The late 90s and early 00s saw an influx of hyper feminine female protagonists; whether that was Cher from Clueless (1995), Torrance from Bring it on (2000) or the most popular bitchy female to grace our screens, Regina George from Mean Girls (2004). Arguably the female protagonist who stands out the most to me is Elle Woods from Legally Blonde (2001). Her all pink outfits, her little chihuahua and degree in fashion merchandising are the definition of hyper feminine. Her character is based around the stereotypical ‘Dumb blonde’ yet uses this stereotype and her unconventional intelligence to prove those around her wrong.
When her misogynistic ex-boyfriend Warner asks her how she got into Harvard Law school she simply replies, “What like it’s hard?”. This quote singlehandedly demonstrates her capability and her effortless intellect which allowed her to attend the same school as a man who struggled to gain entry. He states in the film, “If I want to be a Senator, I need to marry a Jackie, not a Marilyn”. This direct comparison between Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Marilyn Monroe, promotes the idea of pitting women against each other based on their appearance and in doing so suggests to its female audiences that this is something that they should get used to. In reality, both Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, had thriving careers despite working in different fields and sporting different hair colours. Unfortunately, Elle’s drive and determination to join Harvard was to impress said ex-boyfriend, but we’ll ignore that, because within the film she realises she is worth more than a man, and instead focuses on the theme of self-confidence and female friendships. This in turn proves that she can be successful whether she is a Jackie or a Marilyn, as she befriends Warner’s new girlfriend, Vivian e.g who he believes is more of a Jackie.
Growing up, this message, and the idea that we shouldn’t base intellect and academic achievement based on how somebody looks was incredibly important to me. Legally Blonde has been my favourite film for as long as I can remember, having said that, the musical adaptation arguably is my favourite musical. As a result of this throughout school I wanted to be Elle, I geared my entire academic career to study Law in university. I was always academically driven, I would consistently get good grades throughout school, but I balanced this with my interest with beauty and fashion. I truly felt like I could relate to Elle Woods, and that is true to this day. I would always say “What like it’s hard?” and that would somehow inspire me to work harder to achieve my goals. Although, in the end I decided not to apply to study Law at University, I was advised by my English teacher to study something else instead and then do a conversion course. In doing that, I decided to study Journalism, Media and Culture instead, and it was the best decision I have ever made. I was able to then study Media Law as a module and dip my toe in to the world of law, but I was also able develop my love for writing. I narrowly avoided the male dominated world of law and instead entered the slightly more competitive male dominated world of journalism instead.
Elle Woods is the definition of don’t judge a book by its cover, and as a woman I always feel like I am prejudged by how I look or how I act, and people automatically assume I’m less intelligent as a result. I was always told that I should have been born a blonde, due to my tendency to have the odd dull and ditsy moment. I find it utterly insane that somebody can be characterised based on their hair colour, there are plenty of blonde females who achieve greatness, like Hilary Clinton for example. I didn’t notice the lack of prejudice against my brunette hair until I bleached it to go blonde. My mother, a blonde since birth, had warned me of the narrow-mindedness of people and their preconceptions of various hair colours, but I hadn’t realised the reality until I changed my own hair. Having dyed my hair a variety of colours over the years including, purple and blue, I am now well aware of the prejudgement people have towards anyone who even slightly wants to express themselves, this became apparent in school when I was ordered to dye my hair back.
The sequel, Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde (2003), continues to challenge this stereotypical image of blonde women and the connection between hair colour and intelligence. Within this film Elle demonstrates her legal ability as she moves to Washington DC to fight animal testing. When she begins working alongside the local congresswoman, she is dubbed “Capitol Barbie”, which connotes she doesn’t fit in to their political world as she is too busy emulates the characteristics of a Barbie. The irony of this is that Elle Woods was later turned into a Barbie by Mattel, which allowed girls globally to look up to their favourite unconventional law heroin.
That is probably the best way to describe her, an unconventional law heroin. She inspires women of all backgrounds that it’s ok to be different in their desired fields, and even if they aren’t the conventional stereotypes of women in those fields it doesn’t matter. Her father himself stated that “Law school is for people who are boring and ugly and serious”, and without a doubt she not only proves him wrong, but also the general traditional misconceptions that people have of law school. She may not be Harvard’s usual intake, but she used her non-traditional intelligence and common knowledge to win her case, whilst also demonstrating that it’s ok to wear pink in a courtroom. Personally, Elle Woods proved to me that I shouldn’t care what people think of me, I shouldn’t let them judge me based on how I look, and I shouldn’t have to prove that I am good enough, because I know I am! What like it’s hard?
Image courtesy of Georgia Hunt