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Film / Legally Blonde

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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?

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.


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.


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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 – 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.
    • 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. The film also goes out of its way to show her spending all her free time studying hard for the LSAT, and not just breezing through with barely any effort.
  • 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 "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.
  • 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 confidentiality, and Elle cannot break that even if she's just an intern.
  • 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.
  • 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 or UCLA but both refused permission for their names to be used.
  • Camp Gay:
    • Presented as an iron rule - gay men know brand named 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 trial, 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: Emmet 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.
  • Cry Cute: Elle starts crying when Warner breaks up with her. Her eyes just get shinier, averting Your Makeup Is Running. Her sobs sound like hiccups.
  • Cucumber Facial: After breaking up with Warner, Elle uses cucumber slices on her puffy eyes.
  • 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 that Elle did that Chutney is lying because if you get a perm, you can't wet your hair for 24 hours or your curls get ruined. Even without Elle's knowledge of ammonium thioglycolate, their friend Tracy had her perm hosed down for a wet t-shirt contest, destroying the curls, with their own eyes. Wondering how other people didn’t pick up the obvious hole in Chutney’s story.
  • 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 pin the blame on someone else.
  • 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 (with Elle’s help) and later get a hunky delivery boyfriend all on her own.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Every one of Elle's sorority sisters is ditzy, but each one tells her that Warner is not 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 marraige material.
    • Elle’s parents don’t exactly seem supportive when Elle wants to go to Harvard especially when it’s just to get Warner back. They nevertheless pay for Elle’s schooling and are later happy and proud of Elle when she graduates.
  • Dumb Blonde: Elle can come across this way and does have some common traits of one, but inverted this 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 equivalent (it's UCLA in the musical, at least) and getting a 4.0 GPA from there (majoring in Fashion Merchandising) prove that she is pretty intelligent. Also proven when Elle shops for a dress to wear at the supposed-proposal dinner with Warner, the saleswoman thinks Elle is this and tries to sell her an outdated outfit she (the seller) knows nothing about, claiming it to be new and one of a kind. Elle however instantly knows about the dresses quality, pointing out things the seller should know, knows it’s on sale being a dress from last year. So she naturally refuses to buy it.
  • 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 play boy.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: During Elle's questioning, Chutney states that she was in the shower when she heard a gunshot. 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: 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.
  • Evil Is Petty: Incredibly so. Why did Chutney plan to murder her stepmother? Was she being done out of an inheritance? Was Brooke nasty to her? No; it's because she was squicked out by the fact that she and Brooke are the same age.
  • 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.
  • Fluffy Fashion Feathers: A few of Elle's outfits have feather trim, including the neckline on her Playboy Bunny outfit.
  • 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 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, who later becomes this.
  • 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. In the novel he had six ex-wives, but he really loved Brooke who genuinely returned his feelings. He even tried to stay in shape for her. It is Elle who insists that people who marry for money always end up earning it through hard work.
    • Both Elle and Vivien may care about Warner, but as shown, what they are both really going for is the family heirloom engagement ring and all the wealth and status it symbolizes [[spoiler they later get over it]].
  • 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 with all the... um, lawyers.
  • 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. In addition, 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 failed. 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, itself an incredibly superficial way of behaving.
  • 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 does not 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: Some of the Harvard students outfits count, there is not caring about fashion and then there is what they wear.
  • 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 understood or appreciated law as much as he did, which Elle casually admits. His fatal mistake, however, is thinking that Elle's not smart enough and therefore incapable of learning, she later begins gaining passion for law work.
  • 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, casuing 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 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 they both 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 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 Vivien for some reason.
  • 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.
  • 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. 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 is a nice guy as well.
  • 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 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 deduces 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 making her walk home in high heels. Although he does drive off as soon as she gets out of the car, even though it's pretty much expected that you either walk her to the door or watch to see that she gets inside safely. (This isn't actually limited to dates; it's just a good safety rule in general).
    • 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: This is the preferred color of Elle's outfits, and 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 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.
  • Reflexive Response:
    Emmet: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Emmet, 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 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 decides to give up on him.
  • Shout-Out:
  • 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. Although her priorities are likely not straight.
  • 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: Elle. 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 hair-care knowledge wins her first court case.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Oh, Elle. Granted, she can be tactless at times, but other than that.
  • 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 does not 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 only missed one point.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 to be such. Warner breaks up with Elle, because he needs a different type of trophy 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 for 24 hours at minimum.

The book provides examples of:

  • Ambition Is Evil: Elle's friends, Margot and Serena, think law school is an unacceptable alternative life style to shopping all day, and going to job interviews instead of vacationing in Aspen is downright mean.
  • Artistic License – Animal Care: Elle brings her chihuahua to the halloween party, in a leash fastened around her waist. He almost gets stepped on a few times. Not to mention the champagne in his dish.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Elle is really a jewelry designer, so during a deposition where she's supposed to take notes she notices Brooke's Gemini-themed ear rings and starts drawing zodiac-themed and later law-themed jewelry.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When Margot tells Elle about Chutney finding her father murdered, she mentions that Chutney's stepmother was a year younger than her, and that she shot the old geezer point blank.
    Elle: That's so awful.
    Margot: I know. I'd just die if my father married somebody younger than I am.
  • Continuity Snarl: A few details can't seem to keep themselves straight. Did Elle and Warner break up in the fall before or the spring after her January LSAT? Does Chutney's mother sit at the end of the line or in the middle? Stuff like that.
  • Cool Car: Elle switches her BMW for a range rover, as she thinks it's more in line with what Warner would consider a "serious car". His new girlfriend drives a white Volvo, though.
  • Critical Research Failure: In-universe, a wealthy woman is adamant that the sun rises in the west.
  • Foreshadowing: Unlike in the movie, we learn about the Windham murder quite early in the book.
  • Formerly Fat: Brooke used to look like Violet Beauregarde after she ate that gum according to herself, but developed a very effective work-out regime which made her rich when she started teaching it to others.
  • Gold Digger: Permanently subverted according to Elle. In her view, it takes a lot of work to stay married to someone who would marry someone who would marry them for their money, so they always end up earning it.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Elle is jealous of Warner's fiance Sarah, and Sarah feels threatened by Warner's ex Elle.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Elle's "blonde philosophy", which holds that a True Blonde has an optimistic view of life. She holds that any True Blonde has a heart of gold but not necessarily hair of gold. At her hypothetical law firm she only wants to represent True Blondes. In the movie this became "I only want innocent clients".
  • Halloween Episode: The chapter in which Elle goes to a Halloween party
  • Hidden Depths: Warner loves Scorcese films and wants to direct movies.
  • In-Series Nickname: Other law students star using the nickname for Elle that Sarah's friend Claire came up with: Barbie.
  • Impossibly Tacky Clothes: Elle once convinced Cameron Diaz not to buy an angora sweater, because it was a really tacky shade of orange.
  • It's All About Me: After they become friends, Elle and Sarah discuss how Warner needs all his relationships to be about him.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Subverted as unlike in the movie, Elle goes to Stanford.
  • Law of Disproportionate Response: The Thetas one beat the Delta Gammas in a swimsuit contest, so Brooke, a former Theta, doesn't even deserve legal representation in her murder trial. Just ask Serena.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: Elle was this in college, seeing nothing wrong with it, and notes that the tables are turned in law school, where everyone is trying to be an Alpha Bitch and status is determined less by how pretty you can make yourself and more by how serious you look.
  • No True Scotsman: Elle claims that no true blonde, even if she's a natural non-blonde, would ever dye her hair anything but blonde.
  • Not So Different: Elle and Sarah end up rejecting Warner for the same reasons. Sarah breaks off the engagement, while Elle refuses to take him back because he sees both of them as a means to an end.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: When Elle's Blind Date Austin asks if she is seeing someone, she thinks he is asking if she's dating someone else, but he means a therapist.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Elle initially decides that Brooke must be innocent because she is blonde, while her stepdaughter is a brunette. She comes up with justifications later, but that's what she starts with.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Sydney and his friends are all trekkies.
    • Brooke used to look like the "blueberry girl" in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
    • Lots of real celebrities are mentioned by name, being partially set in L.A. For instance, Will and Jada were in the restaurant when Warner dumped Elle.
  • Smarter Than You Look: Elle looks stupid to the other law students because she refuses to conform to their aesthetic standards, but logic puzzles are nothing to her, and her deductive skills let her figure out anything from who's definitely blonde (any woman who marries a billionaire her great grandfather's age) to who's the real murderer (his entitled late-in-life offspring).


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