Deconstruction of Legally Blonde
Deconstruct the text Legally Blonde against the ideas offered by G. Swanson. Take into account the values, ideologies and representation within this text.Blondes do not have a very good reputation; they are seen as being very dumb and not very with it. Legally blonde portrays this image very well through Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon).
As the credits are being shown at the beginning of the film, the first thing the audience is shown is a mane of perfect golden blonde hair. This instantly shows the ‘blonde’ theme to the audience.Everything – to start with – is very stereotypical in this film. Elle’s mother and father are both very wealthy and so live in a large and impressive house with a swimming pool.
Her father, also, is always seen holding a martini. This is a stereotypically upper-class drink and so, of course, he is not seen without one, which immediately shows that he is a very wealthy man. Her mother also seems to be quite a bit younger than her father and looks much like a trophy wife, which is also a stereotypical view of wives of rich men. Her boyfriend, Warner, is clearly very posh, which the audience know before he even appears because he has a stereotypically posh name “Warner Huntington III”.
Even when he does arrive, it is in a convertible with an expensive suit and a cocky attitude. The sorority house she lives at the start is completely serene and beautiful with a perfect building, the grass is all perfectly green and perfectly cut and there is no litter in sight. This gives the view of the perfect life. These are all very stereotypical attributes for wealthy individuals which then meets the audience’s expectations.
This film also portrays very stereotypical American teenagers/young adults. They are all having fun, playing in the water, or throwing Frisbee’s, the boys are all half dressed and as a young attractive blonde goes by on a bicycle they all wolf whistle, cheer and immediately stop what they are doing to watch her. Everyone seems to know everyone else and they all seem to have an idealistic lifestyle, with all the cheerleaders and the plentiful supply of super skinny girls wearing nice jewellery and clothes, which are usually very bright and cheerful. Noticeably practically all of the girls at this sorority house are blonde. There are very few people there without blonde hair.
They are also all doing typical girlish things, especially Elle. The audience are introduced to her first by the things she does, rather than herself as a person. First there is her brushing her hair, then shaving her legs, then applying nail varnish and jewellery. It is only after the audience has been shown these ‘chores’ of hers do they see Elle herself as a person.
Everything is typically girly; it is all pink and fluffy, with a banner saying ‘homecoming queen’ on the wall. The audience is also twice shown a shot of Herbal essences blonde shampoo; this again shows the ‘blonde’ theme. All of these things, however, meet the audience’s expectations of a rich, American, teenage blonde.Gillian Swanson has described blondes as having these qualities: strange logic, innocence and naivety, manipulative skills, humour, a body which is emphasised, a childlike nature and adult ‘knowingness and seductiveness’. In legally blonde – at least to begin with – all of these traits are visible in Elle Woods.Her stereotypically hansom boyfriend has recently gone to see his grandmother, and instantly her and her friends assume he is going to propose to her.
This quite clearly shows a strange logic, as there are many reasons why he could have been visiting his grandmother, other than to get an engagement ring off of her. This leads to her going on a shopping spree in order to get an outfit. The woman at the shop is the first to mention the ‘dumb blonde’ as she says “there’s nothing I love more than a dumb blonde with daddy’s plastic” which instantly reminds the audience of the prejudice against blondes. Warner also mentions her ‘blondeness’ when he is breaking up with her, when he says “I need to marry a Jackie, not a Marilyn”. He is of course referring to Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy Onassis.
Jackie Onassis was very dark haired, sensible and intelligent whereas Marilyn Monroe, of course was not incredibly intelligent, absolutely beautiful and (most importantly) blonde. So it is clear that Warner is saying she is a stereotypical blonde, and that is not what he needs.It is at this point that the ’emphasised body’ comes into it, because when she asks him why he is doing this she says “what, my boobs are too big?” and she also says “all people see when they look at me is blonde hair and big boobs” the fact that she mentions it twice draws attention to it and gives her that ’emphasised body’. When she first arrives at law school, the first comment made about her is “check out Malibu Barbie” which is another derogatory term which also refers to her looks and her body as, of course, Malibu Barbie is blonde with a highly ’emphasised body’.
She also, throughout the film, shows many childlike qualities, for example when she is opening an envelope at the beginning of the film, she has a look of intense concentration on her face. Only young children might find they have to concentrate when opening an envelope. She also uses childish vocabulary at times, for example, when she has gone to see a brunette woman, she says “did you see the icky brown colour of her hair?”, and when she and Emmet are talking, she calls him a butthead which is a word people use when they are about five years old. These all give her the image of a young innocent child, which of course she isn’t. When Warner has dumped her and is trying to get her into the car, the only thing that will get her in is when he tells her that walking will ruin her shoes. This again seems to show childishness and a very strange logic.
After all, shoes are made for walking in.Noticeably she has one brunette best friend and one blonde best friend, and the brunette is shown as being much more intelligent than the two blondes. For example, when they are having manicures and pedicures, the blonde keeps interrupting the conversation, so the brunette talks to the manicurist in Chinese/Japanese which is not an easy language to learn. This immediately puts her above the two blondes and shows she is highly intelligent. This is shown again when the blonde is talking and is saying she has a high “metrabolism” and the brunette has to put her right and pronounce it for her, as you would to a young child. Elle’s father puts an even finer point on it when he says to her “law school’s for people who are boring and ugly and serious.
And you, button, are none of those things.” This is again outlining the audience’s expectations of a typical blonde.In contrast to Elle’s sorority house, everyone at law school wears very dull, drab clothing, and not many of them are blonde which again emphasises the stereotypical ‘dumb blonde’. It implies that blondes aren’t capable of getting into law school, because they lack the intelligence. This is emphasised, “when they are telling each other a little bit about themselves” and the other three people in the group (all of whom are dark haired) have got PhD’s, Masters, very high IQ’s and are de-worming orphans, whereas Elle only has her degree in fashion. She is also the only one who is unprepared for her lessons, she does not have a laptop, books or anything, and has not read the assigned chapters, and all she has brought with her is a note book and a fluffy pen, which is completely unsuitable for law school.
In order to fit in she also starts wearing dull clothesI think she shows an ‘adult knowingness and seductiveness’ when she is ‘breaking up’ with another student at Harvard. He is being rejected by a girl as she says he is a dork and when Elle appears she knows exactly what she needs to do to change their minds. So she pretends they were an item and he broke her heart by not calling her again after she had had such a wonderful time. She evidently knows how to be seductive too because of the way she dresses. When she goes to the ‘costume party’ she is dressed up in a very provocative bunny outfit, which doesn’t leave much to the imagination.
The irony comes when Elle is chosen, along with her ex-boyfriend and his new fiancï¿½e, to help on a murder case. Elle later finds out that although she, the ‘dumb blonde’, managed to get into Harvard with no problem, she is told that Warner’s father had to ‘make a call’ because otherwise he would not have gotten in. This is one of the main turning points in the film, when a dark haired male is beaten by a blonde female. This instantly puts the theory of the ‘dumb blonde’ out the window, because he is now no longer ‘better’ than her.
She is now beautiful and she is intelligent which puts her at the same level as him, but she proved she can beat him so she is now above him. She then goes on to put herself above the man who is in charge by taking over him in representing their client in her murder trial and she then goes on to solve the case in a very short amount of time.This film supports and shows Gillian Swanson’s theory on what attributes blondes must have. They are all shown through Elle Woods throughout the film, even when she is being a serious law student and is winning a murder trial. She still shows childishness and naivety when she is questioning the daughter and all of the other attributes too.
However despite the fact that she has these attributes, she still comes out on top, and is no longer a ‘dumb blonde’, she is, at the end of the film, simply a blonde.