvious that Runway is not her dream workplace, but Andrea wants to further her career as a writer and working at Runway can open those doors for her. That’s why the young lady took the “deal”. The same goes for Miranda: Runway is her work and her life. Despite of costing her marriage, not for a single second, did Miranda ever considered quitting her position at Runway. Why? That was her choice.

In my opinion, Miranda does not deserve all the bad reputation that she gets: the woman is just an incredibly busy boss. Miranda might be highly demanding but that’s just her doing her job. This realization actually reflects a much bigger problem: Miranda is a victim of society’s double standards. In other words, Miranda Priestly wouldn’t be getting this much heat for her actions and behaviour if she was a man.

After watching “The Devil Wears Prada”, viewers should realize that the corporate world needs more people like Miranda in the workplace. Why? More people need to worry less about what others think of them, speak up when it’s necessary and be more assertive. Overall, people should not feel the need to apologize for doing their job. Having said that, Miranda Priestly is not an evil woman who preys on her poor employees. She’s a boss who happens to be a woman.