The Women’s Liberation Movement In Legally Blonde
The Women’s Liberation Movement of the twentieth century opened up a number of avenues for women. They were no longer confined to their homes and families and could go ahead and achieve whatever they wanted to. In fact, they reached the pinnacles of society with professions like doctors, and lawyers by the start of the 21st century. And yet, despite all these outwardly achievements, on the inside women continued to aspire for a husband, children and a home in the suburbs. Even intelligent, successful women secretly aspired the same ideal that their mothers and grandmothers had fought so hard to get rid of. Popular media only fueled these aspirations by not only pointing out what they were missing, but by even suggesting ways to get what they wanted. “Legally Blonde” reinforces the idea that a woman’s primary objective in life is to get a husband and get married and that a woman’s intelligence, capabilities are futile without an adequate husband.
Stereotypes on women have become more prevalent in modern society, and Elle happened to break, yet at the same time, reinforce these stereotypes. Elle’s obsession with masking her intelligence behind a facade of expensive clothes is absurdly bizarre. Moreover, with her perfect hair, designer dresses, and loud makeup, she looks more like a living Barbie. What is inherently contradictory is that Elle is not a “dumb blonde,” yet presents herself to the world in that fashion According to Greenberg, female preoccupation with getting married may “spring from some ‘natural’ feminine psychic thrust toward passive dependent gratification” (Greenberg 151). Although Greenberg goes on to denounce this explanation and suggests that it may have something to do with women being disillusioned with their lives, this does not seem to be the case with Elle. She comes from a rich family, and is a successful woman in her own way. With all of this in mind, her only goal is still to get married, and become “arm-candy” to a successful man. The movie seems to borrow from the desire of real women to get married to a rich, successful man, and exaggerates these desires to form Elle’s character. The stereotype that is perpetuated is that successful women still desire to get married ultimately.
Womens’ desires may have been influenced by hundreds of romantic movies released every year which show successful women getting weak in the knees when confronted by rich, powerful men exuding male charm. Greenberg’s assertion that women may have a latent desire to be dependent on men may actually be a result of women being conditioned through such popular media to look for gratification through male dependency. The way Elle dresses, and her preoccupation with her looks also furthers the popular image of women being frivolous. Elle’s character may be an exaggeration of all-female frivolities, but Elle’s Barbie-like wardrobe remains every woman’s dream. In other words, all over the US, women spend thousands of dollars on clothes, shoes, and grooming so that they may look more like the models and actresses they see on television. In the last couple of decades, more and more women are choosing to go under the knife to achieve some imaginary perfect body. Characters like Elle Woods tell these women that such perfection may actually be possible: Elle’s tailored, form-hugging dresses, perfect blonde hair, and high heeled shoes is an ideal that many women want to achieve. When Elle, a woman of beauty, and perfection, is also an intelligent and successful lawyer, she becomes the ultimate role model for millions of women. According to Lancaster, “fans appropriate images not as a way to feed into an ideologically created image… but [to] enter a liminoid fantasy world in order to help discover who they are in the everyday mundane world” (Lancaster 127). With this in mind, it is unfortunate that women should desire perfect, mythical bodies in order to help discover themselves.
Moving onwards, the dichotomy between Elle, and the other women within the movie undercover more female preoccupations in modern-day society. For instance, the other main female character, Vivian, is also intelligent and beautiful, but not as preoccupied with her looks as Elle. Elle suggests that if she were to spend some more time on her grooming, she could become even more attractive since she was not all that “unfortunate looking” (Legally Blonde). In Elle’s world, being beautiful and intelligent is not enough. A woman must also look attractive since the ultimate aim of her existence is to get married. Yet, Warner still breaks up with her because he needs to marry “a Jackie, not a Marilyn” (Legally Blonde). The practical looking Vivian apparently fulfills this need. Although Elle was a great girlfriend, Vivian was a more viable wife because his voters might prefer the plainer Vivian. This is the same voter that ogles over Elle’s perfect body or aspires to get one like hers. It is not that women have any biological or evolutionary need to be dependent on men. Yet, even in this modern post-feminist era, women continued to be preoccupied with finding a suitable husband. All the time and money that women spend on grooming themselves and the obsession with the perfect body is the result of this latent desire in every woman, no matter how successful, to find a husband.
All in all, The Women’s Liberation Movement of the last few decades has had only limited success in negating centuries of conditioning. In the modern-day, little girls persist in playing with their Barbie dolls, which become their role models for physical beauty, and are expected to have mock tea parties. It is no surprise then that when these girls grow up, they want to continue playing tea party hostesses dressed as Barbies. Female ambition, even in the twenty-first century, is governed by centuries of indoctrination and furthered by movies like Legally Blonde that encourage women to spend more time on their looks, even when they are capable of a lot more. A movie is a mirror to society and yet at the same time, society derives its inspirations from popular culture including movies. When the images propagated by the popular culture are as regressive as those seen in Legally Blonde, they slow down the process of change which is so vital for any society’s growth. It is true that a movie is, but an entertaining commentary on the realities of our times. However, society is not truly “modernized” as it has never let go of the realities of the past. Through and through, modern society needs women to have bigger, and better ambitions than simply getting married and having children.