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Who needs Atticus Finch when you have Abercrombie and Fitch?

Warner Huntington III: You got into Harvard Law?
Elle Woods: What, like it's hard?
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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. So she applies to Harvard Law School and is accepted, both because her scores are near-perfect and because her hyper-feminine joie de vivre makes for a nice change. 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. And as she realizes that she's actually pretty damn good at the whole law thing, things much more important than Warner enter her life.

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Based on the semi-autobiographical story of Amanda Brown, this 2001 film starred Reese Witherspoon in her major breakout role. There was a sequel and a spin-off made: Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde in 2003 and Legally Blondes in 2009. A second sequel, co-written by Mindy Kaling, has been announced for release in 2022.

In 2007, this was adapted into Legally Blonde: The Musical on Broadway, starring Laura Bell Bundy as Elle.


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These films provide examples of:

  • Academic Alpha Bitch: Vivian Kensington, who tries to make Elle 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.
  • Actor Allusion: In the sequel's opening, the girls look at a picture of Elle with Congresswoman Rudd (played by Sally Field) and say "Those are two kickass women. I like them, I really like them" - referencing Sally Field's Oscar acceptance speech.
  • Adaptational Location Change: Due to issues with Stanford, the film changes the main setting of the school that Elle attends to Harvard.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: While still a jerk, Warner is a lot nicer than he was in the book, realizing he probably shouldn’t have broken up with Elle during a nice dinner and trying to let her in his study group.
  • Adoptive Peer Parent: Chutney and her stepmother Brooke are around the same age. And because of this, Chutney hated Brooke enough to want to kill her.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Played for drama. Warner calls his girlfriend "Pooh bear" no matter who she is.
  • An Aesop:
    • The film has a feminist Aesop. Instead of going down the Real Women Don't Wear Dresses route, Elle's girliness and love of fashion are not shown as detrimental to her character in any way. She for example has a 4.0-grade average and gets only one point off the top score in her LSAT exam. She embraces her femininity at the end to become a top lawyer. And not only does she quickly abandon her shallow ambition to win Warner back, but she and Vivian also become good friends and learn to respect each other rather than fighting over a man who was kind of a jerk. Moreover, after choosing not to fawn over Warner anymore, she finds herself falling for Emmett, an infinitely nicer guy who treats her like a human being. (This aspect is even more apparent in the musical.)
    • On top of being generally feminist, there is a recurring theme throughout the film of women helping each other out. Elle's sorority sisters help her study for her LSATs and support her all the way to the climax of the film, her school advisor doesn't just brush off her aspirations to Harvard Law immediately but actually helps her apply (and get accepted), Elle helps Paulette get her confidence (and her dog) back, Elle and Vivian supporting each other, Elle keeping Brooke's secret despite pressure from every angle, and Professor Stromwell breaking Elle out of her Heroic BSoD.
  • Age-Gap Romance: Brooke's late husband was much older than her. This actually ends up triggering the latter half of the film's plot, since the reason Chutney attempted to kill Brooke - and accidentally killed her own father - was because she resented the fact that her new step-mother was the same age as her.
  • Almighty Janitor: In Legally Blonde 2, Elle makes friends with one of the doormen, Sid Post. He quickly proves to be an invaluable resource, as his years of manning Congress' doors have given him an excellent inside view on politics.
  • Always Identical Twins: Elle's British cousins from the spin-off, Izzy and Annie.
  • Always Camp: Everywhere. If the guy isn't a law student, a lawyer, or a love interest, chances are he's FLAMING.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Elle's commitment to her social strategies and her intensity regarding the things she cares about has lead some to believe that she is not neurotypical.
  • Amoral Attorney: Played straight with Callahan, who sexually harasses interns.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: From Elle to Warner when he says she's not smart enough to get Callahan's internship: "I'm never going to be good enough for you, am I?"
  • Artistic License – Animal Care: Elle's chihuahua Bruiser rides shotgun in her convertible, apparently without any kind of seatbelt but just loose in a shopping bag.
  • Artistic License – Law:
    • At least one fairly early in the movie: in Stromwell's class (apparently Civil Procedure), Stromwell asks Vivian about Gordon v. Steele and whether there was diversity jurisdiction in the case. Vivian says there wasn't and Stromwell says she's correct. This is an amazingly wrong answer.Layman's explanation... 
    • The rule that Elle uses to become the trial attorney at the end of the movie would only apply to a senior law student who has taken a class in evidence handling — Elle is neither.
    • Judges do not have the authority to file charges against anyone in the courtroom, nor order the prosecuting attorney to do so. She only did that in the movie, though. One could take it as a simple statement of the obvious, that the D.A.'s office would be filing charges against the person who had just confessed to murder on the witness stand.
    • There is a special process for someone to declare an alibi without revealing the scandalous or embarrassingness of it in order not to convict innocent parties. Of course, if they were to acknowledge this, then there would be a plot hole.
    • Elle’s cross examination of Chutney should have drawn an objection for compound questioning. Layman’s explanation... 
  • 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.
  • Babies Ever After: The epilogue of the first film reveals that Paulette married the express delivery guy she had a crush on and they were expecting their first child — a girl whom they named Elle.
  • Betty and Veronica: Subverted. Elle starts out seeming like the Betty type, being ready to marry her long-time boyfriend. She becomes the Veronica after Warner dumps her, with him trying to settle down with the more serious and down-to-earth Vivian.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Callahan, who almost ruins Elle's attempt to be an attorney, and Chutney Windham, the real culprit behind the Windham murder.
  • Big Secret: Brooke refuses to say where she was at the time of the murder, despite the fact that she's leaving herself with no alibi. Since she made her fortune off of a fitness empire, having it made public that she was getting liposuction would discredit her to her customers and make her look like a fraud.
    Brooke: I was getting liposuction.
    [Elle gasps]
  • Big Stupid Doo Doo Head: Elle calls Emmett a butthead.
  • Big "WHAT?!":
    • Elle early on in the film in response to Warner dumping her. It's loud enough to draw attention from the other restaurant-goers.
    • While still on trial towards the end of the film, Brooke exclaims "What?" when she hears from Emmett that Elle quit her law firm. At that point, Brooke feels like she didn't want Elle to quit because the latter is smart enough to know that Brooke is innocent.
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: Brooke's explanation to why she married her husband who was twice her age.
    Brooke: Then show them a picture of his dick. That should clear a few things up.
  • Bitch Alert: Enid is extremely judgmental in her opening scene, Professor Stromwell mocks Elle for not doing the reading and Vivian tries to humiliate Elle. Stromwell turns out to be not so bad, Vivian defrosts and Enid gets put in her place.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • When Elle runs into Warner at Harvard, she pretends that she forgot he went there. He believes it so little that he completely ignores it.
    • After Enrique accidentally admits to having a boyfriend, he tries to row away by saying he thought Emmett was asking what his friend's name was, as though he only had one friend and everyone knew it, or even knew that Chuck was in the courtroom.
  • Bluff the Imposter: One of the early signs of Elle's intelligence (and people's tendency to underestimate that) is a dress store saleswoman trying to pass off a cheap, old dress as much more expensive and new. Elle asks her if it's low-viscosity rayon with half-loop top stitching on the hem. The clerk assures her it is and that it's one of a kind. Elle smiles sweetly and says that you can't use that stitching with that fabric and to not try to bluff her again.
  • Blithe Spirit: Elle got her degree in fashion, dresses in hot pink, and basically ignores most common elements of courtroom decorum. However, she does still get everything to fall into place regardless, even using The Perry Mason Method to catch a murderer.
  • Bookends:
    • Sort of. The film opens with what Elle thinks is going to be a proposal from Warner and ends with the note that she's going to get one for real from Emmett.
    • The film starts and ends with "Perfect Day" playing in the background.
  • Both Sides Have a Point:
    • Regarding Brooke's alibi: Brooke is concerned that she'll be seen as a fraud because after making her fortune from helping women lose weight, revealing that she was getting liposuction would discredit her and she can't go through another loss after her husband's death. Elle does point out that it could "save her" from jail time at the least, and that her routines do work.
    • As to whether or not Elle should have broken her promise to tell the law team about Brook's alibi, or to persuade Brooke to tell them. To Warner and Callahan it looks like a case of Honor Before Reason in that they have to do their job and defend Brooke, but she's not telling them everything and thus making the case harder. To Brooke and Elle, it's a matter of how it was a secret told in confidence, and Elle cannot break that even if she's just an intern. Even Vivian agrees that it shows she has great integrity (the first positive thing she admits about Elle).
  • Brainy Brunette: One of Elle's sorority sisters, Amy, is the only on-screen brunette (besides Serena) in Delta Nu and its seemingly only academically-oriented member. Case in point, she's seen helping Elle study for her LSAT exam.
  • Break the Cutie: Elle, when Callahan makes a pass at her and Vivian turns on her, though she bounces back.
  • Broken Pedestal:,
    • As Callahan praises Elle for her hard work, Elle gains confidence in herself and her work and looks up to Callahan until he reveals his true motives and tries to hit on her. This makes Elle question everything he's taught her and insult him before leaving.
    • In the second film, Elle greatly looked up to her new boss, Congresswoman Victoria Rudd, until she discovers that the latter had shot down Bruiser's Bill (that would ban animal testing) in order to keep a valuable campaign donor. Thankfully, Rudd redeems herself at the end.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Elle, at one point even doing this almost literally. Almost, because she hadn't graduated yet. She's a ditzy, bubbly, and inexperienced student, but is a good lawyer, and catches on quickly in the field.
  • California University: Elle starts out as a student at the fictional CULA. The producers wanted to have her attend either USC (which Elle attended in the book) or UCLA (where some of the CULA scenes were shot) but both refused permission for their names to be used.
  • The Cameo: Raquel Welch has a very brief, but memorable, cameo as Mrs. Windham-Vandermark.
  • Camp Gay:
    • Presented as an iron rule — gay men know brand-name shoes, straight men don't.
    • In the sequel, Bruiser is revealed to be this. He develops an attraction to another male dog, much to the chagrin of that dog's owner. The owner coming to terms with this leads him to show his support for Bruiser's mother being set free. Also, he is seen always wearing pink, and Elle mentions after this revelation that he likes to wear her shoes.
  • Casting Couch: Implied through Callahan's speech as he hits on Elle and asking her how far will she go, much to her shock.
    Callahan: [places a hand on Elle's leg] How far is Elle willing to go?
    Elle: [slaps his hand away] Are you hitting on me?!
  • 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.
    • Elle is able to use larger leaps in logic in order to argue her cases such as in both the 'Sperm Donor' example trial and the final one, which catches people off-guard such as her professor or Chutney.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl:
    • Vivian is this when Elle tries to win over Warner. She's always flashing her engagement ring and placing a supportive protecting arm on Warner's shoulder in front of Elle Vivian breaks up with him in the end.
    • One could argue that Elle qualifies as well, considering she moves cross-country and enrolls in Harvard Law to get Warner back, though eventually she decides he isn’t worth it and puts her time into working hard at law school, to prove everyone wrong, she later earns her law degree and gets a job offer.
  • Confusion Fu: Emmett proves that Enrique is gay by asking several questions about him and the case before asking his boyfriend's name, catching him off guard.
  • Cool Teacher: Callahan seems to be one of these, helping guide Elle through the tougher points of law school. At least until he hits on Elle, revealing he just wanted to sleep with her the whole time. Stromwell was one all along, despite her tough beginning with Elle.
  • Cucumber Facial: Mrs. Windham Vandermark is at a spa wearing one of these when Elle and Emmett come to take her testimony.
  • The Cutie: Elle.
  • Deathbringer the Adorable: Bruiser the Chihuahua.
  • Death Glare: Elle's sorority sisters give a quite potent one to everyone in the courtroom when they laugh at Elle for asking repeatedly about Chutney's claims of being in the shower. It doesn't silence anyone, but we find out why the girls were angry: they figured out at the same time as Elle that Chutney is lying about being in the shower. Even without Elle's knowledge of ammonium thioglycolate, they have first-hand knowledge of how water will destroy a fresh perm, having seen their friend Tracy get hosed down for a wet t-shirt contest, destroying her freshly made curls.
  • 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.
  • Dirty Old Man: Callahan, as he tries to hit on Elle and revealing to her that the only reason he was nice to her was because she was pretty.
  • Dinner and a Breakup: In the opening of the film, Elle's boyfriend Warner invites her out to dinner, which Elle thinks will result in a marriage proposal. But at the restaurant, Warner explains to her that he wants to break up with her because he wants to pursue a career in politics, and to that end, it's better if he has a girlfriend that's less Marilyn Monroe and more Jackie Kennedy (as he puts it). The shock results in Elle crying hysterically at the news and causes the other patrons to look at Warner with disgust and contempt.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Chutney is disgusted by the fact that she and her new stepmother Brooke are the same age. So Chutney tried to murder Brooke and, when she accidentally killed her father instead, proceeded to frame Brooke for it.
  • Ditzy Genius: Elle may be a Bunny-Ears Lawyer and seem rather airheaded, but she does make for a good lawyer. She scores 179 out of a possible 180 on the LSAT and was shown to have studied very hard for it, implying she can be quite booksmart when she wants to be.
  • Domestic Abuse: Poor Paulette... Luckily Elle helps her gain confidence, which enables Paulette to get her dog back and later get a hunky delivery boyfriend all on her own.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point:
    • Vivian sees Callahan hitting on Elle and automatically assumes it's consensual.
    • Invoked when Brooke tells Emmett she thinks Callahan believes she is guilty. Emmett replies that he does, but that for Callahan the matter of guilt is beside the point.
  • Dumbass Has a Point:
    • Every one of Elle's sorority sisters is ditzy, but each one tells her that Warner isn't worth it after the breakup. They tell Elle that she deserves better than a guy who treats her like a Dumb Blonde. It takes until the middle of the movie for Elle to admit they were right after she realizes Warner would never think of her as good enough for marriage material.
    • Elle’s parents are shallow people, but they had good reasons to be skeptical of Elle wanting to go to Law school. She wanted to do it on a whim, it's going to be a lot of hard work, and it's all to get Warner back. But they remained supportive of her nonetheless.
  • Dumb Blonde: The whole film deconstructs the stereotype. Everyone including her parents (and possibly even the viewers) expect Elle to be dumb just because she's pretty. She goes to show time and time again that just because she's pretty and she is interested in girly things doesn't make her stupid or inferior to anyone else. Her almost perfect LSAT score, her 4.0 GPA (majoring in Fashion Merchandising), the fact she got accepted to Harvard Law School, all go to show that she is quite intelligent, but people still continue to underestimate her. In her establishing character moment, when Elle is shopping for a dress, the saleswoman assumes she's just a silly rich girl and tries to sell her a last-season dress at full price and lies through her teeth trying to get her to buy it claiming it to be new and one of a kind. Elle, however, instantly knows it’s on sale being a last-season dress and flips the tables on the seller making her look stupid exposing her lies about the material and stitching.
  • Dumb Is Good: For a movie like this, surprisingly averted, and played with all over the place by various characters.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Emmett does this when he and Elle wait in line at the campus bookstore. He has the privilege of waiting right behind her when she's in her Playboy Bunny costume and notably looks at her rear with an amused smile.
    • Random Harvard boys stop their game of football just to look at her reading a magazine.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • As Elle is in a store squealing about trying to find the perfect outfit for her date, a dishonest saleswoman rips the sales tag off a dress, telling her it's one of a kind and just came in. Elle immediately sees what she's trying to do and asks her a trick question about the stitching and fabric — thereby exposing the saleswoman as less knowledgeable about clothing design and construction than Elle herself. To top it off, Elle tells her she saw the dress in Vogue a year ago.
      Elle: If you're trying to get me to buy it at full price, you picked the wrong girl.
    • Conversely, Warner shows that he's not nearly as with-it as he seems when he says he plans to be a senator by the time he's thirty — which is expressly forbidden in the Constitution.note 
  • Ethnic Menial Labor: Enrique the pool boy, not a traditional version as he looks more like a mock millionaire playboy.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: During Elle's questioning, Chutney states that didn't hear the gunshot because she was in the shower. Elle then asks what Chutney had done earlier that day, and Chutney states that she got her bi-annual permanent hair treatment. Elle gets her second wind after she reveals that water would deactivate the chemical process within 24 hours of getting the perm that Chutney still sported. This leads Chutney to tearfully admit that she accidentally killed her father when she was waiting to ambush her stepmother.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • Brooke refutes Enrique's testimony, not based on her faithfulness, but by arguing that no Delta Nu sister would ever sleep with a man who wears a thong.
    • Chutney's mother and Mr. Windham's first wife is catty and unhelpful to Emmett and Elle. She maintains that Brooke is a Gold Digger that seized the opportunity to be free of an old guy. She's horrified in the climax when Elle proves that Chutney is the killer; you can hear her gasping.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: Elle Woods is homecoming queen, president of Delta Nu, and is the girlfriend to pre-law student Warner Huntington III. All of this changes when she gets to Harvard, though she proves herself to be a good student.
  • 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.
  • Flanderization: Elle's super effeminate side dangerously comes up more often in the sequel after having nearly gotten rid of it in the first movie. While pink was her signature color in the first movie, she rarely wears head to toe pink, sticking to fashionable and colorful but still appropriate outfits.
  • Flat "What": Elle's reaction to seeing Vivian with Warner's heirloom engagement ring.
  • Fluffy Fashion Feathers: A few of Elle's outfits have feather trim, including the neckline on her Playboy Bunny outfit.
  • Foil
    • Warner and Emmett. The former is superficial and looks down on Elle for her looks but is himself a lightweight in law despite his great ambition to be a senator. Emmett is a kind, respectful guy who doesn't misjudge Elle for her looks and helps her to find success at Harvard.
    • Stromwell and Callahan are this as well. The former is a very strict woman who isn't afraid to publicly humiliate her students. But her strictness is due to wanting them to succeed in life and she helps Elle get out of her rut. Callahan is a more genial man to his students but is in reality a misogynistic sleazebag who saw Elle as nothing more than a sex object.
    • Vivian and Elle. Both are smart, driven and hardworking girls who won't take no for an answer. However, Vivian is meanspirited, spiteful and vicious, constantly going after Elle and even spreading lies about her to other students (like telling Enid that Elle had called her a "dyke"), when in fact she had done nothing to Vivian. Elle on the other hand is always kind to strangers expecting nothing in return and it's why she easily makes friends. Once Vivian realizes Elle isn't her enemy (and never has been) she mellows out and they end up becoming friends.
  • Foreshadowing: The fact that Callahan only orders his female interns to get him coffee is a sign that he's really a misogynistic creep who saw Elle as nothing but a piece of ass.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • At the beginning of the movie you can briefly see a picture of Elle as a contestant in the Miss Hawaiian Tropic contest that her mother talks about later.
    • Elle's sorority mates have the same "Eureka!" Moment expression she does when they hear Chutney's alibi that she showered the same day she got a perm. And one raises her hand when Elle asks Chutney why Tracy's perm was ruined after a Wet T-shirt contest..
  • 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.
  • Geeky Turn-On: While Emmett clearly has a thing for Elle before the trial, the expression on his face when she breaks Chutney on the stand in the climax can only be accurately described as, "You are so hot right now."
  • Genre Shift: In the second half of the film, the genre switches from rom-com to courtroom 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, who later becomes this.
  • Gold Digger:
    • Discussed in regards to Brooke, a good-looking younger blonde married to an older millionaire. However, Callahan clarifies that she's got her own money, and she herself insists that he had... other assets of more interest to her.
    • Played with both Elle and Vivian, who both want Warner more for his status and wealth than for his winning personality and depth of thought. Given that his main motivation seems to be living up to his family's expectations, that may be all he has going for him.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Despite turning out to be a nice and decent person, Vivian's jealousy toward Elle makes her act like quite a bitch for a while.
  • 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.
  • Hard-Work Montage: Elle gets two. In the first, interspersed with her video application essay, she is studying for the LSAT. In the second, she finally applies herself in studying after the bunny costume debacle.
  • 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.
  • Heirloom Engagement Ring: Elle hopes that her boyfriend Warner will propose with his grandmother's Harry Winston diamond ring. He breaks up with her and uses said ring to propose to Vivian instead.
  • Hello, Attorney!:
    • Elle. She knows how to make an entrance.
    • Also Vivian, in a Brainy Brunette way. Her look is surprisingly preppy and polished. Hard to avoid when the actress in question is Selma Blair.
  • Heroic BSoD: Elle enters a brief one when she rejects Callahan's advances. She quickly recovers thanks to Stromwell's helpful advice not to give up on her career.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Elle's sorority friends, despite not understanding why Elle would apply to law school to chase after her jerky ex-boyfriend, assist her in studying for the LSAT and preparing their application material. They keep her on task when she wants to slack off and accurately measure her practice scores. Then when she gets a 179, they all cheer her.
    • Serena can speak a fair amount of Korean, having visited the nail salon so many times.
    • At the climactic trial, both of Elle's sorority sisters have the same "Eureka!" Moment she does in a Freeze-Frame Bonus. They and Elle know that Chutney couldn't have taken a shower the same day that she got a perm, because her curls are intact, and you're not supposed to wet your hair for 24 hours after a perm. One even raises her hand when Elle asks Chutney why their friend Tracy's curls get ruined after a wet T-shirt contest.
  • Hypocrite: Most of the things Warner assumes about Elle are traits he has. His insistence that Elle isn't smart enough to hack the classes is particularly damning when she got into Harvard on her own merit, and he had to call his father to get in after he got waitlisted and ends up graduating with no honors or even any job offers, unlike Elle. Also, his entire motivation for dumping her is his belief that she is too superficial and frivolous to cut it as the wife of a politician... based purely on her looks and bubbly "blonde" attitude, showcasing the same superficial and shallow attitude he supposedly condemns.
  • I Gave My Word: Elle won't tell Callahan about Brooke's alibi because she promised, even though it could win them the case. This is one of the factors that makes Vivian start to warm up to Elle, looking disgusted when Warner suggests she "think about herself" and tell Callahan the alibi, then later telling her that she thought it was very classy of her to keep her promise.
  • I'm a Man; I Can't Help It: This is Callahan's excuse for hitting on Elle. She's a beautiful girl therefore he has to hit on her. Elle doesn't take this news well, even having a Heroic BSoD when she wonders if everything he taught her was all a lie just to get into her pants.
  • Impossibly Tacky Clothes:
    • Elle once convinced Cameron Diaz not to buy an angora sweater, because it was a really tacky shade of orange.
    • Some of the Harvard students' outfits count, there's not caring about fashion and then there is what they wear.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Margot thinks Serena is being Captain Obvious when she points out that her lucky scrunchy wasn't as responsible for her passing her Spanish mid-term as her flirting with the professor. Margot considers the scrunchy to be responsible for the flirting, which was the lucky part.
  • Ironic Echo: Arguably the entire point of the movie. At the beginning of the movie, Warner tells Elle that "If I'm gonna be a senator by the time I'm thirty, I've gotta stop dicking around," which bites him in the ass when Elle says to him at the 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, dressed in a playboy bunny outfit.
  • It's Fake Fur, It's Fine: Elle helped her sorority sisters make fur panties for them, and it's explicitly stated they are fake fur.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Played With. Elle impulsively decides to go to Harvard Law and gets in. However, she's actually a very strong candidate: she has a 4.0 from a UCLA equivalent, near-perfect LSAT scores (as in, one point off from a perfect score), has a business-related degree note , 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.
  • I Won't Say I'm Guilty: Brooke refuses to admit guilt, because she really didn't do it.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Professor Stromwell is appropriately annoyed when a law student who sits in the front admits that she hasn't done the reading and isn't prepared for class at all. She's impressed when Elle catches up on her schoolwork and is the one who inspires Elle not to quit after Callahan tried to seduce her. Elle's continued studying and pushing herself shows that she ultimately agreed with Stromwell.
    • Despite all of Warner's flaws, his skepticism of Elle in Harvard is validated because she joined solely to try to get back with him without any evidence that she is interested in law to begin with, which Elle casually admits. His fatal mistake, however, is thinking that Elle's not smart enough and therefore won't cut it, she later begins gaining passion for law work and proves him wrong.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Professor Stromwell may seem kind of angry and cold, but she only does it because she wants to produce good lawyers. She even gives Elle a pep talk when Callahan hits on Elle, causing her to come close to quitting.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Warner ends being dumped by both Elle and Vivian and graduates without honors or job offers.
  • 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 getting ready for the date with Warner during the opening credits. Namely the date on which she expects him to propose.
  • Love at First Sight: Bruiser (a male Chihuahua) and Leslie (a male Rottweiler) when they first meet, cue the romantic music swelling and after their respective owners bid goodbye, Bruiser and Leslie didn't want to say goodbye.
  • Love Triangle: Elle/Warner/Vivian. Elle gets with Emmett, Vivian dumps Warner and he ends up with nobody.
  • Loving a Shadow: Neither Elle nor Vivian ever say what exactly they love about Warner or why they want to marry him. Over the course of the movie they both realize that he's a pretty crappy person and lose interest.
  • The Makeover: When Elle reinvents herself after the costume party, later after tying to look like a traditional lawyer when she works as an intern. She shows up to defend her client in a twist on a classic dress, it’s pretty and pink and she looks fashionable, professional, and playful.
  • 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, and changed the sequel title from "Red White and Blonde" to "Happy Max."
  • Meaningful Name:
    • In the book, her name was Sarah, but in the movie they changed it to Vivian for some reason.
    • Elle was named after the fashion magazine.
  • Metaphorically True: When Elle visits Brooke in prison, they write her down as Brooke's sister Delta Nu. She is in fact Brooke's sorority sister from Delta Nu.
  • Mirror Character: Vivan to Elle. They both want to be Mrs. Warner Huntington III and carry the heirloom ring on their finger, they're both brilliant law students who got into Harvard Law on their own merit, and they both make unkind assumptions about the other. Symbolized when Vivian accuses Elle of sleeping with Callahan and the elevator doors close to show Elle's reflection.
  • Misplaced Retribution: Chutney is angry that she and her father's new wife are the same age. This is understandable, but Chutney puts the blame entirely on Brooke (and tried to kill her) for marrying her father, while not blaming her father for choosing to marry a woman the same age as his daughter.
  • Mister Muffykins: Bruiser.
  • Morning Routine: How the movie begins (cross-cut between shots of other girls preparing for her date) it honestly looks like a fun way to get up.
  • 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 and realizes that Warner isn't worth her time.
  • 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 for being married to her father despite being 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!
  • My God, What Have I Done?: This is Vivian's reaction after accusing Elle of seducing Callahan only to discover the truth that Callahan was hitting on her, leading Elle to quit Callahan's firm.
  • Never My Fault: Elle tells Warner that her first day went well except for a "horrible preppy girl who tried to make me look bad in front of the professor". What actually happened was that Elle made herself look bad in front of the professor by not doing the required reading (although said girl was quite gleeful about rubbing salt in the wound). She gets better.
  • 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.
    • Emmett's introductory scene involves him giving Elle, a girl he's never met before, tips on what to watch out for in every teacher's class, even admitting that one of them made him cry after class.
  • 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 Enrique having a boyfriend doesn't actually preclude Enrique from cheating on his boyfriend, either. However, Enrique clearly tried to cover up his slip with a lie ("Chuck is just a friend"), so his credibility was shot anyway, and Enrique's 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, on their side of the gallery).
  • No Full Name Given: Callahan and Stromwell's first names are never stated, not even in the credits.note 
  • Not What It Looks Like: Callahan reveals his true motives and suddenly starts hitting on Elle — just as Vivian walks into the room and infers that Elle is seducing him. Vivian doesn't realize that she made a huge mistake until Emmett spells it out for her later on.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Bruiser is actually a perfectly sweet (and tiny) dog.
  • Non-Uniform Uniform: In the spin-off, Elle's cousins, Izzy and Annie, along with their Scholarship Student friends alter much of their private school uniforms and also accessorize with them to express themselves. Despite how it makes them look like they are all breaking the rules of their school uniform, they surprisingly don't break a single one.
  • Not with Them for the Money: Brooke and Mr. Windham. Despite everyone (except Elle) assuming she married him for his money, she genuinely loved him.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Subverted. Elle is more naive in the climax than putting on a false air of stupidity that Chutney's alibi is solid. She really was that nervous, and only got her Heroic Second Wind when finding the holes in the story of why Chutney didn't hear the gunshot. We know she has the case in the bag when Chutney reveals she's gotten two perms a year since she was twelve, making it thirty in total, and Elle gains a confident, tight smile. It's that everyone tends to underestimate Elle for her perky attitude.
  • Oh, Crap!: Chutney has one upon Elle pointing out the flaw in her alibi — she couldn't have been taking a shower when her father was shot because she'd had a perm done earlier in the day and taking a shower so soon afterward would have ruined it.
  • Operation: Jealousy: Elle does this to help David win over one of the girls he's asking out on a date by pretending he slept with her and accidentally jilted her, leading one of the two girls he likes to ask him out.
  • Pass the Popcorn: When they realize Elle has Chutney dead to rights, her sorority sisters looked very excited as she builds her case.
  • The Perry Mason Method: Occurs during the first movie's climax in the trial. Elle grills the real killer on the stand after Spotting the Thread, leading the killer to confess. Chutney also admits her motive behind trying to kill Brooke: Chutney found it gross that her stepmother was the same age that she was.
    The Killer: 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 letting her walk back 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.
    • Vivian is disgusted when Warner insists that Elle gives up Brooke's alibi as it will help her get ahead on Callahan's book, as it will help her look good with Callahan by betraying Brooke's trust.
  • Pink Means Feminine: Pink is Elle's signature color, and it not only shows up on her clothes but a number of her things as well, including her resume. Her house in L.A., as seen in the spin-off, is apparently also very pink.
  • Playboy Bunny: Elle goes to a party dressed as this. Unfortunately, she may have received some wrong information from an unreliable source.
  • Plot-Inciting Infidelity: Downplayed. Warner tells Elle he got back with his ex Vivian at his grandmother's birthday party. Earlier we learned that he was returning from his grandmother the day of the break-up date.
  • Plot Hole: If the film airs on TV before the watershed time slots, it necessarily cuts the scene with Stromwell inspiring Elle to return to the case after nearly quitting because Callahan came onto her, since she calls Callahan a "prick". Without this, Elle's boisterous return to the courtroom, done up to the nines in pink, comes rather out of the blue.
  • Plucky Girl: Nothing and no one can stop Elle.
  • Plucky Office Girl: Elle becomes this in the sequel.
  • Preppy Name: Several of the characters such as Warner Huntington III, Vivian Kensington and Chutney Windham. Special shout-out to Warner's older brother Putnam Bowes Huntington III and his fiancee Layne Walker Vanderbilt.
  • Put on a Prison Bus: At the end of the first film, Chutney is taken into custody after she confesses to inadvertently killing her father.
  • Reflexive Response:
    Emmett: And your boyfriend's name is...?
    Enrique: Chuck.
  • Relationship Upgrade: A platonic version. Vivian begins to warm up to Elle after Elle refuses to give away Brooke's alibi. At the end of the movie, it is said she broke off her engagement with Warner and is now Elle's best friend.
  • Rich Bitch: Deconstructed. Everyone expects Elle to be one because she is wealthy and pretty and fashionable, but she is generally kind and sweet. Vivian comes off as this, but it turns out it's because she is insecure.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons:
    • Brooke thinks Elle is the smartest member of her legal team because of her impressive high-kicks.
    • Inverted when Callahan doesn't go along with Elle's theory that Enrique must be gay because he knows shoes. Played straight with Elle, since Enrique was gay but stereotypes aren't evidence.
    • Elle thinks Brooke is innocent because she works out, and working out makes you happy, and happy people don't kill their spouses. She's right that the actual killer was very UN-happy, not for lack of exercise though.
  • Rule of Three: Elle, Brooke and The Judge all say "Oh my God" when Chutney accidentally blurts out that she attempted to murder Brooke and she accidentally murdered her father instead.
    Elle: Oh my God.
    Brooke: Oh my God.
    The Honorable Marina R. Bickford: Oh my God.
  • Running Gag: Bruiser being in a carrier bag, and always from a different store.
  • Scholarship Student: Elle's cousins from the spin-off get partial scholarships to Elle's old private school, Pac Prep.
  • Second Love: It didn't work out with Warner, who felt he was better off marrying a Brainy Brunette. Elle ends up falling for Emmett, an older law student, and by the end of the movie they're engaged.
  • Sequel Non-Entity: Vivian neither appears nor get mentions in the second film. While Vivian isn't the only character this happens to, she stands out since she is stated to be Elle's best friend at the end of the first film and all Elle's other close friends - Margot, Serena and Paulette - show up.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: It's easy to miss between all the playing up of blonde stereotypes, but Elle uses phrases like "endorphins" and "ammonium thioglycolate" without hesitation.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Elle trying to win Warner back ultimately ends in failure, though she realizes that she has better things to do with her time after he rejects her and she realizes she's better off without him.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Elle says she grew up across the street from Aaron Spelling.
    • Post-breakup, Elle watches General Hospital.
    • Elle was in a Ricky Martin video.
    • Elle's look gets her compared to Malibu Barbie when she arrives to Harvard.
    • Aaron Mitchel boasts that Stephen Hawking might have plagiarized Aaron's fourth-grade paper when he wrote A Brief History Of Time.
    • Elle brags that she talked Cameron Diaz out of buying a hideous angora sweater.
    • Brooke's May–December Romance marriage is very reminiscent of Anna Nicole Smith.
    • Enrique once left a Cher tape in the poolhouse.
  • Shown Their Work: Amy is reading actual LSAT questions, which were taken from the analytical reasoning section of the 2000 paper.
  • Sincerity Mode: Just as she's about to demolish Chutney's alibi, Elle says that Chutney's facial bone structure means that a perm is a good look for her unlike with Elle's friend Tracy. Chutney's mother gives a little "aww" about that.
  • Skewed Priorities: Brook somehow deems it less scandalous to be accused of murder than to be found out about her liposuction. Never mind that a murder accusation, even if found innocent, can permanently ruin one's life.
  • Smart People Wear Glasses: It's not clear if Elle needs glasses or she just wears them as a fashion accessory when it suits her.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Elle. Not only does it mean that everyone dismisses her as stupid 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 hair-care knowledge wins her first court case.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Oh, Elle. Granted, she can be tactless at times, but other than that, she is kind to everyone unless they are unkind to her.
  • Spotting the Thread: Elle is able to figure out Chutney was lying in her testimony that she was in the shower when Brooke supposedly shot her father after she states she got a perm that day. Showering so soon after a perm would've ruined it and Chutney's perm was still intact so Elle is able to expose her. When Chutney realizes this, she inadvertently reveals that she accidentally killed her dad when she intended to kill Brooke as she was creeped out over having a stepmother the same age as her.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Elle gives up everything she enjoys to study for the LSAT, to get into Harvard Law School, a school and career she never had any prior interest in, just to follow a guy that dumped her. Finding out that he's engaged to another woman doesn't deter her attempt to win him back. Deconstructed when she talks to him at a party and realizes that no matter what she does, she'll "never be good enough" for him and gets a revelation about what she's doing.
  • Stereotype Flip: 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 LSAT score of 179. For those unfamiliar with law school requirements, the highest possible score is 180. Elle is one point away from a perfect score. For comparison, Warner (who just saw her as a ditzy blonde) didn't even get into Harvard on his own merit.
    • Blondes are bitchy - She is never deliberately spiteful to anybody and is shown at various times to be good-natured and even caring. The worst she gets is a bit tactless. For comparison, Vivian the Brainy Brunette is bitchy and spiteful to her on sight.
    • Blondes are promiscuous - She's never shown 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 get 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 kegger she's going to miss out on. Quite the opposite, when she's propositioned by a teacher who promises to help her get ahead, she flatly refuses and even considers dropping out of school over the incident.
  • Straw Feminist: Enid, such as in her speech to Warner at the Halloween party about changing the name "semester" to "ovester", on the reasoning that the word was derived from "semen". note 
  • Third-Act Misunderstanding: Vivian sees Callahan hitting on Elle in his office. She doesn't witness Elle spurning his advances and Vivian assumes she's using her looks to get ahead. She regrets this not long after Emmett tells her what really happened.
  • This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: Or the only Harvard law student who knows about perms in detail.
  • Trashy Trailer Home: The only scene in the trailer park has Elle help her manicurist friend reclaim her dog from her loutish ex-husband.
  • True Companions: Margot and Serena, for Elle. They can be a little oblivious at times, but when they know Elle needs them to back her up, they'll do it without question.
    • Paulette as well.
  • Trophy Wife:
    • Brooke is assumed by everyone to be one. She actually did love her late husband.
    • Warner breaks up with Elle because he needs a different type of trophy wife: a politician's wife.
  • 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 are either, according to the creators she goes through 40 different hairstyles through the film.
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: After the climax of the film, when Elle is a celebrity thanks to her work on Brooke's trial, Warner tries to get back together with her. Elle turns him down since she doesn't want to date a "bonehead".
  • Was It All a Lie?: After Warner announces he's breaking up with her, Elle starts crying and asking if that means he was lying when he said that he loved her. He realizes his mistake too late and tries to reassure her.
  • Western Zodiac: Elle and Bruiser are both Gemini.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to Professor Callahan after Brooke's trial? When we watch the Elle's graduation after the Time Skip, he's nowhere to be seen among the group of professors. It's likely he was either fired under pressure from the students over what he did to Elle, or he quit on his own when he realized he couldn't exact retribution on her for spurning his advances.
  • 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 Are Already Dead: Elle learns that according to Chutney, the latter got a perm and then got into the shower while Brooke ostensibly murdered her husband. She gets it on the record several times, to the point that the judge mocks her. Elle laughs nervously, but her smile becomes confident. Her sorority sisters lean forward, knowing where she's going with this. Elle gets Chutney to admit that she had thirty perms and knows that the curls get ruined if they're drenched in water for the first 24 hours. Thus, she was lying.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Elle gets it on record that Chutney claims she was in the shower and didn't hear the gunshot. She then has this reaction when Chutney reveals she got a perm earlier that day and is so confused that she asks, "You got a perm, and then got in the shower?" This makes the courtroom laugh when the judge snarkily remarks that the witness established that detail. Elle then realizes Chutney is lying, gains a confident smile, and demolishes her case because perms are not supposed to get wet for 24 hours at minimum.

Some dude: You read all these tropes?
You (Most likely): What, like it's hard?
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