Why ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ Became An Unlikely Lesbian (Femslash) Classic

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“Gay culture is knowing the real antagonist in Devil Wears Prada is the boyfriend and selfish shit friends.” – Paul Ferguson

I was fourteen years old when The Devil Wears Prada hit the big screen. I knew I liked girls. I remember, not long before that, sitting on my mother’s living room floor in my Funky Friends pyjamas as I came out to her as bisexual. At the time it was easier to call myself bi than to acknowledge that only women made my heart skip in a particular way.

Poison Ivy, Captain Janeway, and then Miranda Priestly – my list of childhood crushes was made up entirely of powerful women, though for a solid five years I used Sir Ian McKellen as a beard. Don’t ask. And there was something about Miranda, played by the iconic Meryl Streep, that appealed enough to make exploring that tangled mess of feelings worthwhile.

One weekend, my mum took me to the cinema. Together we watched as Andy Sachs’ job hunt ended with the job a million girls would kill for: assistant to Miranda Priestly, editor of Runway magazine. We watched as Andrea – “the smart, fat girl” – blundered through the world of fashion.

We watched as Nigel, the salty gay fashionista, transformed her into a proper Runway girl. We watched Andy get really good at her job, and we watched Andy realize the progress in her career might just come at the expense of being a good person.

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I remember the hitch in my breath as Miranda stared at every inch of Andrea, from the tips of her toes to the top of her head.

My jaw dropped when Andy’s phone rang – Miranda called her incessantly – and her awful boyfriend yelled “The person whose calls you always take, that’s the relationship you’re in. I hope you two are very happy together.”

And when, a few short scenes later, Miranda’s marriage dissolved, I felt a swell of triumph: now the road was clear for the real romance! In a candid moment Miranda even told Andrea “you are very fetching.” To paraphrase Ms Priestly – am I reaching for the sapphism here? Not really.

At that point I hadn’t yet learned that in mainstream movies two women are rarely allowed to love one another – and the only thing rarer than lesbian love on screen is lesbian love with a happy ending. So it was a big disappointment when Andy walked away from Miranda in Paris.

My sadness must have filled up the car on the journey home. Mum asked if I’d enjoyed the film. I said yes, not knowing how to explain the world of “if only…” it had opened up in my imagination. She also pointed out that it wasn’t my usual type of film, which was accurate. At fourteen all I usually wanted to see were vampires and violence, but such is the power of Meryl Streep.

For months I couldn’t stop dreaming up scenarios in which Miranda and Andrea could be together. It was an obsession. Even after The Devil Wears Prada went to DVD, those thoughts didn’t fade. And a quick Google search conducted when my family were safely out at church revealed that plenty of other women and girls had those thoughts about Miranda and Andrea too. Yes, dear reader, I entered the world of Mirandy fanfiction.

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The smuttier ones were a better sex education than anything my school had to offer. And to this day, new fics are added and old ones updated. Over a decade after the film was released, fifteen years since the book was first published, it continues to inspire lesbian fanfiction.

It’s astonishing, in a way, that such scant source material has provided so many years of creative fuel for lesbian stories. (Technically a sequel to The Devil Wears Prada exists, but we do not acknowledge it. Ever.) And yet it’s also typical of lesbian culture. We’ve always had to rely on stolen glances and subtext.

Plus, the dynamic between Miranda and Andrea was undeniably hot. Only the straightest of the straight could miss it. Let’s face it: Miranda Priestly makes a very convincing power lesbian.

According to Kaite Welsh, “The closest thing we have to Fifty Shades of Grey is The Devil Wears Prada… even if we lesbians have to add the sex scenes in ourselves – mentally.”

The Devil Wears Prada has a special place in gay and lesbian culture.

The film’s charming camp quality and dazzling designer wardrobe holds appeal for many a gay man. Sir Elton John is even writing the musical. But it is the relationship between Miranda Priestly, the tyrannical editor in chief of Runway magazine, and Andrea Sachs, a wide-eyed college graduate who stumbles into the world of fashion, that gives this story a special place in the hearts (and fantasies) of lesbians.

The book was inspired by the author’s time as Anna Wintour’s intern at Vogue, detailing Miranda Priestly’s reign of terror. And although the film was intended as a boss-from-hell caper with stunning clothes, it became so much more – if you know what to look for.

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