Triumphant in a Male-Dominated Society

Essay by Reems411College, Undergraduate October 2008

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With a 4.0 GPA and an exceptionally high score on the LSAT, Elle Woods from the movie Legally Blonde proves that she is highly capable and competent as a future lawyer at Harvard Law School. The film directed by Robert Luketic argues that it is possible for a woman of any stature and personality with values to succeed in a male dominated world of law school. The movie aims to target the audience of feminists, young girls and socially active individuals such as Elle Woods. The film uses color, logical appeals and cinematic elements to support the claim.

In Legally Blonde, Elle Woods, an epitome of femininity, proves that first impressions are not always correct and women can succeed as lawyers in a masculine dominated world. Elle Woods is a fashion marketing major and blonde sorority girl who is determined to get accepted into Harvard law school in order to win her boyfriend back.

Warner Hunnington, Elle Woods' boyfriend, ends their relationship after claiming that Elle is not serious enough and insists she would encumber his reputation as a lawyer. After being accepted into Harvard Law, Elle earns a spot in an internship where she participates as one of few defensive lawyers in a challenging court case. The film illustrates the patriarchal image of law school and how significant qualities such as intelligence, knowledge gained from female interests and ethical values are important to the success and respect as a female lawyer in law school.

Legally Blonde argues that Harvard law school is a traditionally patriarchal-dominated society in which women are considered 'second best'. As a group of new law students gather outside Harvard Law School, they greet each other by each giving a short biography of themselves. From Mr. Kidney who earned a PhD in biochemistry, Ms. Wexler with a PhD from Berkley and Mitch who graduated first in his class in Princeton with an IQ of 187, Harvard Law School gives the impression of intelligent, prestigious and goal-oriented individuals. The majority of the students in this group are male. Even the new female law student, Ms. Wexler, mentions that her PhD had an emphasis on "history of combat" strengthening the claim that Harvard Law School is primarily composed of intelligent masculine students. Elle Woods states that she has a bachelors in fashion merchandising, was former homecoming queen and talked Cameron Diaz out of buying an Angora orange sweater. Her peers look in disgust and shock at her ecstatic feminine remarks. The facial expressions and reticent response of her peers shows the female audience that a woman with a stature and personality such as Elle Woods is not the typical law student at Harvard Law School and will face challenges as an extreme feminist in this patriarchal society. The response from her masculine peers also strengthens the notion that women are second best compared to men. For example, Vanessa Kensington mentions to Elle Woods, "Did you ever notice how Callahan never asks Warner to bring him his coffee; he has asked me at least ten times….Warner doesn't even do his own laundry." In both cases the film shows two men at Harvard Law School who are patronizing women as servants and stereotyping them as weak just because they are female. The female audience can see how victimized and isolated women are in this film based solely on gender. At the same time, the audience can see how men are also weak and dependent on women to help fulfill tasks. As this male weakness is exposed, the female audience will begin to see the positive characteristics that enable female lawyers to independently succeed in law school.

Legally Blonde argues that women can succeed as lawyers by using intelligence in a male dominated world of law school. Elle Woods is holding books on the cover which are associated with legal knowledge. To the audience, this illustration reflects a realistic feminine role-model engaging the idea that women can be intelligent and successful as a lawyer while still being feminine. For example, during the "Taking Full Control" scene, Elle's professor asks, "You filed a claim, what next?" Elle confidently replies, "You need reasonable belief that your claim should have like evidentiary support." By completing the homework and assigned readings, Elle intelligently answers her professor's questions in class. At the same time as Elle is studying books to build her legal knowledge, she is: exercising on the treadmill, watching television and styling her hair at the hair salon. The film shows that women can still lead a normal feminine life style such as grooming while still being intelligent and studious. Also, the audience can see how intelligence is rewarded in law school when Callahan formerly invites Elle Woods as one of few interns to participate in his court case. This gives feminists and other young women hope that they to can succeed with intelligence in law school regardless of gender.

Legally Blonde. Dir. Robert Luketic. Perf. Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson and Selma Blair. 2001