8 Reasons Why Elle Woods Is The Role Model We All Need
by Mandi Harrison
When you think of movies with feminist icons, you probably think Norma Rae, Erin Brockovich, A League of Their Own, 9 to 5. You probably wouldn’t think Legally Blonde, but to me, Elle Woods is a queen.
I have seen Legally Blonde about 2001 times, which coincidentally is the year it was released. I will watch anytime that it is on. It’s often dismissed as a chick flick or even as a rom-com, but it is so much more. These are some of the reasons that I believe Elle Woods is a feminist icon.
Elle Woods was the IT girl. She was the president of her sorority, had the best wardrobe, the hair, the car and you just know she was head cheerleader in high school. I personally believe that she started the trend of a small dog as an accessory; at any rate, she did it best. Everyone wanted to be Elle.
But here’s the best part: Elle was kind. She was the Queen Bee but she ruled with a kind hand and a flattering word. She was genuinely liked and even those who prejudged her changed their mind and grew to admire her. She always saw the best in people and was willing to keep an open mind about them. She never used her power for evil, and helped out those who couldn't fight for themselves. Even when she appeared to be superficial, all she wanted was for everyone to be the best version of themselves. If you take care of your outside, it gives you confidence inside, and Elle realized this.
2. What’s Wrong With Being Confident?
Elle had a true sense of herself and more than that, she was confident with her choices. She made her own path, and painted the town pink along the way. Elle had no doubt that she would succeed; that might seem a little deluded, but believing in yourself is half the battle. Elle definitely won that one. Even though she went to Harvard with the intention of getting Werner back, she did it her own way. She didn’t change who she was at her core and yet…
3. What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger
Once she realized that Werner never saw her as something serious, she buckled down on her studies instead of giving up and going back to LA, which is what everyone expected her to do. Her initial goal may have been to prove Werner wrong, but in the end, she found a new purpose and her skills alone were what kept an innocent woman out of prison. She faced challenges, but she used her roadblocks as stepping stones to get ahead.
4. Ya Gotta Get With My Friends…
Like I said, Legally Blonde is often lumped into the rom-com genre, but at it’s heart, it is about female empowerment. It shows the importance of having female friends and the support they give each other. From her two best friends from the sorority, to Paulette, the clumsy nail technician, to Vivian, her nemesis-turned-ally, and even Professor Stromwell, the unexpected mentor, Elle’s life was full of women that didn’t necessarily understand her choices, but supported, encouraged and even challenged her to be the best version of herself.
If this movie had been written by a man, there might have been one friend, but she would have been delegated to the background or be pitted against her as an adversary. But the two writers, Karen McCullah and Kirsten Smith, knew that Elle would have surrounded herself with women and to me, that is one of the most authentic things about the movie. Too often women are pitted against each other in competition, but we can only succeed if we have one another’s backs.
5. U Can’t Touch This
One of the reasons that Legally Blonde is still so relevant is an unfortunate one. An older, entitled man uses his position to seduce a younger woman, and when she refuses, uses that position to threaten her career. And just as bad, others are quick to judge her. Even after realizing Werner won’t ever take her seriously, the only time Elle considers leaving Cambridge is after Creepy Callahan harasses her and Vivian accuses her of trying to seduce the boss to get ahead. Elle thinks that her complaint won’t be taken seriously because Callahan is a powerful, respected man. (Gosh this sounds awfully familiar…) But Elle has an ally in Emmet, and his belief in her truth allows her to regain her confidence and she is able to stand up to Callahan. You can’t do everything alone; you need someone in your corner and Emmet was that person for Elle.
6. The Right Stuff
Elle Woods knew she had something to bring to the table. From start to finish, she knew what she was and knew what she deserved. She had her moments of doubt along the way, but she quickly get back on track. She didn’t let anyone’s opinion of her define her. She made the rules. She knew that she was capable and worthy. Elle has two lines, in two different scenes, that make me yell YAAASSSSS HENNY! whenever she says them.
The first is when she first sees Werner when she gets to Harvard.
Werner: “You got into Harvard Law School?”
Elle: “What? Like it’s hard?”
The second is when Werner is sweet-talking her at a party and downplaying her accomplishments and goals.
Elle: Am I crazy? Did we not take the same tests?
The first instance, she’s joking to soothe his ego, but letting it be known she is there. The second, she is flat out sticking up for herself. How dare he talk down to her when she accomplished the same as him (with better scores, as we later find out). Don’t let anyone steal your thunder!
Elle knew the importance of just taking a moment for herself, to clear her head. Sometimes, our tendency is just to go and go and let everything pile up until you explode. You need a mental and emotional recharge. For Elle, that was getting her nails done. It seems silly and frivolous, but you know, it actually works. Just taking a break from a situation can change your perspective. Whenever i’m feeling overwhelmed, or underwhelmed, over even just whelmed, I take a break. Sometimes its just a walk, and sometimes it IS getting my nails done. But even if you do have a meltdown, it’s okay. Give yourself a few minutes, then put yourself back together and get back to work.
8. Independent Women, Part 1
At the start of the movie, Elle’s goal was to have Werner propose to her. Her goal for Harvard was to win Werner back, to prove she was serious. But along the way, she realized that HE was not the guy for HER. She found her purpose, and eventually, a man who saw her as an equal; a true partner. She did get engaged at the end; but the difference was, Emmet was the icing on her cake- not the cake itself.
Elle Woods is a one of a kind character, and Reese was the perfect person for the role. They both have inspired me so much over the years. I can see myself in Elle- I want things to be fair and equal for everyone, and I’m not afraid to work hard. I also think that just because something is practical doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be pretty.
Reese recently announced that there will be a third installment soon, and I can not wait. My personal hope is that Elle is running for office. Her spirit and convections are just what the world needs. Feminism doesn’t mean women are better than men- it is working for equality for everyone. And that is exactly what Elle Woods stands for.