Written by: Karen McCullah Lutz & Kirsten Smith
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson, Selma Blair, Victor Garber, Jennifer Coolidge
As obvious as it may be at this point, judging a book by its cover should not be a way to measure someone’s aptitude. It only represents one aspect of them, where more can be within what can be seen. Breaking the perception of what appears on the outside brings all of the fun in Legally Blonde as it shows the uphill climb the lead character has in being taken seriously when she pursues a different career path.
Majoring in fashion merchandising, Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) has life pretty much figured out with anticipation of her boyfriend, Warner (Matthew Davis) proposing for marriage. When it completely falls apart because Warner does not see Elle as marriage material, she decides to prove him wrong by also going to the same law school, Harvard.
Perceptions of blonde women stem from misogynistic viewpoints that have somehow managed to remain in some circles where no sane person would like to stay for too long. It makes using someone as seemingly ditzy as Elle Woods to break down this misogynistic viewpoint so beautifully fascinating. With her original intentions of going to Harvard Law being to win back Warner’s affections and proving herself as serious wife material, no one around her even gives her a chance. Her parents state it would be boring to be a lawyer, her career counselor believes it’s a bit ridiculous Elle wants to apply only to Harvard, and even her own friends who show support initially cannot fully understand the persistence. This, of course, becomes the defining charm of Elle Woods as this feature becomes about proving people wrong at every turn.
The way different characters in the film treat Elle really serves as a barometer of their level of misogynistic thinking, especially when she gets to Harvard. There’s really no other way to look at it because Elle took the same LSAT, went through the same application process, and showed the same rigor. Consequently, for her to receive the initial disrespect she does in this feature shows the aggressors look down upon her because of her peppy attitude and the fact she wears plenty of pink. The insults usually occur because of what they perceive about her, and part of it comes with being blonde. This does not solely exist with the male characters, as this occurs on several occasions with the female ones as well showing this misogyny runs deep, especially at a traditional institution at Harvard.
While having to deal with pests doubting her, the highly positive tone of this feature allows it to be a bundle of fun in the way Elle accomplishes everything her doubters believe she cannot accomplish. From acing questions she initially bombed, this level of persistence really can be a beacon of hope to break through barriers and perceptions of what these stuffy academics try to do with their gatekeeping. Yes, she can have a colorful personality and still thrive as a Harvard Law student. No, she does not have to be elitist in her approach to other people, especially when she surpasses them much like how others treated her at first. This ray of positivity continually uplifts the film and allows it to be endearing all of these years later.
With all of its comedic gaffes this film has from beginning to end, it also contains so many fun and memorable lines. I mean, who could forget the bend and snap Elle teaches her nail stylist, Paulette (Jennifer Coolidge)? Then you have the dismissive comment Elle lays down to Warner about the difficulty of getting into Harvard. So many to choose from and it meshes so well with the larger theme of women in this feature standing up for themselves and not being so afraid to state what they want, particularly around men. This occurs for Elle when she realizes she deserves more than Warner and the boring life he would have offered her. The same goes for Paulette in standing up to her ex regarding the dog she loves very much. Simply delightful and incredibly uplifting in such a fun and comedic way.
Legally Blonde lives and dies with Reese Witherspoon and this remains her defining role throughout her illustrious career. She simply dazzles as Elle Woods in making her such an iconic character. Witherspoon combines the conviction of her ways along with the ditzy look to the character, which makes her a victim of ridicule from academics. It matches up so well and I could not fathom any other acting stepping into this role and delivering the same type of genius she does here.
Bundles of fun, stereotype-breaking, and extremely uplifting, Legally Blonde remains a wondrous delight to nestle into and enjoy. To this day, it has so many lovable lines and never has its protagonist go below the belt with her comments, even if she has every right to. It becomes the definition of killing them with kindness and its lasting power has stayed strong for all to enjoy. A wonderful little jewel and one I absolutely love.