With threequel of “Legally Blonde” being released in May, female students discuss female stereotyping

Alivia Romaniuk

Often Junior Amna Mallick, like other teenagers, likes to sit down and watch movies in her free time, including the hit movie “Legally Blonde,” which came out in 2001. Though Mallick was not yet alive at the release of the movie, she said she has grown to enjoy both the messages and the comedy displayed through the film.

 In June 2018, Reese Witherspoon, who starred as Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde,” announced that the threequel, “Legally Blonde 3,” would be coming out in May 2020. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the movie is now set to come out next month.

Though it has been more than 20 years since the franchise’s launch date, several individuals say the messages within the movie still hold true today, especially regarding the  the “dumb-blonde” stereotype and other stereotypes regarding women in law.

The American Bar Association reported that 49.4% of law students in 2001-2002 were women, showing that they were not a minority at the time. However, a multi-year study on Harvard Law students in 2004 revealed that women participated less in class and were on average less confident than men. 

“(The movie is) for sure ahead of its time,” Mallick said. “Obviously, like the whole blonde stereotype that blondes or dumb and everything– (the movie) totally breaks away from that but it also leans into it… like (Woods) can kind of be a ditzy blonde but she leaned into it and didn’t meet people’s expectations, she exceeded them.”

 In the original movie, Woods, a stereotypical Beverly Hills blonde, endures a break-up and decides to win her ex-boyfriend back by attending Harvard Law School. Though her classmates saw Woods as a “dumb blonde” who didn’t belong at Harvard, Elle remained confident in her role at the school.

Sophomore Lani Samms, a fan of the Legally Blonde franchise, said she admires Woods’ character traits and the other barriers which she breaks throughout the whole movie. 

“There’s still a lot of sexism against women (pursuing different careers) but especially in the early 2000s,” Samms said. “Even now, we’ve had so much growth so I can’t even imagine how much harder it was back then so I feel like (the movie is a) jump in advance to show that.”

Assistant Principal Maureen Borto said she has seen a greater presence of working women since the movie’s release date.

“I think you see more women in leadership roles in various fields and occupations, which I think trickles down to women who join the workforce: what they see, what they are able to achieve, they see those things changing,” Borto said. “This is the work world I know, and I’ve seen (women) be more recognized, so I think there’s a respect there for the work women did in my capacity.”

While other blonde characters in hit movies in the early 2000s such as “Bring it On” and “Mean Girls” were in many ways similar to “Legally Blonde,” Woods navigated a  completely different world. She wasn’t the popular girl or the sorority queen bee anymore; she was a law student trying to fit in a place where people insisted she didn’t belong. 

“(Woods) shows that women in general can be into multiple things and it’s not just like, ‘Oh there’s girls stuff and guys stuff.’ Even if you look this way, or act this way you can be super smart,” Samms said.

Mallick said she agreed with Samms. “(The movie) kind of ties in (feminism) and (professionalism) because in a lot of movies they’re kind of showing the character has to choose either/or and it’s kind of like the whole plot of the movie, whereas in (‘Legally Blonde’) they don’t take away any of (Woods’) personality or any of the things that she does,” Mallick said. “They keep who she is throughout the movie and make her better, instead of trying to change her in the end.”

hardworking hurdler:
Junior Julia Dong (left) and sophomore Lani Samms (right) practice running hurdles in preparation for their next track meet. According to Samms, seeing other girls on the team succeed has built female empowerment and made her feel more confident. (Lani Samms)

Both Samms and Mallick said “Legally Blonde” is a fun and radiant movie that evokes confidence and sends an important message to women that they don’t have to choose between being femimine and being professional.

“I enjoy Reese Witherspoon’s character,” Borto said. “I think she’s smart, so I like that they make that a focal point of the story…It’s a smart story with intelligent humor.”

Mallick said, “Elle Woods is constantly making other people feel like they are also Elle Woods, even if they’re not the ideal, perfect blonde, rich and everything. She kind of gives them a lot of confidence, so I really like that.

Samms said, “I think it’s a funny movie, first of all, but second of all it kind of shows if you work hard enough you can get where you want. It shows how one person can look like one thing but they can change into something else.”