Voyou Désœuvré

…but communicative capitalism is interested in you.I was a bit surprised to see that Meryl Streep has been nominated for an oscar for her impersonation of Glenn Close doing Cruella DeVille. The whole premise of The Devil Wears Prada doesn’t really make any sense – surely PA to a magazine editor isn’t an entry-level job for someone who wants to be a journalist, but a job for someone with a lot of experience in being a PA? Still, there are two pretty great scenes in the film, and Streep is in both of them. One is towards the end, where Streep explains the dialectic of structure and agency to Anne Hathaway (who misses the point of course by running off and getting a different job, where she’ll still have to screw people over but will be able to pretend she’s doing it for a good cause).

Watch: Meryl Streep explains the role of immaterial labor in the construction of material reality

The best scene in the film, however, occurs near the beginning, where Streep explains the way in which the fashion industry has determined down to the smallest detail the “unfashionable” outfit Hathaway’s character is wearing. It’s a beautiful reminder of how much of our world is made, and who made it. And of course, that a communism that ignores and so thinks itself exempt from fashion (or TV or films or…) is “sort of comical,” or rather, absolutely blinded by capitalist ideology.


  1. Celebrity News » Anne Hathaway February 3, 2007 2:57 am, 1:20 am, February 3, 2007

    […] You may not be interested in communicative capitalism? One is towards the end, where Streep explains the dialectic of structure and agency to Anne Hathaway (who misses the point of course by running off and getting a different job, where she?ll still have to screw people over but will be … […]

  2. Dominic, 2:31 am, February 6, 2007

    It’s Chabert!

  3. voyou, 12:49 pm, February 6, 2007

    Wait a second, are you saying Chabert is really Meryl Streep? Do the people at The Weblog know?

  4. Dominic, 1:45 pm, February 6, 2007

    Chabert is all about that “the stuff you think you have ‘ironic’ distance from was totally chosen for you by the media-owning elite” stance – continually reiterating that the ruling class pwns j00. To whom was this meant to have been news exactly?

    Every now and then one of their facilitators makes some great show of breaking ranks and spilling the beans; for Chabert the moment of disclosure was evidently so delicious that it had to be prolongued for as long as possible…

  5. voyou, 1:29 pm, February 7, 2007

    Well, I think there is an idea on some parts of the left that there’s something outside of capitalist media, and we should talk about that, rather than watching TV,  which reaches its nadir in claims that not having a TV is somehow morally praiseworthy. Concentrating on the intentional actions of the media-owning elite tends to suggest this view.

    What I liked about The Devil Wears Prada, on the other hand, is that it is so splendidly structural: the fashionistas don’t care what people who get their clothes at Top Shop wear, but still capitalism binds the two together, and the material bound up with capital is the only material we have to work with.  Not so much “Rupert Murdoch owns you”, more “C4p1t4l is in ur social relations, exploiting ur surplus labxor.”

    More communist theory should be written in the style of Jeff K, I think.

  6. Stefan, 2:10 am, February 8, 2007

    “C4p1t4l is in ur social relations, exploiting ur surplus labxor.”

     I would like that written on a t-shirt.

  7. Stefan, 11:40 am, February 8, 2007

    Oh, and I don’t know where I clicked to get onto it but I ended up on your Last.fm page by mistake. Pleased to see The Supersonics in such a esteemed company as Kenickie and X-tina.

  8. rachelfmb, 7:17 am, February 9, 2007

     I think that Chabert is actually George Galloway.

  9. Anthony Paul Smith, 5:13 pm, February 11, 2007

    “C4p1t4l is in ur social relations, exploiting ur surplus labxor.”

    I have shamelessly stolen this.

  10. voyou, 11:50 pm, February 13, 2007

    Stefan, I was actually planning a line of t-shirts based on communist versions of internet catchphrases. I’ll let you know if they become available.

    Last.fm also claims the Supersonics have a track called “Arabian Dub.” That sounds fantastic.

  11. Dominic, 5:13 am, February 14, 2007

    communist versions of internet catchphrases

    “Information wants to be centrally managed”

  12. Stefan, 7:44 am, February 14, 2007

    Last.fm is sadly mistaken regarding the band I was in – I guess there must be another of the same name doing the rounds.

    Glad to hear of the possibility of my t-shirt dream becoming reality.

  13. dejan, 7:07 pm, February 18, 2007

    I am sorry for intruding belatedly on an old discussion, but maybe it is still worthwhile to comment.

    What you don’t seem to mention here is that the act of consuming ”The Devil Wears Prada”,  a film sumptuously and impeccably designed, perpetuates the very same Cinderella-style Hollywood myth fuelling the fashion industry, which it is half-heartedly dissing by making us aware of these (structural)mechanisms of exploitation.

    (The film perpetuates its capitalist ideology by smugly siding with ”the Communist”, as represented by Anne Hathaway. Precisely the moment when the Communist believes in the magic of the fashion industry is where a crucial falsification is made. I don’t think that in real life, she would necessarily be CONVINCED as she is in the movie. What if she was for example a feministically inclined lesbian who didn’t invest everything in Cinderella-style good looks?)

    So the film wants the exploitation to be structural. The film likes this mechanism. As Meryl Streep at one point generalizes, EVERYBODY WANTS TO PLAY THIS GAME – while in reality this is at best a dubious statement. (for example, I have absolutely no interest or libidinal investment in fashion)

    And being identified with Hathaway, you as a viewer become complicit simply by watching the film.

    So in a sense the film is plugging our fascination with structural philosophies into the cycle of capitalist exploitation – commodifying the structuralism, as it were.

    Going by the idea that the structure exists outside of our participation, I don’t know if we accomplish anything by not or refusing to watch this movie; but on the other hand, what do we accomplish by being impressed by its structuralism?

  14. voyou, 2:13 pm, February 20, 2007

    dejan, nicely put that the film positions Hathaway’s character as “the Communist” (and depressing, but not surprising, that her inoffensive mild liberalism is the furthest left Hollywood can imagine). But I think you misidentify the crucial falsification; it doesn’t come when Hathaway’s character buys into the fashion industry – that just sets up the real falsification, which comes when she apparently makes a moral choice by leaving the fashion industry. Meryl Streep is right to say that everybody wants to play the game, because we have no choice under capitalism but to play the game. What, after all, does Hathaway’s character do wrong, except try to get a job, and do that job well, in order to avoid starving?

    That some people on an affective level have no interest in playing the game is irrelevant, just as is your lack of libidinal investment in fashion. By our acts we show ourselves to be avid game players and avid fashionistas.

  15. Dejan, 2:37 pm, February 20, 2007

    but on the other hand her departure is motivated by a libidinal de-investment in Meryl’s relentless capitalist ideology, where both virtue and happiness are associated with huge success, and that really is a properly Marxist twist. In dissing victory over dead bodies, she is dissing the competition and narcissism of fashion, both of which are also tenements of capitalism.

    Now the question is why would the film adopt a Marxist trope in the end, if not so that the neoliberal, socialdemocratic paradigm may be championed of a society which allows the petit burgeoisie to park their asses comfortably in a quasi-leftist, harmless intellectual job – what I like to call ”champagne socialism” – which only PRETENDS to reject capitalistic ideology.

    Thus for me this the neoliberal Cinderella, actually.

  16. Dejan, 2:40 pm, February 20, 2007

    but anyhow this film is a sad-rag Americanization of ”Absolutely Fabulous”, where the criticism is GENUINE and MERCILESS, while here it’s a properly Hollywood criticism, watered down to the taste of a milkshake.

  17. Dejan, 5:58 am, February 23, 2007

    by now I must be riding a dead horse, but in a case of analytic flaccidity I didn’t even realize that I merely repeated and consolidated your very own point in this text, while what I wanted to say is following:

    the sexy structuralism which you mention (Miranda’s solliloquy) ie the thought that there;s no escaping capitalism, is FAVORED by this film and sold to us again by the film’s assertion that there’s no other recoding of Cinderella than a neoliberal one. The mechanism that the film parodies is simultaneously its own, well, structure.

    this is done for example by flatly refusing to parody the STUPIDITY of fashion itself, which is something that a show like AB FAB would do. For a degree educated girl like Hathaway (who clearly also has leftist leanings) it shouldn’t be very hard to deconstruct Miranda’s vane ways, and yet she seems so genuinely mortified by her and so completely immersed in the stupidity that you begin to doubt her intelligence.

    I think I;m saying that capitalism is just as stupid as communism, and that;s the real deadlock here…we need some other system…

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