20 Years Later, Right here’s What ‘Legally Blonde’ Obtained Proper And Unsuitable
Twenty years in the past this month, a blond Harvard regulation pupil who unapologetically beloved Barbie colours, manicures, blowouts and scented résumés entered our film theaters and received over hearts.
The 2001 movie “Legally Blonde” starred Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods, a girl who initially applies to Harvard Legislation College to win again her faculty boyfriend, Warner, who broke up together with her for not being severe sufficient. When Elle realizes that Warner won’t ever suppose she’s adequate, she decides to turn into a lawyer herself and show her haters mistaken.
Her quest to turn into a lawyer regardless of snobby fellow college students and skeptical buddies, household and regulation professors grew to become a media franchise that features a film sequel, Broadway musical and a future third movie. Elle Woods has been referenced in an Ariana Grande video and have become a profession inspiration to ladies. Witherspoon informed an interviewer in 2017, “A minimum of as soon as per week I’ve a girl come as much as me and say, ‘I went to regulation college due to “Legally Blonde.″’”
However what about “Legally Blonde” stills maintain up relating to its messages about profession and work? After I first watched the movie as a child, I keep in mind being dazzled by Elle’s pink glittery outfits and oohing at her courtroom triumph when she used her data of perm upkeep to assist win a homicide case.
Now, in 2021, clunky Mac desktop computer systems are now not en vogue and the early 2000s vogue ― Tiffany necklaces and all ― feels nostalgic. However there’s nonetheless quite a lot of the movie that continues to be related. Right here’s what nonetheless rings true ― and what positively doesn’t ― in regards to the movie’s tackle careers and success.
It precisely portrays how cultural match and connections can matter greater than grades.
When ex-boyfriend Warner condescendingly tells Elle she received’t get the coveted internship he desires as a result of “You’re not sensible sufficient, sweetie,” Elle shoots again, “Did we not get into the identical regulation college, Warner? … We took the identical LSATs and we’re taking the identical lessons.”
However left unstated within the movie is that Elle and Warner, who attended the identical California college and sure did quite a lot of the identical extracurriculars as different rich white faculty college students, additionally share an analogous pedigree that helped them get into an elite regulation college.
We discover out that Warner, who has a number of politicians in his household, had his dad place a name to get him off of the waitlist at Harvard. However Elle used her connections, too, simply ones which might be much less appreciated by this patriarchal society. To face out from the gang of Harvard candidates, Elle hires “a Coppola” to direct a video admissions essay of herself in a sizzling tub and round her sorority home.
Shocked and awed on the sight of Elle, the all-white male Harvard admissions board involves fast settlement to take an opportunity on Elle, declaring that she has been in a Ricky Martin video and is a fake fur panty designer. “Aren’t we at all times searching for range?” one quips.
The scene inadvertently exhibits how ridiculous elite admissions processes may be, counting on irrelevant, subjective components like extracurriculars and private networks to make life-changing choices about who belongs in an establishment. Utilizing the metric of cultural match over who has actual aptitude for the place is an sadly actual follow outdoors of flicks, too, and it’s a dynamic “Legally Blonde” captures nicely.
It nails the betrayal felt when quid professional quo occurs within the office.
Lengthy earlier than the #MeToo motion, “Legally Blonde” confronted sexual harassment within the office. Callahan, the regulation professor who mentored Elle in her internship, asks to see her alone in his workplace.
First, Callahan praises Elle’s courtroom abilities, saying she will probably be an important lawyer for following her instincts, then asks if she has thought-about her profession path. Elle says she has not however that she is aware of getting a summer time affiliate job is aggressive. Callahan explains that competitors is de facto about “realizing precisely what you need and the way far you’ll go to get it. How far will Elle go?” earlier than placing an undesirable hand on her thigh. Elle throws off his hand and storms off.
The subtext is evident: Callahan’s assist for getting an affiliate job is conditional upon Elle accepting his harassment. It’s a textbook case of quid professional quo sexual harassment, through which alternatives for development are conditioned on submission to unwelcome sexual advances. The harassment derails Elle’s confidence in herself and virtually causes her to drop out of regulation college as a result of she turns into satisfied Callahan gave her the internship solely as a result of he noticed her as a “piece of ass.”
However on the magnificence salon, Elle meets one other professor, Stromwell, performed by Holland Taylor, who delivers the film’s iconic pep discuss: “When you’re going to let one silly prick spoil your life, you’re not the woman I assumed you have been.”
Because of this, Elle stays true to herself, will get employed to characterize a shopper over Callahan’s objections and does find yourself graduating from regulation college with a prestigious job lined up. Elle has her success story, however Callahan’s transfer exhibits the challenges ladies face that may take them out of their careers earlier than they even start.
Nevertheless it doesn’t acknowledge the merciless abuse of energy Elle workouts over a witness in a key scene…
All through the movie, Elle’s data of magnificence, make-up and designer vogue is underestimated, despite the fact that it’s a useful asset that helps clear her shopper’s title within the movie’s climactic second.
“Legally Blonde” efficiently exhibits that the smarts that may make you profitable in your chosen occupation can come from many experiences, not simply from the superior levels already earned by Elle’s snobby, educated classmates.
However one key scene feels jarring now to observe. Throughout the homicide trial through which she assists, Elle makes a broad assumption that solely a homosexual man would know that her sneakers are Prada and believes this is able to refute the prosecution’s narrative that Elle’s shopper and a pool employee named Enrique are having an affair to swindle the sufferer. Elle will get one other regulation pupil to out Enrique throughout his testimony by asking Enrique what his boyfriend’s title is, and he solutions.
Enrique’s outing is framed as a rah-rah second of feminist triumph for Elle, who used data possessed by not one of the lead male attorneys round her to assist their shopper. However the truth Elle facilitates outing another person takes me out of the film now. It makes me really feel queasy to see Enrique Salvatore, the one Latinx queer character within the movie with a talking position, outed so cruelly.
…and “Legally Blonde” fully fails on the racial and ethnic range of an actual pupil physique.
Elle the intrepid first-year regulation pupil embodies an influence fantasy that you could embrace your femininity and love pink and nonetheless get forward in your profession, however in the end it’s a fantasy reserved for white ladies. The absence of individuals of colour in Elle’s Harvard pupil physique is evident. In 2004, when the film is meant to happen, the actual Harvard Legislation College wasn’t as white because the one “Legally Blonde” depicted. As author Ella Ceron factors out, that 12 months Harvard Legislation was about 52% college students of colour. The incoming class of 2023 is 47% college students of colour and 17% LGBTQ college students.
In the end, I nonetheless giggle and smile at Elle’s journey to turning into a girl who owns her ambition, and who will roar triumphantly when she finds out she will get a coveted internship that her no-good ex stated she was not sensible sufficient to get.
However I can longer purchase Elle as an outsider. The movie frames her as a cultural outlier at her regulation college as a result of she is from California, wears brilliant pink, and has a perky, cheerful character in comparison with her insular East Coast pupil friends who gown in muted, uninteresting colours. However now I see that whenever you take away her colourful outfits and equipment, Elle Woods just isn’t all that completely different from the established order of the folks in energy she desires to hitch. She suits proper in.