“Whoever said orange was the new pink was seriously disturbed.”
By Pris M. ❤ @PrisMMartinez
This movie was one of my absolute jams as a teenage girl. I was so here for the Harvard experience where one could apply to a grueling post-graduate program with minimal planning AND be accepted AND have a dog AND go to a nail salon on the reg AND wear (and presumably afford) runway-worthy looks every day like it was NBD. Oh, how naive I was. And now look at me— #jadedacademic
So I decided to rewatch this film on a whim as I decidedly avoided completing a grant application. I lied to myself and said I could do both—yeah, I could NOT do both. But, no one’s really surprised, are they? Oh, well, #adulting and all that jazz. So a couple of sleepless nights later, here we are.
I will open this by saying—this is not a hate post of one Elle Woods, Esquire—how could we ever? But there are some things that I notice now that NEED to be addressed. So, are you ready for a trip down memory row? Let’s do this!!!
Se corre y se va con—
- OMG, that opening restaurant scene! Can you imagine? But, also, I break down like this when my dog Kiko is half-way nice to me. We have a complex relationship.
- Ooof, it is so heartbreaking to see that exchange between her friends and how flippantly they talk about and normalize their sexual exploits with their professors or TAs. As a TA at a UC, I get oh-no-this-is-way-too-intimate vibes just running into my students in Safeway liquor section…at midnight…on a Thursday—which has happened MULTIPLE times. [shudder]
- Me trying to awkwardly explain away the copious amounts of cucumber vodka and white wine in my cart to said students.
- That admission video though.
- You KNOW those old men took home personal copies. Gross.
- Let’s be honest, the only real questions they posed after that video were—A) But, does she come from a rich family? AND B) Can we get her family to make a large, non-refundable donation just to get her foot in the door? #jadedacademic
- Guys are dicks. That guy didn’t have to treat her that way. And, is it just me, or does he look like a young, spiky-haired Ethan Hawke?
- [Cringe] Those roundtable intros though. That pain is real, Superficial intros are the actual stuff of nightmares.
- Enid is awesome, but, also, NO.
- Ha! I don’t believe these are newly-minted Ph.D.s! Where’s the weariness? Where’s all the premature white hair? The gut? The sallow skin? The wrinkles? The general look of unwell-ness? I CALL BULLSHIT! #jadedacademic (also, this is my new favorite GIF of all time)
- Eeeewwww, to THAT guy in the beanie. There really is one in every seminar. If you don’t think so, that person is PROBABLY YOU. No shade, but also IMMENSE SHADE.
- Is Bruiser like an emotional support animal, because UCSC was having none of Kiko when I applied for grad school.
- That outfit though! I’m all for that mermaid scale skirt. I am even digging the Glam-Heff robe look, but I’ll be honest as a WOC I couldn’t pull it off— people would think I was a transient of sorts… -_- … “No, seriously, I go here. Don’t call the cops.”
- “What? Like it’s hard?” I still use this in my day-to-day life. Second best line in the entire movie. But then I’m also like, “Oh, it probably wasn’t hard for you privileged, rich white girl.” Bummer all around.
- I don’t like this predatory teaching methodology and this pitting of woman against woman. Can we just not?
- This did make me fall in love all over again with Luke Wilson. He was definitely one of the top baes in Little Pris’s leading-man Rolodex—right after Tom Hanks and John Cusack. Little Pris has mature tastes even then.
- I am sorry but Warner is giving me a serial killer vibe. Is it just me?
- Oooo girl, that “diamond” no—it looks hella fake. Like from a candy machine kind of fake— What was the budget for this movie? I demand answers from the costume department.
- “Pooh Bear” as term of endearment is a hard pass.
- Jennifer Coolidge, finally!!!!!! Breathe life into me! She was and still is my queen!
- “What’s this Vivian got that you don’t have? Three tits?” Hands down best line of the whole movie!
- Did this trick just turn towards Elle mid-answer and stare her down then resume answering? [Begins taking earrings off]
- Aww that is so sad the way her friends just talked all over her.
- Ugh, why is Vivian so mean. Elle is obviously a genuinely nice person. That is trash. We’ve talked about this—stop pitting women against women. #trashhollywoodtropes
- Elle, honey, a bunny costume is a bit much for your first event, no? Costume party or not, that was a bold choice.
- Oooo, Vivian, that Barbara Bush turtleneck/jacket combo is a HARD no.
- Enid, that’s too much. Is this what people actually think academics are like?
- “I’m never going to be good enough for you, am I?” Oof, that was some straight up realness. My heart hurts.
- [Purposely ignores introspection and quickly changes the subject] OooOOO, Luke bae is back!
- Oh my gods! I so wanted that laptop!
- Bruiser is the most sedate Chihuahua of all time. I remember one of my tias had a pair of Chihuahuas, and I am pretty sure they were possessed by malevolent spirits—like, for reals though.
- This scene where Paulette stands up to her emotionally abusive Ex to get her dog, Rufus, back was everything to me as a child. Even then I realized this was the ultimate power move—Slay, Queen, slay! “I’m taking the dog, dumbass!”
- I am not going to lie—it may be the wine, but I’m actually tearing up. This is just such a powerful moment.
- And this is also the first time I noticed that her Ex lives in a trailer in a back alley— Whose tio is this? Someone better come claim him. Like, what is he even doing there?
- “And for that matter, every masturbatory emission where his sperm was clearly not seeking an egg could be termed reckless abandonment.” Oh my gods! I am almost thirty and I FINALLY get this. TOTALLY missed that as a teen. Good job, sexually-repressive private Christian school. You kept me in the dark about this for almost twenty years!
- Aww, I love the beautiful friendship between Elle and Paulette. I’m here for it. Can we have more of these buddy comedies?
- That first day internship outfit! I want. I think I could work a ruffle polka dot top. [Opens separate Chrome tab for Modcloth.]
- Chutney? Ugh—rich white people and their names. You done messed up, A-aron!.
- Awww, Paulette, you are every one of us.
- Can we also just take a second to acknowledge the awesomeness that is this tiger t-shirt/denim vest combo?
- “You have all the equipment, you just need to read the manual” Third best line in the whole movie.
- Wait—Elle’s mom taught her the “bend and snap” when she was in middle school!?! NOOOO, I call foul.
- I’ll be honest, I always wished that I could be a part of a “bend and snap” flash mob.
- I admittedly tried to perfect this all the time when I was alone in my room. You know, just in case that moment ever came. But, alas, I got nothing nothing to show for it but headaches and scratched glasses. Because YOU KNOW my super thick glasses went flying across the room from the immense power of my snap.
- Even though I am nearing my thirties, I kind of think it might still happen.
- “Who cares about Brooke, think about yourself” “I gave her my word, Warner” “So. What?” Yeah, Vivin you better look down and away—
- Ugh, don’t go out with those tricks, Russian Lit Bae, if they can’t handle you in your elbow patches, they don’t deserve you at your academic-sex-god best.
- Okuuurt, Vivian, you let that inner chismosa out.
- Paulette’s killing it in that floral crop denim jacket. Was she the OG Beyonce? Don’t @ me on this.
- And then you beeeennnd anD SNAP—Oh, fuck, concussion.
- ^Also the face I make when I’m trying to flirt with my personal Aaron Samuels^
- I am offended by this one-two queer and Latinx stereotype combo in the character of Enrique. #trashhollywoodtropes
- “Gay men know designers,” and “He listened to a Cher tape once.” Yeah, y que?!
- Also, if I am being totally honest, when I first watched this I didn’t fully understand what “being gay” actually meant OR that there was even a very definitive sexual component to it all. The actual meaning of “gay” fell somewhere on the spectrum between “effeminate” (which was a bad thing for guys) and the abstract idea “sodomy” (which was always thrown around, but never actually defined). Christian private schools, y’all.
- BUT also, call me crazy, but does this La Virgen sequin jacket ^ actually work?!?!?
- So, let me get this straight—Chuck went to the courthouse to sit in on a trial to support his lover perjure himself about having an affair with a married woman. But the straw that breaks the camel’s back is when Enrique states that Chuck is just a friend? Um, okay??? Chuck, babe, think this through. I think your relationship has bigger problems.
- Eeeeeeeeeewwwww the #MeToo scene— ugh, okay, let’s get this over with
- This did always make me wary of closed-door meetings and forever-marked this actor as untrustworthy to me . I mean, not quite Lupe Ontiveros status, pero casi.
- Ugh, and then, in a true the sign of the patriarchy, Vivian turns on Elle and not Callahan. Why is this our conditioned visceral response?
- Even my knight in shining armor Emmett is shocked that Callahan felt her up, BUT doesn’t do anything!?!?!? WHY are you complicit in this system???? #trashhollywoodtropes
- AND even the esteemed Professor Stromwall knows BUT she chooses to place the burden on the student and NOT her colleague? [Chants] “SHOW ME WHAT COMPLAISANCE-Y LOOKS LIKE” “THIS IS WHAT COMPLAISANCE-Y LOOKS LIKE”
- The worst he gets is being called a “scum bag”? What is this 2018? Boo.
- Ugh, we all need to be better. This stressed me out. Let’s have another drink. Just trash.
- The pink power suit! Do I need to invest in sequined sash belts?
- Yeah, Gerard, get your head out of your ass
- Gasp! Chutney. you can’t handle the curl!
- Also, the face I make ^ whenever my Latina Curl senses even the slightest bit of humidity in the air.
- Ewww, this bottom feeder still? Boy, bye.
- I love that Warner got nothing. Step, mediocre white guy, step.
- Emmett and Elle forever!
I loved every minute of this trip down memory lane!!! In truth, this movie is as magical as the first-time I watched it. Not only does this film hold up, but it is actually quite relevant even seventeen years later (which is actually quite sickening to think about), which makes it Verified Classic ✅. On the surface, Elle’s story is about her efforts to “win back” her man, and, in the process of pursuing said trash human, Elle realizes own worth outside of her relationship. And, that’s cool and a good message in itself, but, now that I am older, the deeper meaning of Legally Blonde has finally come into full focus for me. In truth, it’s not just about being okay with who you are, but, arguably more importantly, it’s about finding those around you who can be your true support system. I KNOW, I KNOW, that sounds REAL Lifetime-y, but hear me out. I think the real highlight of this film is Elle’s beautiful femme friendship with Paulette. Oh, sure, Elle builds other important relationships with her cohort, which is great to see unfold, and with Emmett, which is adorable and probably the main take away from the film. Yet, is in her relationship with Paulette where Elle finds the most meaning and empowerment. So I am just going to focus on this one for now.
Right from the get-go, Jennifer Coolidge’s sincere portrayal of Paulette lets you know from day one that she’s on Team Elle. In a truly feminist way, Paulette did not see Elle as an immediate threat, which is surprising because mainstream rom-coms love to do that crap. Instead, Paulette welcomed Elle as sister in a larger struggle not against men (as hyperbolized by people who don’t understand feminism), but against a patriarchal system that tries to pit women against woman in a perverted zero-sum game. From the beginning, Elle is also equally supportive towards Paulette. She sees Paulette as a peer from the moment she steps into her beauty shop effortlessly casting aside the elitism of Harvard and presumably her up-bringing (I mean, you do remember her parents, right?!). Elle also genuinely seeks Paulette’s advice when it comes to her personal struggles with her ex Warner, her rival Vivian, her snobby peers, and her difficult classes that let’s us know that mutual respect is at the foundation of their friendship. Where Paulette serves as a sounding board and an anchor for her, Elle serves as Paulette’s personal hype-woman in a very beautiful way. For example in one of the most powerful scenes in the entire film, when Elle helps Paulette gain the courage to confront her sleazy Ex (who inexplicably lives in a trailer in a random alley), Elle does not play the attractive savior (which is also a favored trope of Hollywood). Instead, Elle offers support by bombarding the Ex with legal speak, then—oh, so importantly—once Paulette gathers her courage, Elle takes a step back and lets Paulette shine on her own and bask in her own empowerment. You can also see this important femme allyship play out in the way that Elle helps Paulette pursue her long-time crush—The UPS Guy—in a body-positive way. As Elle puts it, ““You have all the equipment, you just need to read the manual.”NO MAKEOVER MONTAGES NECESSARY (which is another Hollywood staple). Cue the intersectional “bend and snap” flash mob. Femmes empowering femmes is a beautiful thing.
That’s not to say that “Everything sunny all the time always” in the Legally Blonde femme-verse. Vivian sees Elle as less than and chooses to bully her in different ways throughout much of the film. Enid also becomes the aggressor (which is such a pity) by often attacking or belittling Elle with her academic elitism. In many ways, I would argue, Vivian and Enid are representative of some strains of mainstream feminism that tries to belittle the “femme” as somehow less powerful than what?—masculine notions of power? It’s all very circular logic—that by intent or not—reinforces the patriarchy. Yet, the light at the end of the tunnel is still Paulette and Elle’s unapologetic celebration of their own badass femme-ness. As Paulette would wisely point out to Elle, “What does this Vivian have that you don’t have? Three tits?” In other words, we are all in this together, and we are all unremarkably human.” Impressively, by design or not, this bears the echos of the famous Xicana feminist slogan “Ni santas, ni putas. Solo mujer” and one can’t really deny that Legally Blonde stays true to this understanding ( BTW I am totally buying this lapel pin ). Despite the many types of women showcased in the film, in a departure from Hollywood tropes, by the end there really are no clear markers between the “good” or the “bad” women. Even Chutney is somewhat sympathetic and nuanced—how is that possible, and why do I find it so refreshing? And, by the end of the film, Elle, Vivian, and Paulette (and maybe Enid?) become friends after each one, presumably, shares their perspectives and reach some kind of mutual respect or understanding. While there is a lot to be desired when it comes to intersectional feminism in this film (like I know this is Harvard, but how are their NO WOCs in Elle’s orbit??), future generations of young femmes will still have the benefit of an example of #femmefriendshipgoals in the powerhouse friendship of Elle and Paulette, and a case for a nuanced portrayal of both women and feminism.
As this post is already WAY longer than I intended, I will leave you with these two quotes from two of my favorite women that I think sums up both my critical engagement with and conveys the deeper message of Legally Blonde:
“I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human. I am messy. I’m not trying to be an example. I am not trying to be perfect. I am not trying to say I have all the answers. I am not trying to say I’m right. I am just trying — trying to support what I believe in, trying to do some good in this world…”
— Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist
“I’m no hero. I put my bra on one boob at a time, just like everyone else.”
— Tina Belcher, Bob’s Burgers
So, in the spirit of Elle and Paulette’s #femmefriendshipgoals, let’s try to be better and strive for solidarity in the decidedly imperfect spaces we inhabit.
What do y’all think? Is Paulette’s beauty shop the utopia we have all been searching for? Or am I just reading to much into it? Leave me a comment below!