What Does a (Realistic) Portrait of the Modern Magazine Business Look Like?

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Photo: Courtesy Everett Collection

It’s a notably rough time to work in Hollywood—that is, apparently, unless you’re an executive tasked with rebooting once-successful movies and TV shows. For those types, business is booming: Practically every piece of pop-culture-defining media from the aughts has been resurrected recently, from Gilmore Girls to Sex and the City to The L Word. So, maybe it’s only natural that a sequel to a little 2006 film by the name of The Devil Wears Prada is reportedly in the works at Disney.

The plot will allegedly follow Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly, legendary editor of Runway magazine, as she “navigates her career amid the decline of traditional magazine publishing and faces off against Blunt’s character, now a high-powered executive for a luxury group with advertising dollars that Priestly desperately needs.” Hmm, a movie about how there’s no money left in digital or print media? Sounds like something I can really escape into!

As much as I’ve enjoyed my many hungover Sunday-morning rewatches of The Devil Wears Prada over the years, I have to admit that I don’t see a lot of my experience at Vogue—or any other women’s media publication I’ve worked for—reflected in it. Mostly, this is a very good thing, although I’m not going to lie: I wish the notion of just “popping into the closet” and coming out with Manolos in every color of the rainbow were real. (Don’t cry for me, though; I haven’t paid for candles in five years.)

However, I still take solace in the few movies and TV shows that do capture at least part of the fashion-girlie experience. If the powers that be at Disney know that’s good for them, they’ll revisit these and take note:

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I spend less time doing romance-based stunt journalism than I would like, but I have to admit that this rom-com’s depiction of a women’s-media workplace as essentially a soft, comforting womb for women and gay men to pitch their wildest ideas feels accurate (if necessarily mired in the aughts). I love eating salads and talking to my coworkers about breakups, what can I say!

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One thing I appreciate about this show is its commitment to chronicling the sheer amount of free sex toys that health and wellness writers are sent. Other standout details: protagonist Jane and her besties taking over the fashion closet for emergency summits (you just know the rest of their colleagues hate them) and the parent company of the magazine they work for randomly changing hands from “Steinem” to “Safford” in the second season, with nobody ever acknowledging it. Is this a world in which Gloria Steinem owned a media empire, and did she get laid off in this world?

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Imagine if I came into a Vogue pitch meeting one day and just totally changed what the magazine was, as protagonist Jenna Rink does at Poise—seemingly on a whim, and with no regard for audience demographics or how this shift would affect her staff, most of whom presumably signed on to work at an adult women’s magazine and not a middle-school yearbook. Call me a hater, but this plot point has always bothered me! That said, the scene where everyone actually has fun at the fashion party always hits right, because in my experience, fashion people love to dance, especially if there are cocktails and passed apps involved.

Protagonist Hannah Horvath’s unbridled joy at learning that her Condé Nast advertorial job includes a cornucopia of free snacks (including lox! I could cry!) is possibly the realest portrayal I’ve ever seen of working in post-aughts digital media.

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To quote Carrie Bradshaw (and myself after every cafeteria holiday party), “I’m drunk at Vogue!”