From dumb blonde to Harvard socialite: “Legally Blonde” tackles tough social issues through comedy

William Giblin and  Ariana Perez Valencia

Staff Writers

With witty jokes, vibrant characters and a timeless tale of self-discovery and overcoming stereotypes, “Legally Blonde” has remained a cult classic since its release on July 13, 2001. Featuring a humorous script written by Kirsten Smith and Karen McCullah and the comical yet determined protagonist with a more profound social message embedded, it is obvious why “Legally Blonde” has remained a fan favorite since its release in 2001.

Based on the book written by author Amanda Brown, “Legally Blonde” tells the story of Elle Woods, a fashion merchandising major and head of her sorority Delta NU at CULA. The story shows Woods going from a ditsy sorority girl to a first-year Harvard student to win over her ex-boyfriend, Warner Huntington III.

During the movie’s duration, Woods faces many stereotypes and judgments based on her looks. She is faced with her peers not taking her seriously and thinking less of her due to how Woods presents herself. She is categorized as a ditzy blonde from Beverly Hills. This reputation and label placed on her affects every aspect of her time at Harvard. It especially gets in the way of Woods trying to socialize with her peers, such as in the library scene where Woods tries to join a study group, but they reject her saying that she should join a sorority instead.

Besides her iconic and memorable road to success, one of the most notable characteristics of Elle is her bright pink and fluffy clothes throughout the film. Woods wears colorful pink clothing in the movie and carries around her lap dog, Bruiser. By showing her wearing colorful pink outfits while her peers wear dark and drabby clothes, director Robert Luketic uses Elle’s fashion to display her uniqueness throughout the film. 

Alongside Elle’s fashion, screenwriters Kirsten Smith and Karen McCullah perfectly encapsulate the judgment that many women in large institutions face based on their looks and how they present themselves. McCullah and Smith do an excellent job balancing comedy and serious social issues while never leaving a dull moment. Some of these include people not taking women seriously or underestimating their abilities based on their gender. 

A good script is nothing without a strong leading actress to bring it to life, and actress Reese Witherspoon was the perfect choice for this part. Between her comedic timing and her ability to personally and emotionally connect with the script and story, it is very evident that Witherspoon was the perfect choice to take up this responsibility.

Reese Witherspoon at the 2001 Grammys PHOTO CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons

Besides discussing stereotypes, McCullah and Smith do not shy away from the difficult-to-talk-about issues in society. For example, while at Harvard, Wood’s professor selected her to be on a particular team prosecuting a murder trial. While Woods and her professor discuss the case, her professor begins to touch her. He then follows that up by firing Woods after she denies him. 

This scene is one thing that cements this film as a breakthrough in comedy. By touching on topics as serious as workplace harassment and sexual harassment, “Legally Blonde” presents itself as a comedy film and as a film not afraid to make a statement on social issues. 

“Legally Blonde” remains relevant over 20 years later due to its bold statement on workplace harassment and abuse of power. This theme is especially prevalent in the case of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, where countless women revealed that Weinstein was using his directorial powers to take advantage of women trying to make it in Hollywood. 

Many people worldwide see “Legally Blonde” as exceptional due to its strong female lead and commentary on social issues. It also resonates with audiences of all ages. The film gave young girls a robust role model and the belief that they can do anything that they put their minds to, and also helps those who have dealt with workplace harassment find someone to relate with and give them the courage to speak out.

Since the movie’s release, the creative team has made multiple sequels, giving more generations of young girls a powerful female role model that they can relate to and giving more people of all ages and backgrounds that they shouldn’t let others tell them what they can or can’t do.

“Legally Blonde 2”: Red, White & Blonde poster PHOTO CREDIT: Flikr

From the controversial yet funny scriptwriting to the excellent acting of the movie’s lead Reese Witherspoon, “Legally Blonde” cements itself as a funny comedy movie and a serious piece of social commentary that everyone regardless of age or gender can learn from and relate with.

Featured Image (at the top of the post): “Legally Blonde” poster PHOTO CREDIT: Flickr

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