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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: The Devil Wears Prada - Emily and a History of Workaholics

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A million girls would kill for this job.”

Emily Charlton of The Devil Wears Prada

is the textbook image of the workaholic.

She lives at the office, and expects others to do the same.

You are chained to that desk.”

She cares about nothing more than pleasing her boss.

Now we have to make sure that they all think she knows

exactly who they are. And I've been studying for weeks.”

On one level shes a product of the fashion industry,

embodying its most toxic, destructive standards.

Im one stomach flu away from my goal weight.”

But back in 2006, she also reflected

a more general trend that weve seen explode

in the years since the movie.

Modern American culture has a love affair with working

yourself to the bone.

Where have you been?”


[Laughing] “What, all night?”

Emily encapsulates the valor and virtue

we attach to constantly being busy and overstretched.

And her story reveals the dark side of living to work --

Emilys devotion to her job literally starves her and nearly kills her.

You might say Emilys cautionary tale prefigured todays

#ThankGodItsMonday culture.

We have medium-speed Wi-Fi, draft beer on tap--”

Okay, what? Girl, I hope I get to work here!”

So to better understand the Emilys of our times,

were taking a deep look at the history of workaholism

in cinema and TV, and asking whether it's possible to survive

the rat race with your sense of self in tact.

Thank god its Friday, right?.”

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I'm gonna work until I'm 100

and then cut back to four days a week.

Oh, God. I'm already so bored thinking about that one day off.”

The termworkaholismdates back to 1971,

when it was coined to describe:

the compulsion or the uncontrollable

need to work incessantly

Onscreen workaholics cover a range of personalities,

but they follow some common patterns.

The positive view of the workaholic is

someone driven by pure passion.

This is gonna be so much fun! All-night work! All-night work!”

Often theyre in a high-powered, high-stakes career, and their

exhilarating job is framed as the ultimate adrenaline rush.

That was such a high. l don't know why anybody does drugs.”

The darker interpretation of the workaholic character

is someone fueled by cutthroat personal ambition,

Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”

or whos using their job to fill a deeper emotional void.

She's a workaholic.

Works frantically to avoid dealing with her weird

mix of lack of self-worth and narcissism.

I really like her.”

Almost universally, the workaholic

character neglects their personal life.

Hey, don't you people ever sleep?”

Don't any of you have husbands, wives and

kids, lives?”


When youre responsible for serious matters, or even peoples lives,

its easy to justify your job taking precedence over everything else.

This is the most important thing l'll ever do, Jenny.

l have to do it well.”

lt's not more important than your marriage.”

lt is more important than my marriage right now.”

But because they spend all their time at the office,

the workaholic struggles to maintain relationships.

You can get me a date for tonight.

Actually, make that three dates.

Who knows when I'm gonna get another night off?”

Work is their mistress -- the lover who always comes first.

Why don't you not go to work tomorrow? Take the day off.”

Me not work?”

We can see the origins of todays work culture

in the second industrial revolution, from about 1870 to 1914.

With urbanization and the rise of factories,

for the first time people had to organize their workday around

hours of work completed rather than sunlight.

This led to the question of how long a workday should be,

and the danger of exploiting workers through excessive hours.

Labor unions campaigned for an 8-hour workday,

which evolved into what we today call a 9-to-5 job.

Early 20th-century cinema classics

like Metropolis and Modern Times,

reflected fears about industrializations

effects on society and alluded to the risk of turning human beings

into uniform cogs in a machine.

The Bellows Feeding Machine will eliminate the lunch hour,

increase your production, and decrease your overhead.”

The second half of the 20th-century

saw the birth of the workplace sitcom.

The Guardians Charles Bramesco argues that

from the 70s through the tail end of the 90s,

the sitcoms predominant attitude toward the hassles of work was

begrudging acceptance

Christmas is just like any other day when you work in a newsroom --

You know what I mean?”

Um, no.”

You gotta work on Christmas.”

I've gotta work on Christmas?”

The 90s was the slacker era.

That's funny, because I haven't seen you working for a while.

A long while.”

During this stable, prosperous decade in America, onscreen

characters seemed less interested in work than ever.

I don't think my boss likes me either.”

I don't think mine likes me either.”

Maybe it's a universal thing.”

Or maybe its because you're all hanging around

here at 11:30 on a Wednesday.”

Meanwhile at the movie theater, a narrative emerged of men

rebelling against their deadening,

soul-crushing office jobs.

I dont like my job and I dont think Im going to go anymore.”

These 90s films captured a resentment

over being made a cog in the corporate machine,

so you could see them as a spiritual update

to those early 20th century films about

the drudgery of factory work.

Fast-forward to now and youre more likely to see people

performing their love of work.

"To do what you love, that is just doing what you feel

fulfilled by and what drives you.”

So what happened? In short: the tech industry.

New York Times writer Erin Griffith

argues that todays work culture comes from the fact that, starting

around the new millennium, tech companies began offering,

perks meant to help companies attract the best talent and keep

employees at their desks longer.”

Google was just a little startup like we are.

And when they started bringing in chefs and masseuses,

we thought, ‘They're nuts!’”

And now they're worth over $400 billion."

We can see this practice at play in The Devil Wears Prada, too.

Sure, Andy gets to go to Paris fashion week,

raid the Runway closet, and take home whatever

expensive products her boss doesnt want for herself,

Miranda didn't want it, so--”

No, no, no, no, no. This bag is, like, $1,900.

I cannot take this from you.”

but in the long run, wouldnt more vacation time or

higher pay be worth a lot more?

We get emails from you at your office at 2:00 a.m.

Your pay is terrible.”

According to Griffith, mainstream culture

has been shaped by companies like WeWork with, quote,

its brand of performative workaholism.”

"with WeWork you should expect a space to

make a life not just a living"

Our culture has created a kind of glamour around

working constantly.

Kirsten keeps a cot in her office.

Rick keeps a Tempur-Pedic cot in his office.

Its like the Tesla of cots.”

In 2006, Emily was already

completely sold on performative workaholism.

I love my job, I love my job. I love my job.”

Shes brainwashing herself into believing she loves her job,

in order to make it through another punishing day,

and that raises the question:

if our modern world is full of Emilys,

how many of us are doing the same?

I already have my dream job.”

You're a corporate research analyst!”

Oh, you're right. My job sucks.”

To really understand how Emily builds on

the onscreen workaholic trope, we cant overlook

that shes a working woman -- a subset of the workaholic character,

who has her own complicated history.

Sometimes I get concerned about being a career woman.

I get to thinking my job is too important to me.”

Across movies and TV, we can see three basic

working girlcharacter types, though they tend

to have some overlap:

One, the spunky, working everywoman.

This character type was most famously

embodied by Mary Tyler Moore.

Bramesco argues that for Mary,

simply existing as a 30-year-old single woman in a competitive

and male-dominated workplace counted as a win

"I'm working here in the newsroom.

Associate producer. Can you believe that?"

In an era where many women still

did not work outside the home,

there was a sense of victory in being able

to have a career of your own.

Miss Olsen, you are now a junior copywriter."

"Is this really happening?”

Viewers can see themselves in the working everywoman character.

"No lunch. I got speech class."

"What do you need speech class for you talk fine.”

We usually meet her at the beginning

of her working life, which helps us

connect to her emotionally and

feel her ups and downs as our own.

She inspires us by representing work as

a source of empowerment.

[Singing] “Youre gonna make it after all.”

Two, the career woman as cautionary tale.

Unlike with the everywoman, were often introduced to this

character when shes well into her career and

her commitment to her job is no longer framed

in such a flattering light.

Just because you have no semblance of a life

outside of this office, you think that you can

treat all of us like your own personal slaves.”

In fact, we could read this trope as a cultural

backlash to the young everywoman.

This woman is my secretary.”

This is highlighted in Working Girl, where Tess,

a clear example of our first character type,

discovers that career woman Katherine is a jaded villain

trying to pass off Tessidea as her own.

She rifled through my desk, found my

memo outlining a Trask radio acquisition and has

been passing it off as her idea."

"It was my idea.”

The career woman is essentially the female

version of the workaholic absentee father who doesnt

spend time with his family.

Peter, you're missing it.”

Alright. I want a meeting, tomorrow a.m.”

Dad, my game! You promised.”

And she often has to learn to step back from her career

and make room for romantic love.

"I've got a big day."

"You've always got a big day. Even on the weekends,

you have a big day. You can't let this job be your life.”

This set-up makes her a fixture of rom-coms.

And three, the boss superwoman.

This high-powered woman is killing it at her job, and

her drive is portrayed as part of what makes her fabulous.

"I'm going to kick some ass, and remind them that I'm fierce.”

This character type took off in the 2000s and is a staple of

Shonda Rhimes shows.

It may even borrow from real life, as Rhimessuccess has made

her into an aspirational figure much like the women she creates,

and shes spoken positively about being a workaholic.

I work a lot, very hard, and I love it.

When I am hard at work, when I am deep in it,

there is no other feeling.

It is hitting every high note. It is running a marathon.

It is being Beyoncé.”

In part, this characters fabulosity comes from

the fact that she makes her own money, which

puts her in total control of her own life.

"You can't afford me.”

The ladies of Sex and the City prefigured this character type

because the show explored the power

of financial independence and not needing to rely on

a man for economic support.

"And with that, Ms. Miranda Hobbes Esquire, a.k.a. ‘just me

bought herself her first apartment and promptly

took herself out for a drink.”

Interestingly, the three main female characters of

Devil Wears Prada seem to fit neatly

into these categories --

Andy is the spunky working girl we root for

Well, look, you gotta start somewhere, right?”

and Miranda is the cautionary tale who represents the danger of

sacrificing your personal life for a career,

Just imagine what they're gonna write about me.

The Dragon Lady, career-obsessed.”

and Emily is going for category three:

the utterly fabulous existence of

the high-powered glamour workaholic.

I get to go with her to Paris for Fashion Week in the fall.

I get to wear couture.

I go to all the shows and all the parties.

I meet all of the designers.

It's divine.”

Except that, to the outside viewer,

Emilys life hardly appears that great.

Remember, you and I have totally different jobs.

I mean, you get coffee and you run errands

yet I am in charge of her schedule,

her appointments and her expenses.”

In Emilys eyes, Miranda belongs in superwoman category three,

but the movie places her firmly in villainous category two.

You chose to get ahead. You want this life, those

choices are necessary.”

Emily is so enthralled by the myth of Miranda

that she looks right past this,

and that leaves her aspiring towards an empty ideal.

This reflects our contemporary lives, too.

A woman. That that's a minus.”

Well, of course it's a fucking minus! I didnt make the world.”

We may be in an era where powerful, hard-working women

are lionized onscreen, but society itself is not

set up to reward female workaholics.

Even if a woman is doing extremely well in her career,

theres still discomfort around her success.

He offered it to me. To be next."

"Because I thought that it was something that we wanted for me.”

Many heterosexual couples are unwilling to reveal when

a woman is the breadwinner.

And Aliya Hamid Rao writes for The Atlantic that

the more economically dependent men are on

their wives, the less housework they do.

In other words, womens success in the workplace

is penalized at home.”

So its clear that our world has a long way

to go before category three, the working superwoman,

becomes more than a fiction.

Emilys devotion to her work rivals religiosity.

Our modern day obsession with work can be traced back

to the Calvinist branch of Protestantism.

Sociologist Max Weber wrote that because

Calvinists believed in predestination,

they sought to be successful in order

to prove they were part ofthe electdestined

to go to heaven.

Today its not hard to see how the Calvinist idea of acalling

has evolved into people seeing their careers as

representing their lifes purpose.

I devote myself completely to my job.

It's what I do. It's all I am.”

In a modern spin on the Protestant Work Ethic,

some have argued that work has now effectively

replaced religion as the arena

where Americans seek meaning

in our modern lives.

A lot of people have essentially turned to work

to find the very things they used to seek from traditional religions:

transcendence, meaning, community, self-actualization,

a totalizing purpose in life.”

We may be using nonstop work or busy-ness to fill

a deeper existential void as Tim Kreider writes,

obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial

or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked,

in demand every hour of the day.”

I get 20 minutes for lunch, and you get 15.”

Worshiping at the altar of work turns theboss

figure into a kind of deity.

She saved me, she saved Huck,

she saved Quinn, she saved you.”

Boar on the floor!” “I really I feel

Get down! Boar on the floor.”

[Oinking noises] [Laughing]

[Screaming] “I got it!”

Theres perhaps no better encapsulation of the boss-god

than Emilys worship of Miranda Priestly as an almost mythical,

superhuman being.

Shes the editor in chief of Runway--not to mention a legend.”

Many people turn to religion to make sense of the world.

But work wasnt designed to do such a thing --

as Derek Thompson writes in The Atlantic,

The modern labor force evolved to serve the needs

of consumers and capitalists, not to satisfy

tens of millions of people seeking transcendence

at the office.”

Thus, the root of the problem is that were told to look for

profound meaning in our work in the first place.

And the only way to be truly satisfied is to do

what you believe is great work.

And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

On the surface this may seem like good advice --

of your life is spent at work, so ideally that time should be

devoted to something you care about and enjoy.

But the constant pressure to love your job sets people up

to feel crushed when it doesnt unlock a deep

sense of fulfillment.

So just like Emily, from time to time,

many of us could stand to be reminded that

a job is just a job.

I hope you know that this is a very difficult job,

for which you are totally wrong.

And if you mess up, my head is on the chopping block.”

Emily is a model of what not to do in your career.

You may never ask Miranda anything.”

Its one thing to work all the time because

you genuinely love what you do.

You're off work, Cristina. Go enjoy your day.”

No, I'll enjoy my day if I can help retrieve a heart, I promise.”

But Emily never actually seems happy at Runway.

So until she decides that you are not a total psycho,

I get the lovely task of waiting around for the Book.”

During her time there, she sacrifices her sense of self,

and self-respect, for the job.

Under the pressure of her industry, she goes on starvation diets,

You look so thin.”

Do I?” “Yeah.”

Oh its for Paris, well Im on this new diet,

its very effective. Well, I don't eat anything.

And then when I feel like I'm about to faint,

I eat a cube of cheese.”

and comes to the office even when shes terribly sick.

How's the cold doing?”

Like death warmed up.”

She gets hit by a car because shes so distracted running

an errand for Miranda -- showing how her commitment

to work is literally putting her life at risk.

And if she continues on this road, like

many an addict, she will kill herself.

This disregard for her own well-being suggests

that Emily doesnt really value herself.

What took you so long? I have to pee!”

What? You haven't peed since I left?”

No, I haven't. I've been manning

the desk, haven't I? I'm bursting.”

Shes internalized the negativity that

permeates Runways workplace culture.

It's just Miranda wanted some scarves from Hermes.

And she did tell me yesterday, but I forgot like an idiot.”

And Emily is well on her way to a problem facing many in

the overstretched millennial workforce:


Buzzfeeds Anne Helen Petersen named millennials

the burnout generation.

"You deserve paid work."

"I can't get paid work. I just graduated from

Cornell with a business degree. That's the worst Ivy.”

Thompson argues that this is due to a combination

of student debt, entering the workforce post-recession,

and the way social media has heightened the pressure to

present an image of success to ones peers.

Meanwhile, instant communication has

made it so there is no clear work/life divide anymore.

Andrea, Miranda decided to kill the autumn jacket story

for September and she is pulling up the Sedona

shoot from October.

You need to come into the office right this second

and pick up her coffee order on the way.”

The romance around work strategically glosses over

the fact that being a workaholic isn't

a choice for most of us.

To jobs that pay the rent.” “Yes.”

To jobs that pay the rent.”

Our countrys policies essentially force people

to work a lot.

We get little vacation time, new parents arent

guaranteed paid leave, our healthcare system

makes many people reliant on their jobs for insurance,

and even getting welfare assistance

usually requires proof of employment.

And a study by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth

found that because peoples output cant always be

measured in a concrete way, companies tend to

unconsciously use working hours andfacetimeas a way

to estimate their employeesproductivity and commitment

to their jobs.”

He's in here every night at 9:00. Every morning at 8:00.”

But in the long-run, workaholism doesnt

serve employers well either.

People who are overworked are less productive and more

likely to make mistakes.

Oh, my God. I just can't remember what his name is.

I just saw his name this morning on the list It's--Oh, I know this.”

Even if you dont care if the rest of your life falls apart,

you still shouldnt be like Emily because

her non-stop-work style doesnt help her get ahead.

How does Miranda show her appreciation for the way

Emily is killing herself for this job?

Details of your incompetence do not interest me.”

Shes been at Runway longer than Andy,

but the new girl with no experience overtakes

her in less than a year to become Mirandas

preferred assistant.

I need the best possible team with me.

That no longer includes Emily.”

After Miranda betrays Emily by choosing Andy

to accompany her to Paris, Emily still returns to work

for this person who clearly does not value her.

By the end, Andy is pursuing her real dream

of being a journalist, while Emily hasnt

moved forward an inch.

You have some very large shoes to fill.

I hope you know that.”

Employees need to have boundaries,

but Emily doesnt have Andys instinct to question

conventions that seem ridiculous and downright cruel.

One time an assistant left the desk because

she sliced her hand open with a letter opener and

Miranda missed Lagerfeld just before he boarded

a 17-hour flight to Australia. She now works at TV Guide.”

At a certain point if you want your superiorsrespect,

you need to assert yourself.

You're never going to get that corner office until you

start treating Don as an equal.”

As we discussed in our Miranda video,

Andys show of self-respect is what earns her a second

look from Miranda in the first place.

I'm smart, I learn fast, and I will work very hard.”

Meanwhile Emilys haughtiness towards

Andy reveals that she isnt able to see past

appearances to the deeper qualities that an employer

might value, like having a unique voice and

take on the world.

I mean, I have no idea why Miranda hired her.”

Career excellence requires other qualities in addition

to devotion and long hours.

Emily plays too much by the rules, she doesnt

invest in other areas of her life, she loses

her joy, and most importantly, she doesnt

put herself before the job.

I refuse to be sick.

I'm wearing Valentino, for crying out loud.”

Shes so fixated on whats required of her

that shes willing to efface her identity.

You do not talk to anyone. Do not look at anyone.

This is of the utmost Importance, you

must be invisible. Do you understand?”

This makes her a good assistant,

as thats a role that requires supporting

someone elses career, but workaholism alone

will not make you the next Miranda Priestly.

I love my job, I love my job.

I love my job, I love my job,

I love my job.”

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