Fatal Attraction (1987) and Devil Wears Prada (2006) are two classical movies that talks about the story of independent women who is in the working force. Even though these movies are released almost 20 years apart, they share a lot of similarities with how independent women are being portrayed in the media. Fatal Attraction was released in the 1980s when the third wave feminism movement began. It became an instant classic in the 80s and was nominated for 6 Oscar awards. Fatal Attraction is the story about a married New York attorney Dan. He has a one night affair with a woman named Alex, a female editor in a publishing company.
Dan later find out that Alex is pregnant. Alex demands Dan to share the responsibility for her pregnancy but Dan refuses to continue the relationship with her. Alex later becomes lethal and threatens his family. She even temporarily kidnapped Dan’s daughter, in an attempt to win back Dan’s affection. Dan later on told his wife Beth about the affair. In the ending scene, Alex has a fight with both Dan and Beth, and Beth kills Alex with a gun. The film is portrayed through male’s perspective. Even though Dan cheated on his wife, he does not seem to share any responsibility for his betrayal.
When Alex told her that she was pregnant because of their affair, Dan tries to walk away from it by not answering Alex’s phone calls. He even contacts a lawyer to see if it is possible for him to not share any responsibility in a legal standpoint. Dan is being sympathized in the movie as he cared about his family; his irresponsible behaviors are thus being legitimized. All the faults seem to lie on the independent woman Alex in the film. When Alex was killed in the end by Beth, audiences were manipulated to cheer for Beth’s heroic act.
It is the celebration of the victory for the traditional family value. Beth, the perfect wife and mother who adapts to her husband’s schedule and spend time with her daughter, has restored the social harmony in a traditional family by killing Alex, the woman that is at fault for everything. In contrast to Dan and Beth, Alex is portrayed as the villain in the movie, a destructive force towards the traditional family. Alex does not follow the traditional division of labor; she chooses to work in the labor force rather than being a housewife.
The movie essentialize women in which they all value family over their work and they can not live a happy life being an independent women. Even though Alex has a job, and is financially independent, she still needs to rely on man in the end, thus the movie reinforce the patriarchy system in which women are inferior and need to beg for love from men, they can not be truly independent even if they are in the working force. It further suggests that independent women might be successful with their working career, yet they all secretly admire the housewives and want to be one of them.
The implication of successful career and a happy family cannot coexist for women is clearly shown in the movie and this theme has been the norm of almost all Hollywood movies. This theme is being shown in another movie called Devil Wears Prada, a film that shares a lot of similarities with Fatal Attraction in the way that woman is presented in the theaters. Devil wears Prada is released in 2006, and like Fatal Attraction, it became a huge success and received a lot of nominations and awards. The movie is about Andy, a young girl that just graduated from Northwestern University, getting a job in the famous fashion magazine Runway.
She works as an assistant in the Runway for an old lady Miranda, the editor of chief in Runway. Andy has always wanted to be a news reporter editor; yet she applies to the renowned fashion magazine Runway to be the assistant of Miranda as she believes that working for Miranda will open a lot of doors for her in the newspaper industry eventually. Miranda is a very demanding boss and Andy hated it in the beginning. Eventually Andy adapts to her job and performs exceptionally with it. Miranda likes Andy’s performance a lot and decides to promote her.
However because of the stressful and competitive nature of the job, Andy has become less available to her boyfriend Nate and they broke up as a result of that. Having Nate in mind, Andy did not accept the promotion and quit her job. In the ending scene, Nate told Andy he gets a job in Boston and will be moving there. Andy apologized for treating Nate poorly and would move to Boston with him to repair the relationship. The two main characters in the movie, Miranda and Andy, are both independent women in the work force. It is one of the few movies in which the story is revolved around female characters.
As a result a lot of people mistakenly think the movie represents gender equality and shows that women can be dominant at work, that they no longer follows the traditional division of labor and become the powerless housewives. The truth is, this movie shows that even after twenty years since third wave feminism movement has begun; the theme remains that being a successful women at work comes at a price, which is a miserable love life. . Devil Wears Prada shares a lot of similarities with Fatal Attraction. Firstly, both Andy and Alex are masculine names, seemingly implying that being independent is a characteristic of male.
More importantly, in both movies, these working women, no matter how successful they are with their career, all they care after all is their relationships with men. In Fatal Attraction, Alex became a psycho because of her affection towards Dan and was killed in the end. Similarly in Fatal Attraction, Andy’s focus and success with her job destroys her relationship with her boyfriend Nate. In the end, even though Andy does get back with Nate, however by doing so she has to quit her promising job at runway. The message here is clear, that is a woman has to choose between a career and the family.
Andy’s boss, Miranda, in contrast choose work over family. She was the chief of the company, yet with all the success she has, she seems to be unhappy when she is alone. There were only two scenes in the movie that talks about her personal life. In one scene she was arguing with her husband, and in the other scene she told Andy she is divorcing with her husband and shows a lot of grief. It suggests that for successful business women, with all the fame and success they have on the outside, they all feel miserable inside.
Therefore the logical choice for Andy is to quit her job, as she said to Miranda in the end of the movie before she quits her job, “I don’t want to live the life like you”. The implication behind Andy’s decision and Miranda’s grief is that choosing family over career is the right choice. In both of the movies, all female characters whether openly or secretly, see the love from men as the ultimate source of happiness. Their reliance of men further creates the dominance of men in the society. In Devil Wears Prada, Andy follows Nate to Boston, even though Nate only works in a restaurant, and should earn much less than Andy.
If the division of labor is based purely on maximizing the income, Nate should be the one sacrificing his job. In short, the theme that women need to rely on men and that successful independent women will not be happy is being portrayed in the media even nowadays. These two movies are released twenty years apart; however nothing much has changed in the way that the media presents women. This media bias reinforces the patriarchy ideology into people’s mind and thus it is no surprise that inequality still exist nowadays in the workforce.