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Analysis of Rhetoric in The Devil Wears Prada Film Adaptation

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The Devil Wears Prada film is the adaptation of the Lauren Weisberger’s novel with the same title. The story is about smart and recent Ivy League journalism graduate Adrea Sachs who is looking for a writing opportunity in New York times but happens to land on a job as a second assistant of Miranda Priestly who is the Editor-in-Chief of a leading fashion magazine Runway and is considered a legend in the industry and is famous for her ruthless attitude towards her employees. The movie and novel are a beautiful interplay of visual and verbal rhetoric. The storyline glances on the perks and survival in the fashion industry that requires certain body shape and expectations which can affect the personal life of individuals working in this industry. Leitch’s argument on Adaptation theory: “novels allow the readers to read the verbal texts ‘paced and inflected any way they like’ and films provide ‘prescribed, unalterable visual and verbal performances’” helps the case study to look at the rhetorical gestures and the fashion industry norms presented in the film through the analysis of hybridistic frame in visual and verbal performances.

Perhaps the most efficient distinction between the novel-to-film adaptation is that: “Film’s written-text (screenplay script) is verbally interpreted by teams to translate it into ‘performance text’ that demands the verbal interpretation by cast and audience whereas ‘a literary text requires (verbal) interpretation only by its readers’” confirming this film’s approach in which actors take their lines from a written screenplay and perform these lines in their own ways. This helps to bring the story closer, as with character’s body language, facial expressions, gestures, and appearances even if the film left out the visual rhetoric, the audience would still be able to infer what’s going on, what they’re thinking, and what they’re trying to express. The scene where Miranda tells through her facial expression (a nod, pressing of lips, shaking of head) to the designers what they can publish in Runway is a verbal breakdown of visual notes. This game of visual turned verbal notes confirms the interesting theory of Leitch: “gaps in characters allow the reader to fill in the blank, which makes the work successful.

This film uses verbal cues in the visual frame as well as interprets the visual imagination of novel and tries to give as many “telling details” as it is presented in its novel but with its own visual perception of fashion industry validating Leitch’s remarks: “no intertextual model is adequate to the study of adaptation if it limits each intertext to a single precursor”. All the emotions, attitude, and messages are conveyed through facial expressions, body gestures and unspoken behaviors that fill the screen with the backstory of unsaid emotions. The first interaction of Andrea with Miranda or any other person in Runway office is a powerplay of verbal rhetoric in a visual frame as camera shoots Andrea from head to toe whenever she meets new person and clearly gives an expression that they are unimpressed with her appearance and for them she doesn’t belong here. This interplay of visual and verbal rhetoric is one of the significant aspects of this film that it is ‘comprehensible even to less attentive viewers’.

The purpose of adaptation is to enhance the meaning, make it understandable in any medium, and to view the original work through alternative lens, and this film uses hybridstic frame to deliver visual and verbal messages simultaneously at several points. As the beginning of the movie shows the fashion industry norms and demands of the society; every woman in Prada heels and branded costumes with a size 2 body shape is headed towards her job, verbalizes a visual message that everyone has to stick to societies norm otherwise they will be judged on their appearance in their workplace. Andrea’s first visual appearance in baggy blue sweater with leather shoes, tossing eyes in nervousness, and shy smile on the screen makes an unsaid verbal statement that she is against the fashion world and is misfit in this world. Farther in the film, this verbal tone turned into visual rhetoric as Andrea is called by a nick “size 6” and constantly being told that “Nothing can fit you” because everyone here is size 0 or size 2.

Rhetoric is a human use of symbols to communicate: ‘Visual rhetoric is the actual image rhetors generate when they use visual symbols for the purpose of communicating’. Considering the rhetoric of visual symbols in this adaptation, the linguistic message of this film uses coded-iconic message approach to create a fashion film genre. As the use of famous Elias Clark publisher building and talk of all the big brands like Chanel, Jimmy Choo, Sephora defines the untold yet shown branded aspect of the film, that this fashion industry is based only on big fashion brands and models, and no ordinary person like Andrea can relate to this industry unless she also becomes one of them. Every new scene starts with naïve Andrea running in a loud crowded Newyork streets for Miranda’s chores depicts that life working on Runway is also crowded with lots of employees, and you have to leave your personality traits and have to follow both the norms of Fashion industry and your brains to get on top, otherwise you will be lost. Hence the visual rhetoric in this film made the audience to dive in and chase the verbal message as a general audience and fill the gaps to its literal text on its own. 

The adaptation’s after interval scenes where Andrea’s makeover and her visually unsaid statement but effort to be a part of the fashion industry makes her closer to Miranda. Lastly the intertextuality in adaptation involves the visual, aural, and verbal signifiers to present the message to the outside world and it’s a treat to watch the visuals “read”.

Works Cited

  • Leitch, Thomas M. “ Twelve Fallacies in Contemprary Adaptation Theory” Foss, Sonia K. “Theory of Visual Rhetoric, Chapter 9”

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Analysis Of Rhetoric In The Devil Wears Prada Film Adaptation. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from
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