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“It’s a man’s world.” How many times have we heard this, whether it be in movies, television, music, or just general conversation? How many times has this been used as an excuse for why diversity or equality are lacking? How many times have we heard this as a way to exclude anyone who doesn’t fit the norms of what it means to be a “real” man? And in a way, it’s absolutely right.
So many of our society’s norms and rules are based around patriarchal standards: the clothing and styles that people wear, what it means to be strong, what is required for people to take you seriously. Throughout “Legally Blonde” (2001), we watch main character Elle Woods learn what are these patriarchal rules, how she can play the game and be taken seriously within those rules, and finally, how to throw those rules out the window, play by her own rules, and take the world by storm.
It’s her conversation with Warner at the house party that really sets things in motion, when she really starts to see that despite accomplishing the same achievements as her classmates, she wasn’t being seen as equal to them because of her style and demeanor.
“I’ll show you how valuable Elle Woods can be,” Elle declared as she stormed out of the party, a line delivered with such fervor and conviction, it’s unclear in the moment whether she is still speaking to Warner or instead, now speaking to herself.
Elle started on the road as so many before her and so many after her have taken, the struggle to stop living up to other people’s standards and start living up to her own. When Elle realized that Warner was never going to see her as an intelligent woman to be taken seriously, she took the first step away from playing his games.
Along the way, plenty of people tried to tell Elle she could only be what society thought she was. Her parents, her classmates at both UCLA and Harvard, her teachers, all of them just wanted her to remain in her role as the pretty blonde sorority girl. They were unable or unwilling to accept her femininity, girly style, and cheerful demeanor in their serious, men’s world of law. Elle heard what they were telling her loud and clear, and then decided not to listen.
In the now iconic shot of Elle walking through the doors of the courtroom in her pink dress, we are able to see just how far she’s come. She is no longer trying to be what others expect of her, no longer trying to be what she thinks she’s supposed to be. She is finally being who she is and who she wants to be. It’s a beautiful moment. Instead of trying to fit into a specific mold of either the stereotypical sorority blonde or the stereotypical serious lawyer, she brought together the best aspects of each and became her own unique self.
Elle isn’t the only woman in this film learning to stop trying to live up to other people’s standards and start living up to their own. Vivian makes her way away from playing the games of competing for a man and realizes that women need to support each other and lift each other up.
Paulette learns to love herself and be confident in herself in order to go after what she wants, whether that be getting her dog back or getting a date with the man she has a crush on. While the movie focuses on Elle’s journey toward walking her own path and being who she’s truly meant to be, all around her are women breaking through what they thought they knew and learning a new way to walk through the world.
While the movie focuses on Elle’s journey toward walking her own path and being who she’s truly meant to be, all around her are women breaking through what they thought they knew and learning a new way to walk through the world.
In this patriarchal society that we live in, men have built up rules all around us, rules for what professionalism looks like, rules for what emotions we’re allowed to have, rules for how different people are supposed to look, think, act, talk, etc. And more and more, we are seeing people stand up and resist these rules. Smart, strong women can like pink. Smart, strong men can like pink. Smart, strong people can like glitter and pretty things. Liking sparkly things and being cheerful and chipper are not reasons that the world should not take you seriously. The color of your hair is not a reason for people to not take you seriously. The clothing you wear is not a reason for people to not take you seriously.
It’s a difficult journey, trying to learn and become who you truly believe you’re supposed to be in the world, and it’s made all the more difficult when that same world is trying to tell you otherwise. It’s never easy to learn the rules established by society and then decide whether you want to follow those rules, or whether you would rather just chuck that rule book out the window. Elle Woods spent so much of her life playing by the rules that had been laid out for her, bending under the weight of what society wanted her to be. Until finally, she snapped and became who she wanted herself to be. For generations, women have been bending under societal pressures and conforming to the rules men have laid out for them, until they all finally snap and start walking their own path in life, and that’s when we all truly shine. Because if there’s one thing that we all learned from “Legally Blonde,” it’s that the “Bend and Snap” works every time.
For generations, women have been bending under societal pressures and conforming to the rules men have laid out for them, until they all finally snap and start walking their own path in life, and that’s when we all truly shine.