My public service announcement for the week is that Legally Blonde (Robert Luketic, 2001) is available to stream on Netflix.
For many years now, this has been my ‘comfort movie’ and been there like a cinematic cuddle from a warm cup of cocoa as the world whirls around me. I love this film so much that it was my go-to medicine when my university boyfriend dumped me – Legally Blonde, an obscenely large bar of chocolate, several bottles of wine, my Mum, and a sneaky packet of cigarettes. I know, but my heart was hurting and poisoning it still further seemed to make sense.
Nestled amongst the cuddles from my Mum and all of the arguably toxic substances I was ingesting en mass, was the shining pink beacon of hope that is Elle Woods.
I hope that many of you will already know this story but as necessary exposition for those who have yet to meet Elle Woods, here’s a little plot summary of Legally Blonde; dumped by her college boyfriend for not being a credible enough partner for an aspiring senator, Elle decides to apply to Harvard Law School in order to follow her love and show him that she is the kind of serious person that he could be proud to love. We are shown Elle working her ass off to study for the entry exams, which she passes. Harvard is less than friendly at first to Elle, who stands out like a sore thumb in all of her brightly coloured clothes and radiating warmth and positivity in a community which is shown as reserved and cynical.
At first, Elle tries to fit in with what she thinks it is that she needs to be in order to be taken seriously. We see her adopting spectacles for her first class (which I doubt are prescription), a shirt and tie, and a cardigan. Admittedly, she pairs this with a fabulous matching sequinned skirt but this is Elle Woods doing serious student chic. Note the tied back hair too.
Throughout the film, Elle’s fashion choices give us an insight into how she wishes to be seen by those around her. We all do this all the time. Have you ever heard that expression ‘dress for the job you want, not the job you have’ or ‘fake it ’til you make it’? There is power in dressing.
Elle gets tricked into wearing fancy dress to a party that is not fancy dress and turns up as a pink Playboy bunny. It is glorious and leads to one of the film’s key revelations. No matter how remarkable Elle proves herself to be whilst competing on the same level as her love – getting into the same rather prestigious school, taking the same classes, completing the same assignments – he will only ever see her as a ditsy blonde piece of fluff.
Time to quit? Admit defeat? Go home? No, Elle Woods decides to show everyone just how awesome she is by working hard and doing well at school. The best revenge is always to get better. Get fitter, get stronger, get smarter.
We watch as Elle gets better at the whole lawyer thing, playing the game according to the rules that have been set for her. The resolution of the film comes when Elle decides to be herself and play the game by her own rules, using her own intuition, her intelligence, using her own initiative. This transformation is shown as Elle sashays into the court room dressed from head to fabulous toe in hot pink. She totally wins her case too. Natch.
We can learn so much from her shining example and this is one of the reasons why I would love to bake a cake for Elle Woods. I would love to pick her brains about hair care and go for a manicure, secure in the knowledge that we could just as easily set the world to rights if we needed to. Once our nails were polished to perfection, we would go our separate ways and excel in our careers, love our gorgeous and totally supportive significant others, cherish our friends, and fight for what is right. We would make the world a nicer place to live in and we would just happen to look fierce af whilst we were about it.
Personally, I would love to live in a reality run by the Elle Woods’ of this world; those people with a sense of self that guides them to make decisions based upon a desire to do good things rather than to prove themselves worthy to those who will never validate them anyway. I was filled with hope as I watched the swearing in of a record number of female congresswomen in the US House of Representatives. I’m hoping that a few of them may have seen Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde (Charles Herman-Wurmfeld, 2003) but I am hoping that all of them will have seen Legally Blonde and take as much comfort as I have in the example of Elle Woods.
To each and every one of those amazing women who have worked so hard to get where they are, your battles are only just beginning. Each and every woman will know the feeling of being made to feel invalid, an imposter, a token, a junior partner, a fraud, a fake, a phony. It takes quite a formidable woman to play by her own rules and get shit done.
To each and every one of you reading this – even if you are not an elected official, yet – ask yourself ‘What Would Elle Do?’ and kick this week’s ass hard. You have all the equipment, you just need to read the manual. Work hard and be the best that you can be.
Now, if that’s not Monday motivation, I don’t know what is!