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Movie Review & Analysis: “Legally Blonde” (2001)

Charlene is a Film and Television major. She is a big fan of Disney, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Stranger Things.



  • Production companies: Type A Films, Marc Platt Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
  • Release date: July 13, 2001
  • MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • Runtime: 96 minutes
  • Genre: Comedy

So you’re breaking up with me because I’m too… blonde?!

— Elle Woods

When Elle Woods’ boyfriend, Warner Huntington III, breaks up with her because of his career path and her personality, she decides to apply to Harvard in order to be considered more worthy by him and win him back. She is accepted, but throughout her time there, she gains a new passion for law and learns that she doesn’t need a man to define her.

Characters and interactions

Reese Witherspoon’s portrayal of Elle is outstanding. Elle is admirable as a bubbly, sweet, and charming protagonist. She’s the type of character to root for; she is the type of person who is a good role model for young girls. As rich and privileged as she is, she is still kind and respectful to other people. Even when she puts her efforts into getting what she wants, she never puts anyone down and instead offers advice to those who may need it.

It is, at first, a bit questionable that she makes a major life decision centered around one person. However, the major decision she makes works out well for her in the end. When she asks Warner “I’m never gonna be good enough for you, am I?”, it is at that moment when she realizes that she shouldn’t want to impress him or gain his approval. Warner is not worth her attention, time, or energy, so her time at law school ends up not being about Warner, but about challenging and discovering herself.

The best part about it is her confidence and determination nearly all the way through. She almost gives up, but she eventually is able to follow through with what she put her mind into. By devoting herself to her studies, Elle breaks the dumb blonde stereotype and proves that she is more than just a pretty face. Instead of trying to win back her ex like she had originally intended to do, she becomes determined to succeed in an environment where people do not take her seriously. She doesn’t even change herself in order to succeed—she stays true to herself and works to get what she wants.

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Elle’s “What, like it’s hard?” line to Warner is iconic. She later finds out that Warner’s dad had to make a call to Harvard after Warner got waitlisted. Warner may be academically smart in some way, but he only gets into Harvard because of his dad pulling strings. Elle, on the other hand, gets in on her own merits. Near the end of the movie, even after Warner is impressed by Elle, she rejects him for being shallow.

She still radiates a positive attitude while acknowledging that people at Harvard do not like her, but even with her positive attitude, it is nice whenever people do appreciate her. Emmett and David (and Professor Stromwell) are great supporting characters, especially Emmett. Most people at Harvard negatively judge Elle except for them. David is nice, and Emmett is one of the few there who believes in Elle unconditionally and takes her seriously. Even when she struggles, Emmett stays by her side throughout her time at Harvard. Outside of Harvard, Elle’s friends and sorority sisters are also kind and don’t fall under the snobby stereotype. They may look superficial, but they are still supportive of Elle and help her achieve her goal.

The only real flaw I have with this movie is when Elle assumes Enrique is gay just because he correctly identifies her shoes. It is based on the stereotype that only feminine men are gay. However, this is only a minor flaw and doesn’t detract from the movie at all. The rest of the movie is still fantastic on its own. Besides, Chuck’s (Enrique’s boyfriend’s) only line is hilarious and carries that whole scene.

Feminism and intelligence

Although the word “feminism” sometimes has a negative connotation to it, to which many think of it as being the same as misandry, I instead believe in the dictionary definition of feminism. Its denotation is “the belief that women should be allowed the same rights, power, and opportunities as men and be treated in the same way.” It is not about misandry, sexism, or female superiority. It is about advocating for equal rights and opportunities for people of all genders. It involves valuing the different experiences, identities, skills, and strengths of women. And that is what Legally Blonde does: it presents Elle as helpful in a predominantly male field, all while being fashionable.

There seems to be a societal idea where a woman must choose between being feminine and being smart, which is sexist in of itself. Intelligence is not a “masculine” concept, and it is entirely possible to like things that are seen as feminine and be smart at the same time. The movie proves that a love for fashion does not make any person dumb—it can be surprisingly useful. The ending court scene is pretty empowering, as Elle’s knowledge of fashion and hair helps her win her first legal case. Since most people are not familiar with hair maintenance procedures, Chutney’s story of the murder is believed to be true, and they fail to recognize any discrepancies in the story. The only person to notice the discrepancy and thoroughly unravel the falseness of the story is Elle, who is an expert on hair and fashion. Elle excels at a trait that other people dismiss as being typical of a dumb blonde. She embraces her femininity while being an awesome and increasingly serious lawyer.

What causes Elle to nearly give up at Harvard is Professor Callahan, who turns out to be a disgusting and unprofessional person after he tries hitting on her. This is an embodiment of why objectification is harmful. Even when women showcase their efforts and abilities, they are sometimes only seen as objects to be toyed with. Elle’s reaction to Callahan’s behavior is genuine; she feels grossed out and demeaned. Fortunately, the other characters support Elle, encourage her to return, and condemn Callahan. In no way does the movie belittle Elle’s feelings—her feelings are valid. Harassment is unacceptable, and it is this subplot that encourages women to report harassment whenever it occurs. Ignoring it does not hold the harasser accountable, which is why it is important to take action. Lucky for Elle, Callahan suffers the consequences of his actions when Brooke fires him and Emmett quits his job with him. What happens to Elle also teaches the lesson that women’s experiences and voices deserve to be heard. No one has less value as a person just because they were harassed. Elle has the right to be treated with respect, especially since she has done nothing wrong.

Again, Elle is smart. She has a 4.0 GPA (before attending Harvard), gets a 179 on her LSATs, and has leadership experience. That is pretty impressive, and it shows that she has been smart from the beginning. Just because she likes pink and values her appearance does not make her any less of a person. Intelligence shows in many different ways. Elle doesn’t change her looks or style in order to be regarded as smart by others. Instead, she makes people believe her intelligence through her knowledge. Even with its feminism, there is still a general message: be sure to focus on yourself no matter what anyone says, and never change who you are to be someone else’s definition of intelligence.

In conclusion

Elle is truly an inspiration. She proves to Warner and everyone else that she is capable of anything she sets her mind to. This is a great film to watch and is one of the most empowering movies for women. Sure, it is a bit cheesy and unrealistic at times, but it teaches several valuable lessons that make the movie that much more lovable.

The movie also proves that it is possible to create a strong female character without tearing down men as a whole. Elle is complex. She lacks a defensive attitude, has her own flaws, and never digs at men (except for when it’s actually necessary, like for Callahan). A lot of people assume that feminist films are all “women are perfect, men are bad” films. This is not one of them.

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