What more could Elle Woods want? Life has been nothing but easy for her, challenges are foreign to the young spunky blonde. The missing key to her perfect life is boyfriend Warner Huntington III, he just won’t propose. Woods lack of substance when it comes to her personality is the reason for this. In hopes of changing her mind she finds herself enrolled in one of the top ranked law schools, Harvard University. The experience helps her to defy the stereotype of a sorority-sister valley girl while staying true to herself although, does the film really capture the right message?
Director Robert Luketic builds off of the early 2000s stereotype of the “dumb blonde” as it fails to enhance reality to its fullest. It acts as a mask to underlying issues like gender inequality, sexual harassment and even abusive relationships. As main character Elle Woods defys the most typical form of this stereotype she doesn’t completely break through it. As much as her intelligence is presented it is also undermined just as often. For example, she won one of her court case by having intense knowledge of last year’s shoe trends, along with being an expert in post-perm hair care. Yes, she won the case but not in the traditional way which doesn’t really grasp the full effect.
Starting as early as the opening scenes gender rolls are put to use as seen in most current American films as we see arbitrary body shots of Woods. These shots also include stereotypical feminine actions such as brushing her hair, shaving her already perfect legs, engaging in Cosmopolitan, applying makeup, and (most alarming) getting catcalled by a bunch of men in a car, and smiling in their direction. What does this teach the younger generation? Elles intelligence is addressed throughout the film but that’s the only thing that separates her from the stereotype which is problematic. Not only this but unrealistic expectations makes this never ending cycle really hard to break since Woods social and economic status also played a major role in what she had to overcome.
Breaking down the comedy aspect of why women have become targets of such classification can be tied to various reasons. One perception is that humor is a tool used to facilitate work by lightening the mood, making difficult problems seem less extreme while also encouraging positive attitudes and healthy interactions. A second perception is that humor is disruptive — a distraction from the seriousness of work while demonstrating less commitment to work. Jokes including those about dumb blondes project the greater anxiety of men afraid of a threat to their social position. These fears are nothing new as losing masculine power could be traced all along the history of gender relations and numerous prejudices. Stereotypes of women include not only lower levels of achievement, but also the expectation of increased family responsibilities. Because it is so difficult to dedicate time to both work and family responsibilities, this has led to the perception that women are less dedicated to work causing society to view them in a humorous way.
In conclusion as much as we want to believe Woods represents that step in the right direction for image of women it really just masks it, like the rest of the world. Although its a step in the right direction there is still more that can be done to ensure and protect women so they are no longer the laughing stock of society.