Blondes Have More Fun at Harvard. Legally Blonde Essay Example
Do blondes really have more fun? Are blondes actually dumb? In earlier American society blonde women were often associated with being, among other things, unintelligent, a bombshell, and as superficial. Although this stereotyping is not as commonly seen today as it was ten to fifteen years ago, the effects of these associations remain. This essay will argue that the film Legally Blonde (2001) assisted in breaking and redirecting blonde stereotypes by confronting and challenging hegemonic ideologies. This will be done by analyzing specific scenes from the film in comparison to the stereotype of blondes being intellectually dumb, yet Elle Woods ends up proving to be counter-hegemonic to this stereotype. The film Legally Blonde (2001) initially seemed to reinforce these stereotypes, but subsequently negates them by trying to get society to “hold up a mirror and force us to confront realities that we would prefer to ignore” (Grass, and Seiter, n.d, 318-319).
The opening scenes of Legally Blonde (2001) seem to reinforce the associations of being a blonde. Elle Woods, the main character, is introduced through a montage of stereotypes, such as being in an all pink room, painting her nails, doing her makeup, having a plethora of cosmopolitan magazines, being homecoming queen, being part of a sorority, and even having her own purse dog. Other lines such as the sales woman saying, “there is nothing I love more than a dumb blonde with her daddy’s plastic” or when Warner (her then boyfriend) broke up with her because he, “needs a Jackie and not a Marilyn” and as, “needing someone serious”, further contribute to the stereotype. It can easily be inferred that upon first watching these scenes I expected the main character to be exactly what they aimed to portray, a dumb blonde.
This intentional portrayal of Elle Woods suggests that culture continues to be superficial, given that the elements presented in the opening scene represent neither intelligence nor lack thereof, yet I found myself associating the aforementioned with the stereotype. Why do we think like this? Is this just another manifestation of hegemonic culture? In many ways these formulations seem to have evolved into the desire for power and superiority. In addition, the reason this way of thinking continues to be pushed is because of our acceptance, once a society accepts an ideology, members, will act accordingly (either by conforming to or by fighting the ideology). It is only when we confront these notions that progress and the dismantling of said ideology occur. Ideology now is seen as a lived material practice, which reflect human behavior and human physicality, it is no longer a set of ideas. It still constitutes representation of the imaginary relationship of individuals to the real conditions of existence (Gramsci, 1994, 78).
Elle Woods was not meant to adapt to the culture that existed in Harvard, or be portrayed as an intellectual. A clear depiction of her being an outsider to the culture was shown in the scene of the introductory circle. The group depicted, took turns speaking of their academic accomplishments, having multiple degrees, deworming orphans, organizing a lesbians against drunk driving movement, among others. All of which are what you’d expect from Harvard students.
This, however, was greatly juxtaposed by Elle’s presence and introduction, whilst the other spoke about their accomplishments she spoke about being a Gemini vegetarian. Her introduction highlighted her as being intellectually dumb which prompted further questions about her place at Harvard. The scenery itself served to further emphasize this divide. This was seen through the clothes the other students wore which were dark or dull, and the contrast from the vibrant outfit Elle had on. In comparison to other students, Elle was not meant to be there, she did not appear to have the knowledge or intellect necessary and because of this she did not align with the dominant groups of society.
The portrayal of Elle Woods is comedic when taking the stereotypes into account; we expect Elle to be a superficial character who only focuses on fashion and Greek life, but are surprised when she is accepted into Harvard without having to bribe her way in. The acceptance into Harvard rejects the idea of a dumb blonde to an extent. But because we see the acceptance process, we also can infer that her acceptance was not solely based on her academic accomplishments. Nevertheless, I believe the greatest rejection of the norms results from Elle’s LSAT exam score. An ideal candidate for Harvard would receive a 175 or above out of 180 points possible, to which she attained a 179.
This is the first example we see where her actions juxtapose the hegemonic view and prove her to be counter hegemonic to the stereotype. Another key, iconic rejection is seen towards the end of the film during Elle’s murder trial where she ultimately wins by using information about hair care that may have been otherwise deemed useless, all while wearing a pink outfit. I credit this as being iconic because in the beginning of the film her being in pink cemented the assumptions that surrounded her. But in this scene she seems to reclaim, adopt, and readapt what had been considered “barbie” attire into a strong act of resistance. In addition, her seemingly useless information on hair care resulted in her winning the case which proved Elle to be counter hegemonic to the dumb stereotype.
The idea of blondes being dumb or superficial was replaced by a sense that blondes are capable of more than what society gives them credit for. Blondes, for the most part, are no longer considered or looked down upon as “dumb blondes”. There are also very few and rare emergences of blonde jokes in society. Society, however, undoubtedly, remains superficial.
I believe that if the movie had been presented in a more serious tone, it wouldn't have been as persuasive as it was for me. The humor was not directly presented, it wasn’t a punchline comedy it was more of an ironic humor, which provided comedic relief when harder themes were presented. This is because humor often serves as a distraction, if people know something is meant to be humours they are less likely to carefully scrutinize the situation (Grass, and Seiter, n.d, 320). The use of comedy in Legally Blonde (2001) also served as a mediator for the serious and the humorous, it softened the delivery of the message yet retained the meaning.
Perhaps the film itself had minimal to no effect on society as a whole, but it’s impact on the individual level was immeasurable. It’s impact on the individual served as a catalyst for the trends we see today. Trends in today’s society show this effect through the increasing number of young, diverse adults who are going into fields that were once deemed unsuitable for them. It teaches to reject common ideologies, and to not subscribe to superficial cultural hegemony. The film Legally Blonde (2001) served as a tool for dismantling preconceived societal norms regarding blonde women in academia and in life in general. We learn not to take things at face value, just as Elle Woods once said, “first impressions are not always correct.”
Gramsci, Antonio. “Hegemony, Intellectuals and the State.” In Cultural Theory and Popular
Culture: A Reader, edited by John Storey, 75-80. New York: Routledge, n.d..
Gass, and Seiter. "Motivational Appeals." 318-21