Legally blonde celebrates 20 years


Courtesy of ABA Journal

Allie Nichols, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Legally Blonde celebrated 20 strong years of release as of July 13. The movie stars Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods, a spirited blonde who believes she has life all figured out, but when her dream of becoming Mrs. Warner Huntington doesn’t come true, she realizes she must make some changes. She realizes she’s too “blonde” according to Warner himself, portrayed by Matthew Davis. Elle leaves behind her sorority Delta Nu to pursue a career in law and follow her ex-boyfriend to Harvard. Although the actors are the literal stars of the film, the nature of Elle, main storyline, and root messages steal the show considering they have resonated with audiences for two decades. 

The movie took a typical stereotype- dumb blonde- and built a character and persona then expounded on it, producing the entirely original and iconic Elle Woods. While she still falls under conventional notions about preppy girls- pink, glitter, smiles- as seen in her Harvard video essay, Elle also has many other winning characteristics such as her extreme attention to detail, consistent kindness, and forceful dedication. All of these qualities come into play the most prominently in the final awe-inspiring court scene as well as other scenes.

The film follows Elle’s transformation from a girl going to Harvard for her ex to a future lawyer preparing to be a partner in a law firm by the age of 30 without a bonehead boyfriend. Although the main arc reflects Elle’s discovery of her own identity apart from Warner, it also expresses narratives about Elle’s relationships with other females- specifically Vivian (Selma Blair) and Paulette Bonafonte (Jennifer Coolige). 

While Vivan acts as the competition for Warner’s love in the beginning, at the end of the story, Elle and her become best friends and realize they don’t need a man to be happy. Something many fans may really appreciate is the fact that Elle doesn’t take the catty route- attacking character flaws or physical assault- when “fighting” Vivian; instead, she makes a few fashion jabs, tries to be civil, and even has a couple touching, girly moments with her before ultimately becoming her equal. This sends the message that even if one doesn’t like a colleague, they can always be tolerant, not talk bad about them behind their back, and even be friends. 

On the other hand, Paulette is Elle’s first friend in New York. With her, Elle is able to practice law, rant about life, and show the big apple how to flirt through the bend and snap. Elle becomes the ultimate female best friend for Paulette with unmoving support and fashion advice. She’s just as crucial to the female empowerment storyline for Paulette sends a message of self-confidence. She starts the movie as a shy woman who looks down on herself, but by the end, she’s sporting vivid fashion and a new boyfriend, courtesy of Elle’s advice.

While Elle can be a ball of high energy and seem like an airhead, she actually displays attributes of a strong and independent woman, even while dating Warner. At the beginning of the movie, she goes out with some friends to buy a dress for her date, and the saleswoman attempts to upcharge her by saying the piece is one of a kind and perfect for her. Elle uses the Socratic method- a trait of a true lawyer- and asks her all these questions about the dress while already knowing the answer before pointing out that she saw it hanging on the sales rack when she walked in. The saleswoman is tricked and fumes off. This goes to show that giggles and money don’t always equal stupidity. 

Elle studied hard and stayed true to herself to get into Harvard. While it was a close call, the board members have no idea how much she gave up. She missed all of her favorite college pastimes just to get a boy. While he didn’t even deserve it, her dedication is consistent throughout the movie. Even when working on the big case, Elle knew her client was innocent and even kept her promise to not tell anyone why she knew loyalty. On a personal level, she stumbles a bit, falling into a monotone fashion sense while working on the big case, but she comes back head to toe in pink and wins as herself. Even though Legally Blonde may come off as a bland chick-flick, like Elle, it contains many layers of love, intelligence, and sophistication.