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Friday, 8 May 2015

Guest Editorial: Why Legally Blonde Fails As A Feminist Polemic.

Hey, guys. Murphy here: We have a guest editorial by Reecey today, you might recall she did a review of The Night of the Rabbit last week and has done several reviews and editorials on here before, in addition to doing title cards for my Valkyria Chronicles LPs, so I'm going to take a second to plug her.

Her blog can be found at Nine Over Five, please go check that out, and she does do commissions at reasonable and charming rates, so if you have any artwork needs, please get in touch with her for that.

Anyway, on with the editorial.

EDIT: And I forgot to add in a picture. The editorial has now been updated with it.

Guest Editorial: Why Legally Blonde Fails 
As A Feminist Polemic.

(Guest editorial by Reecey.)

As much as I like the film Legally Blonde, very little fills me with as much visceral rage as seeing people refer to it as some kind of feminist masterpiece.

The logic basically seems to be that Elle Woods is a typical girly girl and because she manages to succeed at the cost of a sexist and helps a couple of other women out using her new legal smarts and stereotypically girly background knowledge that makes this a super awesome film for feminism.

Well, I’m here to rain on your parade, kiddos, and first things first:

This film outright mocks feminism.

Remember the character with the long curly brown hair and the glasses?

Yeah, her.

Remember the scene where Elle gets tricked into thinking a party is a fancy dress party and shows up in a playboy bunny costume?

In that scene the character with the glasses and the curly brown hair says that she’s going to petition the university to call the semester the ‘ovester’ because the word semester comes from semen despite the fact that ‘semester’ comes from the latin words ‘sex’ and ‘mensis’ and literally just means ‘six months’.

Yeah … let’s mock the way that feminists aren’t keen on the use of words that demean women by making a straw woman say something absolutely ridiculous. That’s supporting women!

Elle is tremendously wealthy.

Let’s get this one out of the way early. Elle Woods is rich.

She is, in fact, part of the oft loathed 1%.

She has never had to struggle in her life up to the point when her boyfriend breaks up with her because she doesn’t offer what he wants in a relationship.

Not because she would bring shame unto his house for reasons beyond her control, but because she does not (and as far as he’s aware cannot) offer what he’s looking for in a long term relationship.

Yes, he’s a terrible person and he should have broken up with her earlier, but the fact remains that he has every right to end a relationship that he sees as going nowhere.

Now, I say ‘as far as he’s aware cannot’, because this next point is actually really important.

Elle has been coasting her whole life.

She's fiercely intelligent, and proponents of this film as a feminist masterpiece will readily tell you that.

The problem is that she’s basically been pretending to be an idiot the whole time.

The scene with the crappy dress and the snarky sales assistant is a prime example of this.

Every time that she shows her cutting wit, it comes directly after her acting like a complete idiot. It’s a trap maneuver.

You know those scenes when a female character is like ‘I wanna do the thing’ and a male character goes ‘no, you’re not doing the thing’ and then the female character is all ‘it’s because I’m a woman, isn’t it?’ and the male character is like ‘no, it’s just the thing is super dangerous, ain’t nobody doing the thing’?

It’s the exact same tactic, you trick a character (or the audience) into thinking one thing about a character or situation, and then go ‘no, you were being judgemental. Feel bad about yourself!’ despite the fact that you’re the one who was withholding information to make them think that in the first place.

People don’t dislike Elle because of the way she looks (it’s not a fifties film), they dislike her because of the way she acts.

She acts like a child. She calls a guy a butthead. She’s in her twenties.

And since we know that she’s really very clever and cunning, this presents us with the issue that she’s either putting this on, like we see in the final court scene, or she’s so self centered that she genuinely sees no problem with this.

Speaking of …

She doesn’t take her new degree seriously until it becomes personal.

She did no background reading when for her first lecture at a prestigious law school.

Hell, she didn’t even take her application seriously. She sent in a video of herself in a pool, for crying out loud.

Sure, she managed to get a near perfect score (which is a touch Sue-ish for someone who started studying for it so late in the game), but compare her to the other students in the grass circle.

Curly haired feminist and bewildered pudgy guy had done some serious volunteering, Elle had nothing even remotely comparable.

She’s probably there at the expense of someone who worked a long time to get in.

And why did she do it?

She was chasing after a boy.

A boy who had made his feelings perfectly clear. This is the more labour intensive version of my ex who put in his twitter profile that he wanted to ‘reconnect’ with me.

It’s only when he tells her again that he doesn’t want to marry her, and why, that she decides to take the course that she’d put so much work into getting into seriously.

Entirely out of spite.

See, that’s ultimately the problem. It’s a ‘she could do it all along!’ story, but with an absolutely awful catalyst. She didn’t do this for herself, she didn’t do it to be a more enriched human being, she didn’t even do it to make her parents proud, she did it entirely so much because she cared so much about what other people thought of her.

Aside from the manicurist subplot, everything else she does is driven entirely by her appearance in the eyes of others.

Which is odd, considering that we already have this problem or a grown woman acting like a child who is actually very clever and cunning. She could just… stop doing that.

She (and the movie) buys into stereotypes.

Quick one here, the only reason that she managed to call out the pool boy is that she entirely bought into the idea that only gay men know anything about women’s fashion.

And finally …

She helps con thousands of women.

The client, Brooke, has an ironclad alibi that she refuses to share with anybody. She shares it and she’s off the hook in seconds and the police have to figure out who actually dunnit.

But she won’t.


Because she’s a fitness instructor who has made millions off telling women that their ideal body type can be achieved by hard work and determination, and she had liposuction.

Yeah, she had liposuction and she’s refusing to admit it.

She says that she doesn’t want to ‘disappoint her fans’, but in reality her fitness empire would be in tatters because what she’d told women for years, possibly decades, would be proven to be a lie because she didn’t have enough faith in her own product.

Things like fitness tapes and gym memberships make a lot of their money from people who buy it and then never use it.

So, for someone like Brooke, there are a lot of people who bought her tapes, never used them and probably are stewing in their own guilt. There are probably also a large number of women who are trying really hard to use them, but aren’t getting the results they want because genetics are a cruel mistress.

And since fitness personalities like her sell these things on their own success, her getting liposuction and keeping it from her customers while presenting her body as a result of the exercise is entirely fraudulent.

This is what Elle has agreed to keep under wraps instead of just telling her to own up to her lies and stop wasting the legal system’s time and money.

Fraud of women which takes advantages of their insecurities over their weight and appearance.

To be fair, on a ‘just shut up and watch’ level, Legally Blonde is a great film. It’s fun and fabulous, but the second you start reading into it as some kind of feminist masterpiece you start doing it a massive disservice.

I didn’t even read that deeply into it, I just didn’t ignore all the problems contained in a deeper reading.

But in the end, one has to ask, why this film?

Why Legally Blonde when Miss Congeniality exists?

It’s way more consistent in message, there’s no boy chasing, there are more female friendships, there are friendships between men and women, there are positive gay characters, Gracie is never driven by spite, she has personal growth, the ornamentalisation of women is questioned… etc, etc.

But let me end with this: Legally Blonde is a very white movie. Considering the setting, this makes a certain amount of sense. It’s still disappointing, yes, but it’s just how the film is.

But it does make it all the more baffling that it’s the movie that Tumblr has decided is really important rather than Miss Congeniality which is not only far more racially diverse, but also more diverse in terms of sexual orientation.

Also, it’s got both Kirk and Alfie in it, what’s not to love?

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