Monday, September 03, 2007

God @ the Movies: The Devil Wears Prada

We do this series to aid us in our search for redemptive stories and analogies.

This particular message could be subtitled, 'Working With You or For You Is Killing Me'.

Now just so we all understand my point of view and experience with the underlying themes and occupations of the characters in this movie I’ll say the obvious: I’m a guy. Youngest of 4 boys, no sisters. My brothers operated on the wrong side of the tracks if you know what I mean, rough and tumble not Gucci and Armani.

I didn’t have a lot of exposure to girls, fashion etc growing up. I have little or no sense of fashion IQ. I know that surprises most of you right?! Some would say that it’s not that I have little or no fashion intelligence, but that I actually am running a deficit in that area!

When Rachel was picking some clothes when she was 3 or 4 I found out that she had a better eye for coordinating colors than I did!

I have had green shoes, multicolored sweat pants, Ken has even put out a rumor that he’s seen a fanny pack on me!

One day in the spring Jenn says to me, “You know it doesn’t matter how dressed up you get, you always have those black runners accenting your outfit!”

I generally live as much of my existence as possible in shorts and a tank top. My tongue in cheek nickname from a good friend is “GQ Stew”. There are those who cal me a fashion visionary- perhaps blind but nonetheless visionary!

For me a ‘Runway’ is at an airport, not the fashion magazine in the movie.

I take pride in being a fashion dinosaur. All that said lets watch the trailer for The Devil Wears Prada and look at issues concerning work on this Labor Day weekend:

Scene 1 trailer

Andrea Sachs goes for a job interview at a fancy fashion magazine in New York, gets hired and starts a roller coaster ride working for ‘hell on high heels.’ Young Ms. Sachs is not exactly a fashion icon, instead aspiring to become a writer and hoping that this job could open some doors. She’s in for an awakening when she meets her boss to be.

Some has postulated that this boss character bears some resemblance to the actual behavior of Martha ‘my Alma Mata is Penn State, or should I say State Penn’ Stewart.

Let’s see Miranda Priestly in action as she puts her troops through the mill in preparation for a fashion show:

Scene 2 chapter 9 21.46- 24.25

The early days at work are very difficult for Andy as the learning curve is high and the personal abuse is almost nonstop. In this next scene she’s just been chewed out by her boss and seeks solace in Nigel's office, as he is her only ‘friend’ at work:

Scene 3 chapter 12 31.40- 34.40

Have you ever had a pity party about your work? Gallup research identifies that people usually don’t quit work; they quit their boss or their manager, often because of abuse and bullying. This is the latest McLean’s magazine and it contains an article titled, “Bullying Bosses Beware”.

As you saw in the last scene Andy gets the idea that wearing fashionable clothes will help her with her job and relationship with the boss.

She has a makeover and in this next scene gets together with her good friends and boyfriend Nick for dinner:

Scene 4 chapter 14 38.20- 39.41

Andy is beginning to change, slowly but surely. She invests herself in the toxic environment and begins to earn some of her boss’s approval and actually starts to fit in at work. In this next scene she’s at a modeling shoot in Central Park, and gets a pep talk from Nigel the designer:

Scene 5 chapter 19 56.34- 57.12

Andy’s personal life is in shreds, but it seems like that’s the price you pay in this field. Ever faced that?

Andy’s work life is wreaking havoc with her relationship with Nick. Has work ever caused discomfort at home?

For many of us, our natural instinct when feeling distraught and discouraged is to overindulge in one of the following: food, sleep, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, or television. These activities only eliminate stress for a short period. They do not solve or resolve the problem. In fact, they can cause other problems such as depression, anxiety, alcoholism, obesity, or ulcers.

There are some very clear ethical dilemmas presented in The Devil Wears Prada. Each occupation contains some that are peculiar to the actual work, but many are universal because all work involves human relationships.

Jesus told lots of stories about work. He has stories about workers in a vineyard; a story about talents; a story about unforgiving servants; a story about a shrewd manager.

We were created to do work by God, but not created so that our work becomes our identity; we were not created so that our success in our work governs our behavior; no our character should guide our workplace behavior like in all areas of life.

A very real dilemma arises for Andy: she is becoming so efficient that her boss wants to take her to the most prestigious fashion show in Paris. Her co-worker has been looking forward to this for months- it’s really the only good perk in working at Runway. Miranda says come to Paris or find another job.

What would you do? Who’d go to Paris? Who would quit?

In this next scene, Andy gets a peck on her cheek from a would be suitor. Her good friend she’s it and is disgusted, after all she has a boyfriend right? What’s become of Andy?

Scene 6 chapter 24 74.31- 75.32

Nick confronts some of Andy’s changes and challenges her that, “You’ve become one of them.” He follows up adding, “Do your thing with a little integrity.”

To the U2 song, “City of Blinding Lights” we see Andy arrive in Paris. She’s made her choice and has begun to identify very strongly with Miranda.

Neon heart day-glow eyes
A city lit by fireflies
They're advertising in the skies
For people like us
And I miss you when you're not around
I'm getting ready to leave the ground
Oh you look so beautiful tonight
In the city of blinding lights
Don't look before you laugh
Look ugly in a photograph
Flash bulbs purple irises
The camera can't see
I've seen you walk unafraid
I've seen you in the clothes you made
Can you see the beauty inside of me?
What happened to the beauty I had inside of me?
And I miss you when you're not around
I'm getting ready to leave the ground

God is light, only His light is meant to illuminate what’s inside, covered up, the darkness of our soul.

Miranda Priestly. The priestess of fashion, power politics, power and control. Jezebel herself.

While in Paris Andy finds out that Miranda’s husband is divorcing her- he won’t be King Ahab anymore. Andy’s good friend is going to get his dream job at another company, hallelujah! And Miranda is going to lose her job. Except that at the right time the high priestess of fashion orchestrates a Michael Corleone style Godfather-like maneuver and retains her job, and forces her lead designer to stay at Runway. She explains how this happened to Andy on the way to a banquet in gay Paris:

Scene 7 chapter 31 96.15- 99.15

I couldn’t do that. You already did.


Do you need to make any adjustments in your own life?

On the stage of your life, is this the character you want to play?

Luke 14:12
"...When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind."

Then he turned to the host. "The next time you put on a dinner, don't just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You'll be—and experience—a blessing. They won't be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned! — at the resurrection of God's people." The Message

Colossians 3:22-24
Slaves obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

The work you do to make a living is one of the clearest ways possible of focusing upon apprenticeship to Jesus. To be a disciple of Jesus is, crucially, to be learning from Jesus how to do your job as Jesus himself would do it. New Testament language for this is to do it “in the name” of Jesus.

Fire your boss and start working for Jesus. A gentle but firm non-cooperation with things that you know to be wrong, together with a sensitive, non-standoff-ish service to others, should be our usual behavior. This when combined with inward attitudes of constant prayer for whatever kind of activity our workplace requires and genuine love for everyone involved will give God a foothold in your workplace.

As long as you are on the job, all peculiarly religious activities should take second place to doing “the job” in sweat, intelligence, and the power of God. That is our devotion to God. This assumes, of course, that the job is one that serves good human purposes. Working in the pornography business may facilitate a career change as you follow Jesus.

There are times where it’s best to quit and look for another job. At times even getting fired for sticking to your convictions opens up a new journey- we call that

The Joseph principle:
The human intent of an event doesn’t foil God.

Because He's the best boss we can ever have.


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