As writers, the significance of an antagonist cannot be understated. One of the best examples of an iconic and powerful antagonist in a film is from The Devil Wears Prada. The significance of the film lies in its exploration of the themes of ambition, identity, and the cost of success.
The story highlights the sacrifices individuals may make to achieve their goals and the toll that this can take on their personal lives and relationships, hence why it works so well for creating an antagonist.
If you don’t know, an antagonist is a character or force in a story that opposes the protagonist or main character and creates conflict in the plot. The antagonist may be a person, an animal, a society, a natural phenomenon, or even an internal struggle within the protagonist.
The importance of an antagonist lies in that it provides the central conflict that drives the plot forward. Without an antagonist, the story can lack tension, and the protagonist may not have a clear goal to strive towards. The antagonist also serves to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the protagonist and can provide opportunities for character development.
This article will analyze the antagonists of The Devil Wears Prada, specifically Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), and the other factors revolving around the character. Whether you’re looking to learn more about what makes a great antagonist or are a fan of the movie, allow this article to analyze the matter more deeply.
Still from 'The Devil Wears Prada'. Photo credit: Vanity Fair
Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep)
The obvious choice from the film is Miranda Priestly, the powerful and demanding editor-in-chief of the fictional Runway magazine. Miranda is the protagonist's boss, Andy Sachs, who works as her assistant. Throughout the story, Miranda is shown as a harsh, perfectionist boss who constantly challenges and belittles Andy and expects her to meet her extremely high standards.
Miranda's actions create conflict and tension in the story as Andy struggles to balance her job with her personal life and values. Ultimately, Miranda's behavior and treatment of Andy forces her to re-evaluate her priorities and make some tough decisions.
Nate (Adrian Grenier)
Andy's boyfriend, Nate, portrayed by Adrian Grenier, epitomizes an unsupportive significant other. Nate criticizes Andy for not maintaining her job with integrity, but it's unclear what that entails. It’s easy to get annoyed or dismiss Nate as an unsupportive partner, and the film doesn’t try to convince you otherwise.
With all of this, what should Andy do? Should she dress in a way that pleases everyone in the office, including her boss, even if it compromises her style? Should she hate the magazine she works for rather than try to appreciate some aspects? Should she ignore her boss entirely and risk losing her job?
Throughout the film, Nate pouts and disapproves instead of being supportive. His criticism isn’t constructive, and he seems intent on hindering Andy's career progression. Individuals with demanding jobs often have partners like Nate, and they frequently end up dumping them.
Irv Ravitz (Tibor Feldman)
Tibor Feldman's Irv Ravitz is the corporate executive representing the old legacy media guard. Irv is concerned about skyrocketing budgets and tries to betray Miranda in a coup.
Although Miranda is reluctant to agree to work with Irv, and in an industry filled with individuals like him, she must play his game to maintain her power and influence.
Irv is arguably the most understated antagonist in the movie. Still, once one realizes the number of strings he's pulling, it's impossible not to recognize how ruthless the publishing industry has become due to people like him. Irv sets everything up, and the other characters merely react to it.
Deeper Analysis - Greed and Power
While the most obvious answer would be Miranda Priestly, it's worth noting that villainy in a high-pressure office environment can be subjective. Fans of the movie may perceive the true villain differently based on their age, occupation, and life experiences.
For example, some may argue that the protagonist, who initially judges those around her before ultimately rejecting their lifestyle and beliefs, is the villain. Others may consider the protagonist's boyfriend, who belittles her job and sulks when she can't celebrate his birthday on a work night, to be the antagonist.
Additionally, some may see the male higher-up in Miranda's magazine as the true villain, as he forces her to behave sociologically to maintain her power position. Ultimately, the movie's central question is whether Miranda is simply an amoral bully or if it’s the condition she’s in that forces her to be.
At its core, the film explores the pressure of working in a cutthroat industry and its toll on personal relationships and individual identity. Much of it discusses personal integrity and staying true to oneself, despite the pressures to conform to societal norms or the expectations of others.