Feminism In The Film Legally Blonde

Legally Blonde is the perfect film depiction of the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. The movie follows Elle Woods, a bubbly blonde who had it all. She lived a life of excess, was the president of her sorority, and had a promising future as a fashion merchandiser. Elle was the IT girl, who was adored and loved by everyone around her, except for one person – her long term boyfriend, Warner who broke up with her before going to Harvard Law School because she wasn’t good enough. Elle was determined to win Warner back, so she enrolled herself at the school to prove Warner that she can be smart and serious. However, things changed when she discovered her passion for law. Elle’s journey of winning her boyfriend back quickly became one of self discovery and fulfilling true potential, she worked hard and believed in herself even when she was a misfit at her school. With the support from women in her life, Elle managed to overcome stereotypes and obstacles along the way. This ultimately led her to winning a major legal case at her Harvard Law internship. Although Legally Blonde is a lighthearted and carefree movie, the story covers important topics such as patriarchy, sexism, and stereotypes. This paper delves into the correlation between the film and feminist theory, and breaks down the different waves of feminism using characters presented in the film.

Legally Blonde is a movie that emphasizes on girlie feminism. Girlie feminism, a subcategory of third-wave feminism, is a notion that a person can be a feminist while still being feminine. Because femininity is associated with the color pink, this became the color palette in Legally Blonde. Pink is expressed through Elle’s outfits, stationery, and resume, which is an index to her compassionate and energetic personality. However, Elle’s barbie-like wardrobe and etiquette only led many people to believe she is a ditzy dumb blonde. This can be seen through the way Warner and her parents treat her. Warner broke up with Elle because he believes that she isn’t smart enough for him. He tells Elle, “If I’m going to be a senator, I need to marry a Jackie not a Marilyn.” This proves how little Warner thinks of Elle, despite how much he claims to love and care for her. This statement was reinforced when Elle told her parents she wanted to go to law school to get Warner back. She was excited, though her parents weren’t keen of the idea. They believed that going to law school was redundant because Elle’s beauty itself would lead her to a path of success. This implies that Elle’s values were set since she was young. She was expected to become a model or a trophy wife. Throughout the film, Elle encounters people who pigeonhole her. She was also ostracized and degraded by her Harvard peers because she doesn’t embody a traditional law student. However, instead of giving up, Elle uses her discrimination experiences as stepping stones to become a successful law student. She never loses her identity and continues to rise above people’s expectations of her. Elle is the epitome of girlie feminism and the proof that a woman doesn’t need to give up their femininity to be treated equally.

Besides girlie feminism, women empowerment was a prominent theme in the film. Legally Blonde highlights the importance of women empowering each other rather than tearing one-another down. This is seen through the continuous support Elle receives from her sorority sisters. Though they didn’t understand her decision to go to law school, they helped Elle study for the LSAT and took part in her video admissions essay. Elle later befriends a cosmetologist, Paulette who also embodies supportive sisterhood. Elle was blessed with a group of women who believed in her, even when everyone else doubted her abilities. The film demonstrated the impact of women in unity and how an act of encouragement from one woman can change another woman’s life. Professor Stromwell, who was viewed as an unfavorable character initially, became one of Elle’s biggest allies when she wanted to give up pursuing law. Stromwell tells Elle, “If you’re going to let one stupid prick ruin your life, you’re not the girl I thought you were.” This indicates that Stromwell has always believed in Elle and her aspiration to become a lawyer. On the first day of school, Stromwell had her leave class because she was underprepared. Women being kind to each other was a quality trait Elle adheres as a third-wave feminist, and so she expected empathy from Stromwell when asked about her assigned reading. Instead, Stromwell asked Elle to leave class and only return when she’s prepared, which humiliated her in front of her classmates. This scene made it clear that they both share different mindsets and feminist ideologies. Elle from third-waves feminism employs girlie feminism, while Stromwell represents a second-waves feminist.

Second-wave feminism is a notion that in order to be taken seriously, a person must reject femininity as a whole. Feminists in the era are denied the access of girly stuff such as having painted nails and dolls. This includes wearing colors that distinguish women from men in the workforce. Stromwell, a second-wave feminist, wears dull colors throughout the film. Her wardrobe is conservative and plain, which suggests her professionalism in the workforce. Although her hair is blonde like Elle, it is short and less shiny. Third-wave feminism is the reclamation of femininity. It recognizes that fighting for equal rights and enjoying fashion aren’t mutually exclusive. The movie proves that a person’s values, self-worth, and intelligence aren’t measured by their feminine side; hence, Elle’s wardrobe is stylish rather than traditional. Her clothes are fitting and modest, which accentuates her curves while still looking professional. It can be seen that the colors in her outfits progressively get muted to blend in with Harvard pupil; nevertheless, her signature color pink was still incorporated into her outfits.

In addition, the film shows sexism in the workplace. During Elle’s internship, she and some students were chosen to work on a high profile murder case. The case involves a famous fitness guru, Brooke who allegedly killed her husband. In pursuit to prove Brooke’s innocence, Elle and Brooke became friends due to their common ground. They were both from the same sorority house and lived in California. This led Brooke to trust Elle more than her other attorneys, specifically Professor Callahan. Callahan, who was seen as a notable man initially, became an unfavorable character when he sexually harasses Elle. His misogynistic behavior was revealed when he assures Elle that she can only become a lawyer if she sleeps with him. Moreover, Callahan marginalizes Vivian by making her do secretarial work such as getting coffee, rather than working on Brooke’s case like the rest of her peers. Elle and Vivian were both subjected to Callahan’s sexist treatment, even though they have proven their capabilities to be successful law students. He is a representation of sexism, an issue feminists have been working to dismiss since second wave. Another male character that resembles Callahan is Warner. They do not share feminist ideologies, based on the way they treat women. Warner argues that women like Elle cannot become lawyers because of their femininity, while Callahan believes that women can only achieve success with the help of men. These are examples that fall under patriarchal problems. Throughout the film, Elle struggles to be seen as a capable woman. To the public eye, she was a beauty without substance. Her intelligence was only fully recognized when she won the murder case, proving Brooke’s innocence and revealing the culprit. Legally Blonde acknowledges the importance of not judging someone based on their demographic profile. Stereotypes and preconceptions are hindrances to knowing a person’s story, so it is important to show empathy and kindness towards people. This is the quality a true feminist adheres. The film also prioritizes women’s education and careers over romance – something that’s not seen in many rom-com movies today.

14 May 2021
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