Warner Huntington III: You got into Harvard Law?
Elle Woods: What, like it's hard?
Life seems to be going swimmingly for sorority socialite Elle Woods. Homecoming queen, president of Delta Nu, and girlfriend to Warner Huntington III, Elle has no qualms with the way her life is heading, particularly as she suspects Warner is soon to pop the question. However, things take a turn when Warner dumps her on the night she thought he was going to propose. His reason? "If I'm going to be a politician, I need to marry a Jackie, not a Marilyn."
So Elle is dumped for being "not serious enough." However, she realizes the perfect way to get Warner back — by becoming a serious law student. Elle manages to get into Harvard Law School, but this is only the beginning as she strives to prove her worth to Warner, her professors, her fellow students, and even herself, all while dressed in pink and with her Chihuahua Bruiser by her side.
Based on the semi-autobiographical story of Amanda Brown, this 2001 film starred Reese Witherspoon in her major break-out role. There was a sequel and a spin-off made: Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde
in 2003 and Legally Blondes
Meanwhile, the genuinely great adaptation Legally Blonde: The Musical
hit Broadway in 2007, starring Laura Bell Bundy as Elle.
The Legally Blonde films provide examples of the following tropes:
- Academic Alpha Bitch: When Elle gets to Harvard Law in she faces this horrible preppy girl, Vivian Kensington, who tries to make her look bad in front of the professor. Vivian is a threat to Elle because she's a smart, serious, law student.
- And has no problem flaunting the fact that she is currently engaged to Warner, Elle's entire reason for being there.
- Adoptive Peer Parent: Chutney and her stepmother Brooke are around the same age. Chutney hated it so much she tried to kill Brooke for that.
- Always Camp: Everywhere. If the guy isn't a law student, a lawyer, or a love interest, chances are he's FLAMING.
- Amoral Attorney: Played straight and subverted.
- Artistic License – University Admissions: Elle Woods submits a video application, rather than the requested essay, allowing the Harvard Law admissions committee to see how pretty she is. It works - although with a 4.0 GPA and a 179 LSAT, she would have been auto-admitted to Harvard Law regardless.
- Badass Adorable: Elle develops in one. Emmet may also count.
- Big Secret:
Brooke: I was getting liposuction.
Elle: [Horrified gasp]!
- Although since she did make her fortune off of a fitness empire, getting liposuction could make some believe she "cheated" and could hurt business, not unlike a singer confessing they lip-sync their songs.
- Bitch Alert: Enid, Vivian and Professor Stromwell. Stromwell turns out to be not so bad, Vivian defrosts and Enid gets put in her place.
- Blithe Spirit: Elle; arguably it's the whole point of the film.
- Break the Cutie: Elle, though she usually bounces back.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Elle, at one point even doing this almost literally. Almost, because she hadn't graduated yet.
- Butch Lesbian: Enid Wexler, at least in personality. In appearance, she's more of a "Soft Butch."
- California Doubling: USC and UCLA stand in for Harvard. (Which is ironic, given that Elle graduated from "CULA" and the movie goes out of its way to show how different the school environments are.)
- Camp Gay: Presented as an iron rule - gay men know brand named shoes, straight men don't.
- Chekhov's Skill: Elle's supreme knowledge of fashion and hair mentioned throughout the film pays off twice at Brooke's trial. Elle winds up getting the pool boy outed as gay in front of the court because she noticed his unusual knowledge of shoes. When she herself is defending Brooke, she notices Chutney's perfect, fresh perm and realizes that her alibi of being in the shower at the time of her father's murder was false because the water from the shower would have ruined the chemicals in her hair.
- Conviction by Contradiction: As noted in the entry above, Elle uses this to find the real murderer during Brooke's trial.
- Cool Teacher: Callahan seems to be one until he hits on Elle. Mrs. Stromwell was one all along, despite her tough beginning with Elle.
- Cucumber Facial
- The Cutie: Elle.
- Deathbringer the Adorable: Bruiser the Chihuahua.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Vivian. Subverted with Callahan, because the viewers think he's defrosting but he's not, and with Stromwell (the female law professor) because she was nice all along; just really, really tough.
- Ditzy Genius: Elle.
- Domestic Abuse: Poor Paulette...
- Dumb Blonde:
- Elle can come across this way and does have some common traits of one, but inverts the trope with her intelligence and depth of character; sometimes it's closer to Obfuscating Stupidity. Her exemplary LSAT score and the fact that she's attending UCLA (it's UCLA in the musical, at least) prove that she is pretty intelligent.
- It's played straight with some of Elle's sorority sisters.
- Dumb Is Good: For a movie like this, surprisingly averted, and played with all over the place by various characters.
- Ethnic Menial Labor: Enrique.
- Everyone Loves Blondes: Elle Woods is homecoming queen, president of Delta Nu, and girlfriend to pre-law student Warner Huntington III. All of this changes when she gets to Harvard.
- Everything's Better with Sparkles: Some of Elle's outfits.
- Fish out of Water: The story is based on it. Especially apparent when she first arrived, dressed in hot pink surrounded by the muted earth tones of everybody else.
- Fluffy Fashion Feathers: A few of Elle's outfits, including the Playboy Bunny outfit.
- Gay Conservative: Parodied in the second film where a senator comes out and states his dog is gay and in love with Bruiser. Everyone in the court reacts to this revelation as if the senator himself came out as gay.
- Genre Shift: 2/3's of the way in it switches from rom-com to court-room drama with comedic elements.
- Go-Getter Girl: Like most Harvard Law students, Vivian is this, which leads her to resent the ditzy yet capable Elle.
- Gold Digger: This is Callahan's initial impression of Brooke, a good-looking younger blonde married to a seventy-year-old millionaire. However, she's got her own money, and she insists that he had... other assets of more interest.
- Moves into Deconstructed Trope as Brooke worked hard to stay married to her husband, who had a history of marrying and divorcing on a whim.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Elle. For all that she can be a bit tactless at times, is truly caring, feminine, noble, and sweet. Despite her shallow exterior, she has a good heart. She also comes across as the naive innocent compared to all the... um, lawyers.
- Heel-Face Revolving Door: Callahan. He goes from being a hard-ass lecturer to an understanding mentor to a pervert who hits on his student the second the movie needs a reason for Elle to defend Brooke.
- Hello, Attorney!: Elle. She's like a chameleon!
- Also Vivian, in a Brainy Brunette way. Hard to avoid when the actress in question is Selma Blair.
- Inverted Trope: Elle seems to be the walking antithesis of stereotypes about blondes.
- Blondes are dumb - she possesses extreme wealth of knowledge about all things fashion, and besides that had a 4.0 GPA and near-perfect SAT scores, regardless of how she got them.
- She has a 179 LSAT score. A 179. That. is. not. dumb. For those unfamiliar with law school requirements, the highest possible score is 180. Elle only missed one point.
- Blondes are bitchy - she is never deliberately spiteful to anybody (just a little tactless), and is shown at various times to be good-natured and even caring.
- Blondes are promiscuous - she's never shown or even hinted to have been with a lot of men, at the beginning of the movie she has a long-term boyfriend who she thinks is going to propose, and at several points in the movie she spurns the advances of others (the closest the movies to any hint of this stereotype was when Elle was studying and looked very forlorn when a bunch of shirtless frat guys walk by her window and throw a keggar she's going to miss out on.)
- Ironic Echo:
Warner: (start of the movie) If I'm gonna be a senator by the time I'm thirty, I've gotta stop dicking around.
Elle: (end of the movie) If I'm going to be a partner in a law firm by the time I'm thirty, I need a boyfriend who isn't a total bonehead.
- It's a Costume Party, I Swear: Vivian pulls this one on Elle. Elle works it anyway.
- Ivy League for Everyone: ´Subverted. She has a 4.0 from a UCLA equivalent, near perfect LSAT scores (as in, one point off from a perfect score), and is the president of a relatively large sorority, at which she is incredibly active and prolific. She would have no problem getting into Harvard Law. Law schools are numbers-consious to the extreme degree and give very little preference towards one major over another. Her fashion merchandising major, from a good school, no less, wouldn't hurt and having any sort of extracurricular would be icing on the cake that is a 179 LSAT score.
- I Won't Say I'm Guilty: Brooke.
- Licked by the Dog: During the scene in which formerly-frosty Vivian Kensington begins to befriend Elle, she is also licked by Elle's dog Bruiser.
- Lipstick and Load Montage: Elle during the opening credits.
- The Makeover: When Elle reinvents herself after the costume party.
- Market-Based Title: In Japan the title was changed to "Cutie Blonde." It makes sense to do something like that seeing as the really lame pun in the title probably wouldn't have translated, but there is really no reason why they would change the sequel title from "Red White and Blonde" to "Happy Max."
- May-December Romance: Brooke and her late husband.
- Mister Muffykins: Bruiser.
- Morning Routine: How the movie begins (cross-cut between shots of other girls preparing for her date).
- MRS Degree: Elle initially decides to go to Harvard Law School to win back her boyfriend, who left her because she wasn't serious enough. Her priorities begin to shift when she develops an interest in studying law for its own sake.
- Ms. Fanservice: Not too much, but Elle certainly isn't afraid to strut around in bikini tops and Playboy Bunny attire.
- Murder by Mistake: It turns out this is what really happened to Brooke's husband. Chutney, Brooke's stepdaughter, had a huge grudge against Brooke because her father married Brooke, who was Chutney's age. So Chutney hatched a murder plan that hinged on her being able to anticipate when Brooke would return to the house. As Chutney shouts in court, she didn't mean to shoot her father, she thought it was Brooke walking through that door!
- Nice Guy: "Dorky" David. Not only is he one of the first people to not treat Elle with open contempt (and he's the only one in the first class who looks shocked when Stromwell throws Elle out), but he also goes out of his way to be nice to her when the rest of Elle's peers treat her like she's a joke (such as helping her get a book from a top shelf). Elle returns the favor later on in the movie when she pretends to be his spurned girlfriend in front of other women to help make him look impressive.
- No Bisexuals: The defense team "proves" that Enrique couldn't have been sleeping with Brooke because he has a boyfriend. No one in the film, let alone the prosecution, tries to suggest he could be bisexual and a flirt. There's also the other problem that him having a boyfriend doesn't actually preclude him from cheating on his boyfriend either. However, his response to said boyfriend's outburst in the courtroom would have proven the point far better (though the defense could not have possibly known said boyfriend would be in attendance).
- Of course, Brooke is a bit of a snob when it comes to potential lovers. As Elle puts it, "No Delta Nu would ever sleep with a man who wears a thong!"
- Non Indicative Name: Bruiser is actually a perfectly sweet dog.
- Oh, Crap: Chutney has one upon Elle pointing out the flaw in her alibi — she COULDN'T have been having a shower when her father was shot because she'd had a perm.
- Only Cool People Matter: Played with in many, many ways, all of which ultimately reinforce the trope.
- The Perry Mason Method:
Chutney: I didn't mean to shoot him. (points at Brooke) I thought it was you walking through the door!
- Pet the Dog: Warner insisting on driving Elle back to the sorority house after breaking up with her, rather than making her walk home in high heels.
- Later, when Elle wants to join their study group and Vivian says they have enough people, Warner says they can make room for one more.
- Pink Means Feminine: Several of Elle's outfits.
- And a number of her things as well, including her resume.
- Playboy Bunny: Elle goes to a party dressed as this. Unfortunately she may have received some wrong information from an unreliable source.
- Plucky Girl: Nothing and no one can stop Elle.
- Reflexive Response:
Emmet: And your boyfriend's name is...?
- Second Love: Emmet.
- Shout-Out: Brooke's May-December Romance marriage is very reminiscent of Anna Nicole Smith.
- Smart People Wear Glasses: Invoked by Elle when she dons glasses to pose as Paulette's lawyer and help get her dog back
- So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Actually legit for once. Not only does it mean that everyone dismisses her on sight, but she also gets sexually harassed by Callahan.
Elle: All people see when they look at me is blonde hair and big boobs. No one's ever going to take me seriously.
- Someday This Will Come in Handy: Elle's haircare knowledge wins her first court case.
- Spoiled Sweet: Oh, Elle. Granted, she can be tactless at times, but other than that.
- Straw Feminist: Enid such as in her speech to Warner at the Halloween party about changing the name "semester" to "ovester." The latter example was actually drawn from a real student Amanda Brown met during her brief tenure at Stanford Law School, who suggested the same thing in all seriousness.
- This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: Or the only Harvard law student who knows about perms in detail.
- Trophy Wife: Brooke is assumed to be such. Warner breaks up with Elle, because he needs a different type of one.
- Underestimating Badassery: The entire point of the film.
- Unlimited Wardrobe: Not only are none of Elle's clothes re-used, but none of her hairstyles as well. It also applies in the musical to an extent which means a lot of rapid costume changes for the lead, which is helped by all the dresses being fastened by magnets, making them easily removable.
- When All You Have Is a Hammer: She wins the final lawsuit with her cosmetic knowledge, and gets enrolled with a video where she practically just poses in a swimsuit and other sexy outfits.
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The film ends with a scene showing what happened to the main characters while they attend Elle's graduation.
- You Just Told Me: Enrique's Reflexive Response.
- Your Makeup Is Running: Elle after Warner breaks up with her.