Girl falls in love with boy. Boy breaks up with girl. Girl gets into prestigious law school to win back boy. Girl realizes law is more important than boy. Boy realizes boy is dumb. Girl wins as lawyer. Girl falls in love with newer, better, smarter boy. Girl graduates at top of her class. Ensue applause.
That’s the gist of Legally Blonde, better known as the movie that made people realize that you can be blonde, own a chihuahua, love pink, be in a sorority, AND kick ass as a brilliant lawyer at Harvard Law School. Shattering the stereotypes of both the valley girl and the stuffy sweater, this movie turns 15 today.
In honor of Legally Blonde’s 15th anniversary, we’ve compiled a list of 15 feministastic lessons it taught us.
1. Even when people don’t believe in you, chase your dreams anyway.
No one thought Elle would make it in the beginning. She was a fashion major and a sorority president, and no one actively supported her desire to go to Harvard in the beginning. She didn’t care.
2. Don’t assume you know everything about a person based on her appearance.
Fuck that. As feminists, we know this so dearly to be true. Elle wasn’t the only one judged for her appearance—so was Warren. Everyone assumed he was smart just because he was a white dude. Everyone assumed Ali Larter’s character was a murderous gold digger just because she was significantly younger than her husband.
3. When everyone else is wearing black, don’t be afraid to wear pink.
It’s a well-known truth that Elle Woods isn’t afraid of standing out. Why is that? Oh, right. She’s completely comfortable in her own skin. Seriously, that kind of confidence is enviable.
4. When you’re the laughing stock of the party, own it.
“When I dress up as a frigid bitch, I try to look less constipated” is one of the most iconic insults in hertory. Words can hurt. What doesn’t hurt is watching Elle totally OWN this bunny costume, even when she’s in line at Apple getting a laptop. Sidenote: those laptops look archaic. Why are they so big?
5. It’s more important to keep someone’s trust than it is to win an argument.
Though Brooke (Ali Larter’s character) could have gone to jail, she trusted Elle with a secret that could have destroyed her business. Not only did Elle win Brooke’s complete trust, she kept it, even when breaking that trust seemed more convenient. Doing the right thing isn’t always (actually, it’s hardly ever) the easy thing, but that’s no excuse to avoid it.
6. Sometimes it’s the small victories that matter most.
It wasn’t difficult for Elle to get Paulette’s dog back from that flea-infested human buttcrack. It was, I’m assuming, a brief drive, and she didn’t even break a sweat when she was telling off the moth-eaten patch of pubic hair. But look at how happy it makes Paulette! She’s wanted her baby back for so long and now they’re reunited! Go out of your way to help people, even if it’s inconvenient. You might not get to know the impact you make, but that doesn’t matter—no good deed goes unpunished.
7. Speak up. Your words have value.
It’s irrefutable that Elle is wicked smart. Though it doesn’t always seem like she’s putting her intelligence toward the best of purposes (stealing a man back is a questionable pursuit), when she shifts her focus about halfway through the film, it’s like watching a rocket take off. One of the best examples of this is when she’s in class and completely rips apart Vivian’s argument with a few words. Speak up. Especially when you KNOW you’re right. Because your words make a difference. Your words have value.
8. When you fail, fail forward.
How many times do you think Elle failed her LSAT practice tests before she took the real test, twice, and passed? Probably a lot. Did that stop her from studying even harder and then trying again? No. Not until she succeeded. She never gave up on herself. And neither should you—when you fail, fail forward. We learn more from our mistakes than our successes.
9. Forgive the people who deserve it. Forget the people who don’t.
Once Elle and Vivian gave each other a chance, they became great friends. Elle didn’t extend the same courtesy to skeevy Professor McCallahan, and she left him behind to do better things. While it can be hard to tell when someone is worthy of your time, you’ll never regret taking a chance on someone who’s vulnerable with you.
10. When your dreams shift course, chase after them anyway.
Elle couldn’t have predicted that after graduating from University of California, Los Angeles with a degree in fashion merchandising, she would be chasing after the “man of her dreams” through studying at one of the best law schools in the world. She definitely had no idea that, even after realizing she was wrong about said dream man, she found her new dream of becoming a lawyer. You can’t predict where life will take you, but it’s better to jump on the train than sit on the tracks and let it hit you.
11. When you’re sad, be sad.
When Elle and Warner broke up, did she jump start on her new goal right away? No. She wallowed. Wallowing isn’t always a bad thing—when you’re sad, let yourself be sad. Don’t deny your feelings because if they get bottled up, that bottle’s going to explode when you least expect it.
12. Don’t wait to do great things until you have a degree that says you can.
On Elle’s campus tour, everyone in her group had a fantastic backstory. Whether it was community service in a developing nation or massive, organized social activism, none of those kids waited till after they had a degree to be awesome. If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do but never felt qualified enough, believe in yourself. You might be surprised at what you can accomplish.
13. Soulmates come in unexpected places.
Emmett was a teacher’s assistant for one of the “best” professors at the school, and he and Elle, a misadventurous sorority woman, met on a bench after she was kicked out of her first class. Emmett, wise and beautiful, gave her some advice. He was the first person at Harvard who didn’t assume she was a blond bimbo, and it was a perfect meet-cute. You never know when you’re going to meet your ideal partner, and chances are it won’t be at your brightest, shiniest moment. Who cares? Be ready for it anyway.
14. Be unapologetically yourself.
In case you never noticed, Elle’s personality leaks into everything she does. She brings a feather pen and heart-shaped notebook to class, she sets up a treadmill in her dorm room, she wears pink to defend her client, Brooke, in court. Bruiser is a faithful companion on her campus tour, despite being the only four-legged friend in the group. People believe in her because she’s authentic. Be like Elle—be authentic, even if it makes you vulnerable. It’s a risk worth taking—people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
15. Invest in yourself.
Study, study, study. Then do. Books are a great reference material, but they’re no match for real life. You don’t know everything about child abuse because you read the minutes of a civil suit. You should learn everything you possibly can about what you want to do, and then go do it.
Now go check out this video of Reese Witherspoon (the fantastic Elle herself) teaching you how to do the Bend and Snap, and #ThinkPink ladies.
Bottom photo via Instagram.
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