This article contains spoilers! If you haven’t watched Legally Blonde by now you really should!
If you can believe it or not it’s been TWENTY YEARS since Elle Woods graced our screens back in 2001. It’s wild to me that this film is officially older than a huge portion of the students at this university… Anyway, I don’t want to discuss my own fears of ageing, instead I’m going to ask whether Legally Blonde is still the smash hit today that it was back then. Grossing $141 million worldwide, the film was considered a financial success, despite being considered mediocre by critics at the time.
Is it still a hit today?
YES, yes, a thousand times yes! And that’s the problem. While some of the characters and plot lines are somewhat questionable (Mr and Mrs Woods, I’m looking at you), the majority of the central themes portrayed throughout the film are still relevant. For example: the perception of Elle as being a dumb blonde, despite her success in the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test). We still jump to conclusions about people’s intelligence, specifically women’s intelligence, based on their appearance. Or how her ex-boyfriend Warner Huntington III (yes, I know how that sounds) needed daddy to bump him up the admissions list to get into Harvard in the first place. Sadly, the mantra “it’s who you know,” is still present in certain circles. I’ll get into the juicier scandals shortly.
While the setup of Elle deciding to go to Harvard Law to prove to her ex that she can be “a serious woman,” is questionable, (there are MANY other ways to get over an ex?? And the idea that Elle isn’t serious because she studies fashion is infuriating), straight away we see all of her LA girlfriends supporting her on her quest. She smashes the LSATs, submits her admission video, and drives across the country to Massachusetts to start Law School. When she arrives at Harvard she is immediately judged by her peers on her appearance, regardless of the fact that she earned her place there through hard work (in the same way everyone else did). In my experience as a woman, my intellect has been questioned based on my appearance and I can guarantee that most women out there will have experienced something similar.
We see Elle roaming the halls of Harvard on her first day where inevitably she bumps into Warner. His surprise at seeing her there partially rests on her lack of interest in law throughout the whole of their relationship, but more heavily on his disbelief that she is smart enough to be there. Tip: don’t be like Warner.
Over the academic year Elle studies hard and earns a coveted place as an intern at Professor Callahan’s Law Firm, working on the defence of a murder trial. Elle gains the client’s trust and proves her loyalty by choosing not to reveal the accused’s alibi, much to the disbelief of the rest of the panel. Finally the trial is here, and Callahan calls Elle into his office where he, yes *cringe* you guessed it, makes a move on her, saying that he knows how far she will go to get what she wants. I hate this scene so much, annoyingly the audience can see it coming. Callahan chose Elle as his intern so he could get something on the side and reward her with a position as a summer associate at his firm. Despite how hard Elle had worked and earned that internship fairly, Callahan chose her because of her looks. While, fortunately, I haven’t been in this position, I still believe things like this happen in the workplace today. Women are still chosen for certain roles based on looks, not their work and achievements, if they’re considered over a male candidate in the first place.
Shockingly, that isn’t even the worst part (in my opinion). Vivian, Warner’s new girlfriend who has finally warmed up to Elle following a rocky start, sees Callahan touch Elle’s leg without hearing his speech leading up to it, and chooses to believe that Elle slept her way to the internship position, rather than trust Elle. Twenty years on I think women are much better at supporting other women, but we can always do better.
Don’t despair, Elle gets the ending she deserves. Her client fires Callahan and promotes Elle after hearing what he did to her and her LA friends show up to watch her get a confession from one of the witnesses based on her knowledge of haircare. Remember, keep your perm dry for at least 24 hours!
We can all be more like Elle, we can all work hard to prove people wrong. Or we could change those perceptions in the first place! Don’t judge people based on their appearance, and definitely don’t be a Warner.
Image: Wikimedia Commons