Legally Blonde: the true meaning behind this Rom-Com

Emily Aiken ‘20, Editor-in-Chief

When it comes to chick flicks, one of the first movies that comes to mind is Legally Blonde (2001). The movie is based on a book by the same title, written by Amanda Brown, using her experience at Stanford Law School as inspiration.

This classic rom-com follows Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon), a sorority girl who is madly in love with Warner Huntington III (Matthew Davis), but he breaks up with her because he deems her not serious enough to be married to. Specifically, he says, “Elle, if I’m going to be a senator, I need to marry a Jackie, not a Marilyn.” This leaves Elle absolutely heartbroken; so, to win him back, she goes to Harvard Law School, where Warner was planning to attend. On the surface level, the story may just seem like a movie about a sorority girl who goes to Harvard Law School in an attempt to get her ex-boyfriend back, but this story has a much deeper, more complex meaning. 

Wood’s character is ultimately the epitome of feminism, and this characteristic is shown throughout the entire film. In the beginning, her intentions of going to Harvard do not exactly fit the idea of feminism. However, as the story develops, so does her feminist narrative. But the audience does get glimpses of feminism in the beginning like when Elle is out shopping and completely shuts down the woman trying to scam her because she thinks she is dumb, or Elle’s complete confidence about getting into Harvard when she says, “I don’t need back ups. I’m going to Harvard.” Her dedication and hard work to get into Harvard also shows her independence. She gets in all on her own, and there are many scenes that show her studying and applying herself. Ultimately Elle is able to achieve her goals all on her own.   

While she has a rough start at Harvard, her professor Callahan gives her an opportunity to work as an intern on a murder trial. Throughout the trial, she endured many hardships, one of the biggest being that her professor hit on her. She turns down his advances, but that ends with her also quitting the case. At this point in the story, she has hit a low point. This confident and smart girl is now doubting herself. However, Callahan’s character gets removed from the case, and Elle takes over and ends up winning. In the end, Warner tries to get back together with Elle, but she responds with, “If I’m going to be a partner in a law firm by the time I’m 30, I’m going to need a boyfriend who’s not such a bonehead.” This ultimately shows how the male characters in the movie failed to realize Elle’s worth and everything she was capable of, and they were not important factors in her success. 

This movie does an effective job of taking the stereotypes of blonde sorority girls and challenging them. Other characters in the movie may see her as a “dumb blonde,” or “just a pretty face”. She is definitely not the typical Harvard Law student, and you can see this in the way that other characters react to her. However, Elle carries herself in a very confident and intelligent way and remains authentic to her character throughout the entire movie. 

This movie is almost 20 years old. Throughout the years, it has had a huge impact on its female audience. In an interview with The Today Show, Witherspoon said, “I’ve had more young women come up to me and say, ‘I went to law school because of Elle Woods.’ It’s very incredible to see how long movies can last and how important they can be to young people, generation after generation.” 

Like Elle Woods’ character, women have proven to be more than “just a pretty face”. Women have become more prominent in leadership positions and have ultimately pushed boundaries to ‘break the glass ceiling’. Even though it is almost 20 years old, this movie still has an impact and will continue to inspire generations of women in the years to come.


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