Legally Blonde

"Although Elle fits so many fifties stereotypes and although the relentlessly feminine fashions are Legally Blonde's most visible element, the film also has an agenda consistent with the politics of veteran feminists."
Says Carol M. Dole's in her article on the film – which to be fair then goes on to flag the various ways the film portrays the clash between second-wave and third-wave feminism. Reese Witherspoon's Elle is a fashion-obsessed blonde who only goes to Yale in order to bag a man. There she meet feminist caricature Enid, a humourless, obsessive women's studies major who mocks Elle's sparkly sorority girl demeanour. Enid isn't given a happy ending in the final moments of the film. Her patronising attitude throws her out of the sisterhood. Instead the film ends with the severe brunette female professor ceding the stage to the smiling blonde graduate – symbolising the transition from the rigours of the second wave to the open attitude of the third.

So much of that is down to Witherspoon's winning character and performance – where an almost naive good faith in people is tested by the grey, cut-throat world of the university and the law. Elle is an update of Alicia Silverstone's Cher in Clueless – a bright woman who isn't taken seriously because she plays up to traditional norms of femininity. But while Cher has some lessons to learn, all Elle needs to do is believe in herself and her own go-getting positive attitude. That impervious sense of fair play and kindness, rather than the clothes she wears, is what makes her a feminist.

It's a preposterous film, and demands as much suspension of disbelief as any superhero movie. The acting is so over-the-top it borders on pantomime, with only Luke Wilson providing a sense of calm amidst the madness. It's almost as if the creators are daring you to dismiss the whole thing outright as a piece of fluff, adding neon pink opening titles and a saccharine teenpop soundtrack on to the silly outfits and impromptu dance routines. It's no surprise they turned it into a musical – it's pretty much one already.

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