Research Of The Sexist Portrayal Of Elle Woods In Legally Blonde

An opening statement

Elle Woods is a blonde, white, boyfriend-obsessed and wealthy Hollywood girl who wants to be admitted to Harvard Law School. Even though she is constantly being questioned and doubted by others, she ends up winning a case that was notable and she graduates as one her top understudies. She also feels proud of herself. Legally Blonde uses this character to showcase and market her. It also shows how anyone can succeed, even an exboyfriend. Elle’s performance as a woman is confined to superficial aspects. The film does not portray a flattering or sexist image of women, but it seems to validate femininity. This paper will explore the question: Is Elle Woods’s portrayal sexist to any extent?

Harpers Bazaar’s Ella Alexander says Elle is a feminist protagonist who overcame all the sexist stereotypes imposed on her by the film’s creators. Elle states that she doesn’t conform to the opinions of others. She doesn’t listen to her Californian peers who tell her to go shopping and join a sorority, or change her Harvard appearance. However, she does learn. She discovers that life is not all about romantic happiness. Fulfillment comes in many forms. Her conviction and courage is what eventually allows her to solve the murder case. “Legally Blonde” tells the story of a young woman who overcomes prejudices and discrimination and comes out as an inspiring story about female empowerment. Elle realizes her value and grows as a person. Elle also helps others around her in any way she can. This movie conveys stereotypes that most girls face and also shows friendship. Elle is an example of a woman who doesn’t want to give up her femininity to be successful. However, this movie minimizes the feminine aspects of female identity. Elle is treated as an outsider by the directors. There are three types general gender stereotypes. One type is personality traits. This includes men being more aggressive and emotionally active than women, and being less emotional. Women can also take care of their children and cook for them, while men do the same. Men are expected to have more professional careers, such as pilots, doctors or lawyers. Women are often stereotyped as nurses and teachers. This is the third most prominent role in the film. This refers to the jobs women and men have. This last category is physical appearance. Another important type of generalization is this. It is the general image of a woman as thin, beautiful and well groomed. Elle is a part of the fourth stereotype. She refuses to sacrifice her feminine style for a job as important as a lawyer’s. Elle’s film portrays her obsessions with fashion/beauty and how this is what has led to her great success. All women throughout the movie are classified according to their appearances or their behavior. These women are known for being either try-hards or dumb. Both are generalizations that are widely used in today’s society. Legally Blonde’s try hard women are primarily smart women such as Enid and Vivian. Each of these women is a white woman who has a high level education and is ablebodied. They are also middle-upper class. Due to their respective roles in Elle’s life, the women are depicted as characters that the audience will be inclined to dislike. They are often deemed less intelligent because they are perceived as more attractive than women who “try hard”. These women are predominantly white middle-class women, able-bodied and wealthy. The majority of these women are blonde and love to shop. These women’s clothing is very different to those in the “try-hard” category. Their clothing shows more of their bodies. This movie shows that women are there for their men’s pleasure. Numerous instances show that Elle is only an object to these men. These include Harvard Law’s men who allowed Elle in after she admitted to being sexually promiscuous. Professor Callaghan is another example. He allowed Elle to work for him only because he was concerned about her sexual interactions with him. In this film, men are divided into two categories. While the treatment of women is less harsh, they can be described as either “good” or “bad” guys. The “good guys,” who get less screentime and wear more casual clothing, are depicted as having a lower income than the other “bad guys”. The “bad guys”, on the other hand, have more screen time and wear much more expensive suits. It is indicative of their wealth. Because of their social status and wealth, they are considered more attractive by the female characters. Elle is a young girly, sweet and determined woman. Elle is portrayed as a closed-minded, fashion obsessed, and dumb woman. She’s shown to be extremely emotional. She is seen crying when Warner leaves her to find a more intelligent girl. Soon after Warner’s breakup, she is soon seen studying hard and applying to Harvard for him. She was also seen lying with her dog, saying “I’ll prove his wrong and get he back!” He’ll see!”. Her mindset changed once she entered Harvard. But, when Warner and her new girlfriend appeared in class, it was a devastating shock. He is too good for her! He should have me back at Harvard now that I’m there!

Elle’s physique is very different to other women. Elle in all scenes wears clothes that show off her bodies, unlike her ex and her new girlfriend. Elle is shown wearing whatever she likes in the film to please her friends. Example: While Warner is playing football, Elle is seen sitting at the sidelines watching and distracting the players. Elle is wearing a sparkly bikini top with a furry coat on her upper hem. This paper examined all aspects of Elle’s stereotypes and depictions to help answer the question: To what extent is Elle Woods’ portrayal sexist? The film’s sexist elements are hidden and subtle, making it appear that it is not the original plan. This paper does not contain a scene breakdown or analysis. Another limitation was that I tended to see the film in a stereotypical way rather than sexily.



Kayla Russo is an educational blogger and volunteer and student. She is a 27 yo educational blogger and volunteer and student who loves to help others learn.

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