June 30 marks the 15-year anniversary of the movie for which many such as myself can recite dialogue along with the characters. Now that my 23-year-old daughter Meg is, like Andy (Anne Hathaway), in her first post-college NYC job, I’m seeing one of my fave films as anti-female ambition.
For the past decade and a half, I have defended this movie against criticism that it’s just a pile of fluff about a young journalist who gets caught up in what color is the new black.
I’ve often explained that this fish-out-of-water story shows that sometimes there’s a need to get out of your comfort zone to become a better version of yourself, and even used various scenarios as teachable moments when counseling those struggling in their careers.
I’ve given the Stanley Tucci “you’re not trying, you’re whining” speech to a colleague who involuntarily transferred into a different position in his company, which he did in a perfunctory way. His bosses were unhappy with his performance but he claimed he “was doing the job.” As Tucci’s Nigel explained to Andy, just going through the motions (aka learning to spell “Gabbana” correctly) is not enough. You need to be, or at least act, invested in the company and the work you’re doing for it.
I also used the fact that Andy never let co-assistant Emily have it with both barrels as a way to show Meg that it’s more powerful to not let anyone rattle you.
And therein lies the problem. All these years, I’d focused on the office culture.
During my last of several quarantine viewings, I found myself concentrating on the personal side and how unsupportive her friends were.
“The Andy I know,” states BFF Lily, “is madly in love with Nate ... is always five minutes early ... and thinks Club Monaco is couture.” I guess Andy was supposed to stay that way forever.
There is also boyfriend Nate’s accusation that Andy had become “one of the Runway girls.”
He wants her to “own up” that she likes being at Miranda’s beck and call.
But wait, what if she does like it? Being important to an important person is a heady feeling. Caring about details, well, as the saying goes, isn’t that where “God is”?
These scenes though are created to show that Andy’s changed and not for the better. Her friends hammer away at the idea that the smart wanna-be writer “peddling her earnest newspaper stories” is being replaced by someone shallow.
By the end, when Andy is grateful that Nate even agreed to see her, even after all he put her through about her former job, she’s still happy for his promotion and upcoming move to Boston, I vowed never to watch this blockbuster again.
My new takeaway is that a woman isn’t allowed to grow or friends who are used to her fitting nicely into the little box in their life might get uncomfortable. If Andy’s going to be at anyone’s beck and call, it’s supposed to be theirs.
The group’s distaste for Andy’s new unavailability doesn’t stop Lily from accepting — actually, grabbing — the blue Marc Jacobs $1900 bag Andy offered to her for free.
And how dare Andy begin to dress like a professional instead of the plaid-skirted co-ed she no longer is? And the audacity of her to actually earn her paycheck by meeting the demands of the position.
Besides she had a plan: “I just have to stick it out for a year ... and then I can do what I came to New York to do.”
They couldn’t deal with her not being available on a whim for twelve months? No one thought it was cool she got to go the Met Ball or to Paris?
And did it occur to anyone that as a reporter — the job she wanted to begin with and finally ended up with — comes with a little thing called deadlines? Also, reporters have to cover a story while it’s hot. Oh, no. What if a building collapses or someone is pushed in front of a train on Nate’s birthday? Guess Andy won’t be first on the scene.
Of all the lessons I’ve culled from this movie, I think the most important to drive home to Meg is that if your so-called friends aren’t rooting for you to succeed, find new ones.
Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of the novel “Back To Work She Goes” and the upcoming “The Last Single Woman In New York City.”