Elle Woods from Legally Blonde, We Salute You
With her love of pink things, tiny dogs and law, but Elle Woods from Legally Blonde is true to herself and an authentic feminist icon. Love you, Ellie.
Those of you who remember the early 2000’s might look back fondly on Reese Witherspoon’s portrayal of the delightful Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. If you were but a wee child, like I was when I saw it, you probably didn’t pick up on how wonderful that character really was. Even if you weren’t young, you might have dismissed it as a mildly entertaining but ultimately meaningless chick-flick. If this is you, read on! Because every human should aspire to be like Elle Woods.
Best ‘Legally Blonde’ quotes:
Elle: “I don’t need [backup colleges]. I’m going to Harvard.”
Warner: “YOU got into Harvard Law?”
Elle: “What, like it’s hard?”
Elle: [to Warner] “Do you remember when we spent those four amazing hours in the hot tub after winter formal? This [internship] is so much better than that!”
Elle: “I feel comfortable using legal jargon in everyday life. [someone wolf-whistles] I object!”
Elle is not as ditzy as she might seem.
When we are introduced to Elle in the opening scenes (with the camera panning slowly over various Homecoming Queen memorabilia, pink accessories and manicured nails), we’re already set up to view her as the stereotypical ‘dumb blonde’. The initial moments of the film don’t do much to change this, but once Elle gets into Harvard Law we start to change our reading of her. After excelling at her exams and outperforming most of her Law class, she also takes on an internship and solves a court case as an undergraduate – in her first year, no less! By the end of the movie she graduates with honours and proves herself to be a motivated, perceptive woman who trusts her intuition as well as relying on her wits.
Legally Blonde is not a rom-com.
This is not even a story about boys. Granted, her motive for entering one of the most competitive fields at a top-class university is to win her boyfriend back. However the focus soon shifts from her skeezy ex to her Harvard experience and the act of finding herself as a person. Warner becomes a mere aside to the activity of the film. In fact, when he comes crawling back to her she turns him down – she is mature enough to realise he would not be healthy for her. And although you know she’s going to eventually end up with the sweet older student, their relationship is merely a footnote at the end of the movie. We don’t see them get together. We don’t even see them kiss. The information fed to us by text just before the closing credits. The romance doesn’t matter – Elle is happy with her life and her accomplishments; she doesn’t need a relationship to make her whole. It is nice, of course, and we as viewers are satisfied to learn of this little cherry on top. But Legally Blonde doesn’t depend on men and the chasing thereof to create a stimulating plot.
She is a genuinely good person and social role-model.
Elle consistently treats people like human beings. When her skeezy ex-boyfriend gets engaged to another girl the movie easily could have become a Mean Girls-esque quest to ‘steal’ him back. But instead of spending ninety minutes trying to one-up her ‘rival,’ she befriends the girl instead. She offers muffins to the study group which has filed her as a shallow ditz. She helps an awkward classmate get in with the ladies, and empowers a friend after a difficult breakup. Even when she is tricked into arriving at a non-costume party in a pink Playboy bunny outfit, she allows herself one snarky remark and then carries it with grace and aplomb – “Oh, I just felt like dressing up.” She is also fiercely loyal, holding promises faithfully (which is contrasted strongly with her ex’s lackadaisical self-serving attitude), refusing to cave even under great pressure. Even when a professor makes a pass at her she strikes his advances despite the vendetta it would surely inspire.
Elle is unafraid of being herself.
In Law school Elle is always the outsider. Her bubbly personality and interest in fashion/shopping set her aside from the comparatively drab Law students, which earns her some mockery initially. She also faces pressure from her family and from her guidance counsellor to fit into a certain beauty-queen/model mould rather than follow her dreams. As she says, “All people see when they look at me is blonde hair and big bubbies.” But Elle consistently surprises the viewer and the other characters with her depth. She is bubbly but hardcore. She loves shopping and works hard for what she wants. She is dedicated and perky, she loves sparkly things and is fiercely driven. Elle is a far cry from general powerful film characters; she is powerful without having to show skin, hold a gun and strike a pose.
Why she’s a role model.
Elle shows women, girls and everyone that they don’t have to fit into someone’s generic interpretation of them. She shows us that it is possible to be taken seriously as a career person despite our looks and interests, whether we have a penchant for handbag dogs or sensible shoes. We can be attractive, committed, desirable and respected. We can be complex human beings with diverse interests.
And why is this movie dismissed as a silly chick-flick? Heaven forbid that the depiction of a strong woman with diverse interests becomes a dominant trend in films.
Bend and SNAP.