Throwback Thursday: Pop Arts Revisits…Legally Blonde!

Hello! Happy Thursday to everyone. For those of us in the UK, the weather has taken a steep and swift turn towards the autumnal, despite it being August, with our last Bank Holiday weekend approaching. Sigh.

Due to summer busy-ness, we’ve skipped a fair few Thursdays, but I can’t think of a better way to restart than with the gloriousness that is Legally Blonde.

Legally Blonde is often pigeon-holed and dismissed as a chick flick, which infuriates me. Am I a girl? Yes. Do I like girly, overtly feminine things? Yes. Do I like watching films about romance and love and puppies and shit? Dear God, YES. Do I like the term ‘Chick Flick’? Hell no. ‘Chick Flick’ is patronising on all sorts of levels. Clearly, it donates a film that is apparently for women, but more specifically than that, a ‘chick’. I feel like I get dumber by association any time someone refers to me as a chick, y’know? Added to which, ‘chick flick’ doesn’t even get the honour of being called a film, it’s a ‘flick’ – a throwaway, silly thing.

On the surface, I suppose Legally Blonde does seem throwaway and silly. Blonde, pink obsessed, California sorority girl goes to Harvard Law School with the sole intention of convincing her ex-boyfriend to marry her. Simple, right? Except that it is so much more than that and totally blows away any nonsense terms like ‘chick flick’.

(Please note: the discussion below presumes you’ve seen Legally Blonde. Which of course you have. RIGHT?)

1) Elle Woods is a great character.

Reese Witherspoon plays Elle perfectly because she plays her straight. Witherspoon doesn’t treat Elle, her scenes or her lines as dumb or fluffy, though that’s clearly what we (and many of the characters) are supposed to think. Elle is honest, kind and hard-working. She is determined, funny, thoughtful, intelligent, tenacious and loyal. She also loves cheesy soap operas, high heels, flirting with boys, parties, dressing up, small dogs and pink clothes. What’s so great about Elle Woods is she gets to be all these things. She’s a well-rounded person and the films proves to us over and over again, that despite being persistently dismissed as an airhead, as shallow or ‘too pretty’ by other characters (including her parents), Elle shows up, kicks butt and demonstrates that you can be both super girly and one hell of a lawyer.

2) The friendships

Legally Blonde shows us a sweet, positive image of sororities. All the girls are rooting for Elle and helping her achieve what she wants, even when they don’t really understand why. Two people who never doubt Elle for a second are her best friends, Margot and Serena. They help her study, encourage her to go after what she wants and travel across the country to show up for her first day in court. They love Elle and they think she’s awesome, no matter what. The stark contrast then presented in the form of Vivian (Selma Blair) is clear. Vivian represents the antithesis of Elle and her friends; a girl who can only humiliate, tear down and criticise. Admittedly, she knows Elle is keen to win Warner (now Vivian’s fiancé) back, but her snide remarks always fall flat in the face of Elle’s sunny attitude.

Elle does find strength and support in Paulette, her manicurist (Jennifer Coolidge), Brooke Wyndham, her client (Ali Larter) and of course Emmett (Luke Wilson), who all encourage her and inspire her to keep going, even when her studies seem overwhelming, even when she’s lonely and tired of being ignored and pushed around. What’s great about the friendships portrayed in Legally Blonde is they’re all reciprocal. Elle gives back that support in whichever way she can.

3) The Elle Code

Elle often operates on a higher ethical and moral level than many of the other characters. Her chasing after Warner is the only really questionable thing she does. She is unfailingly nice and friendly to…pretty much everyone, shows kindness where none has been shown to her, and forgives people’s mistakes and missteps.

She also operates with great dignity in her professional life, refusing to divulge Brooke’s alibi and somehow making it work, rejecting Callahan’s advances and taking the advice of her (non-sleazy) professors. All of which shows that you can continue to be nice and retain your principles while still getting ahead.

4) So much positivity!

An overarching theme of the film is its unfailing positivity and optimism. Legally Blonde is trying to show a super feminine woman who is getting shit done, while managing to be girly, sweet and nice at the same time. Kick-ass ladies in film are so often grumpy, terse and not even slightly girly; as if behaving like the most masculine man ever (also a cliché) was the only way to go. Legally Blonde takes a different tack and comes up with a feel-good plot and heroine. Elle goes to Harvard to chase her ex, yes. BUT she learns while she’s there that her life’s purpose isn’t to be somebody’s girlfriend. Turns out she loves the law and is really good at it. She gets to pursue a serious, useful profession that will allow her to affect change in the world, whilst retaining her identity and fashion sense.

5) You guys, its super funny.

 

Case closed. Do yourself favour and sit down with Legally Blonde this weekend. You won’t regret it.

P.S – Special shout out to the musical, which is probably the most fun I’ve ever had in a theatre. Seriously.

 

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