I think Legally Blonde is severely underrated. It was such a popular movie that I’m sure most people who haven’t seen it only know what saw in the trailers that played repeatedly. And those trailers pretty much highlighted one aspect of the movie: blond girl goes to Harvard! Hilarious!
Because really, Legally Blonde is much more powerful than that. Yes, Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) is rich and gorgeous. But it’s still a movie about acceptance, and really more than anything having the confidence to come into your own. Post-undergrad Elle thinks her boyfriend, Warren (Matthew Davis), is going to propose to her but he dumps her instead because he needs someone “more serious.” And it sucks, because Elle loves him, and anyone who has been in a relationship where their love was completely unappreciated can feel the pain that would come with getting dumped when you truly thought you were getting proposed to. And, like many a 22 year old, Elle decides it’s a good idea to attend Harvard Law School, where Warren is going, to win him back. I don’t know about you, but I can honestly say I’ve been in relationships where I thought of every possible way to “get him back” and would have, at certain times, done anything. So even though Elle is very outwardly confident and outgoing, uprooting her whole life just to follow a guy who’s not even nice to her shows her vulnerability and true lack of confidence.
Everyone at Harvard thinks she’s stupid. I graduated from an art school as a Writing major and I can’t do anything visual arts related with any kind of skill, which doesn’t exactly make you popular at art school. Particularly in my freshman year, once my lack of visual skills was apparent (usually within the first class), most of my classmates would not give a shit about me. It was like it meant I wasn’t interesting enough to talk to or worthy of their time or something. So when everyone treats Elle like shit because they think she’s stupid (even though she got into the same school they did), it felt very real to me, despite Elle’s looks. She befriends a local manicurist, Paulette (Jennifer Coolidge), who is the first person in Cambridge to treat Elle like she’s a person worth even looking at. Paulette is incredibly shy and has next to no self-esteem, which Elle continually helps her with. But Elle isn’t taking pity on Paulette, she’s helping her but also helping herself. Elle is the kind of character that wants to help and gets genuine joy from it, so everytime she helps Paulette she’s really giving her own self-esteem a boost, too.
When Elle realizes she “will never be good enough” for Warren, she starts excelling in school. When she gets an internship at a prestigious law firm, she very slowly starts to become more accepted by her peers. But when she wins the case completely on her own, it finally comes full circle. By the end of the movie, Elle has graduated, long forgotten about Warren, has friends, and a healthy relationship. It’s extremely satisfying to see. Elle in the beginning makes sense, but when you see Elle in the end she truly has grown and become a better person.
What I like most about Legally Blonde is the fact that Elle is never mean. She sticks up for people she doesn’t know, she’s nice to people even when they’re mean to her face, and only when she’s tricked into wearing a costume at a non-costume party does she call someone a bitch (and it’s warranted, come on). She also never changes everything about herself, even if that would have made so many things easier. Elle wins her big case by combining what she’s learned in law school with what she knows just from being herself (she catches a witness lying once she realizes that the witness said she showered right after a perm). I just love it and I think that Elle is a deceptively good role model for women and a just a great character all around.
When I think of this movie I think of TBS. I remember this being played on that channel non-stop. I never really had any desire to watch it. I thought it would just be cheesy and lack any kind of humor it might think it has. However, I really liked it and it was solely due to Reese Witherspoon. She did a great job acting and her character was fantastic. She was smart and likable. It’s terrible how female characters are represented in movies so often. I think many could take a hint from Legally Blonde on how to do it well. The whole premise of the movie was pretty great and funny. Not what I was expecting at all.