Legally Blonde came out nearly fourteen years ago. Yeah I know. We all feel old. When I first saw this movie I was too young to know what feminism was but after watching it, I was struck with pride when I saw Elle’s growth from a man-obsessed sorority girl to an empowered successful lawyer and it sparked something within me that I can only call my "feminist awakening."
I think we should talk about Legally Blonde way more than we do because Elle Woods is perhaps one of the greatest feminist icons of pop culture. It is important to note that Legally Blonde isn’t a romantic comedy, not in the way we traditional know romantic comedies. At the beginning Elle was on a mission to land a husband and yes, she does end up with a guy at the end. However, Elle’s story is not about Emmett or Warner, but rather, she ends up with a good guy at the end of the movie as a side note. This film is not about romance or men, it’s about an extremely intelligent woman coming into her own and recognizing her full potential.
Here are some of the reason Elle Woods should be hailed a feminist icon.
Firstly, when Elle decided she was going to follow Warner to Harvard, no one doubted her ability to get in. They knew it would be difficult but all her sorority sisters were with her. They helped her study and continued to push her when they knew she could do better. It is important to note the sisterhood in this movie: no one was trying to pull Elle down but rather, they helped her reach her full potential.
Once she got to Harvard she realized that there are more important things than chasing after boys. After she helped Pauline win her dog back from Pauline’s ex-boyfriend, Elle began to see how practicing law can really make a difference in people’s lives. When she won a spot in Callahan’s internship program she admitted that seeing her name on that list was so much better than being with Warner. Through these experiences Elle begins her development into a strong career woman.
Girls are far too often mocked for being too “girly” or “feminine.” Society consistently tells girls that being too feminine is equal to being weak. Elle experiences this during her time at Harvard. Several of her peers ridicule her for being too girly and feminine, however Elle never doubts her herself because of her beliefs in her abilities. Even though her femininity is seen as a weakness, in the end, it proves to be a strength.
Elle is all about sisterhood and the empowerment of your fellow woman. At first, Elle and Vivien are pitted against each other because of Warren, who was Elle’s ex-boyfriend and Vivian's fiancée. After Vivian humiliated Elle at her party, Elle decides to prove Vivian wrong by becoming the student she knows she can be instead of getting even with Vivian. The best revenge is proving the haters wrong. However, when Vivian comes to Elle, Elle does not treat Vivian with any resentments, she welcomes Vivian. Elle ends up developing a deep and lasting friendship with the woman who is seen as her competition. Again, showing the sisterhood women should have rather than competition. Elle proves that girls need to stick together. Elle creates a take-charge environment and instills confidence in the women around her. She empowers Pauline to fight for her right to see her beloved dog. Also, many of the conversations Elle has with other women are about law and/or other aspects of her academic life.
In the end of the film, Elle graduates top of her class and with several job offers. Her perseverance and determination to prove that she was more than the box that society tried to fit her in—a blond, dumb sorority girl—should be an inspiration to us all. Elle proved that what people perceived as weakness can actually be a strength. Legally Blonde has and will continue to empower women to go after what they want with unstoppable determination and will.
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Gabriella Giambanco is currently a Pre-Med student at Northern Arizona University. In her spare time she enjoys writing about pop culture and feminism.