Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
October 4, 2023

Legally Brunette: how Legally Blonde changed my outlook on life

By MOLLY GAHAGEN | October 28, 2021



Gahagen learned to focus on self-fulfillment after watching the 2001 film Legally Blonde.

As a prospective lawyer, I have an embarrassing confession to make: I finally saw Legally Blonde for the first time this week. Whenever the movie would come up in conversation, I would always nod, smile and chuckle, hoping no one could tell I was bluffing my way through. I was afraid the movie would either be terrible and disappoint me or that it would just be silly rather than witty and consequently a waste of time. Instead, the film sparked an epiphany for me, leading me to set new principles for myself.

This week, I needed a stress reliever among midterms and papers galore — not to mention getting pepper sprayed, but that’s a whole other tale — and my roommate (hi, Abbie!) decided what we needed was to put on Netflix and take an evening off. She knew my secret and decided it was time for me to see the triumph of modern cinema that is Legally Blonde.

Initially, my expectations held up: a laugh a minute perpetuating the stereotypes of the ditzy, wealthy, blond sorority girl from Los Angeles with a preppy boyfriend. But as Elle came to see that she didn’t need a man to define her self-worth and became self-realized, the rest of the pieces — academic success, making friends, finding a decent human being as a boyfriend (a low bar) — would all fall into place.

I came to think about how I constantly put pressure on myself about academics and my career goals, all while trying to carve out time to socialize and keep up with my family. This inevitably leads to me worrying that I’m not making the college memories which people reflect back on fondly as “the good old days” and that I’m just hoping to make it through and onto the next thing instead of enjoying my present. 

I’ve always been caught up in the rat race of life, trying to make it through high school with the promise to myself that I’d have fun in college. Somehow, I find myself caught in the same repetitive cycle, always looking for bigger and better things and failing to engage with my here and now.

After seeing how Elle was able to reinvent herself and become a top law student as well as make great friends and score Emmett (Luke Wilson circa 2001 — call me!), I felt inspired by the principle of achieving for the sake of making yourself proud rather than to fulfill all the extrinsic pressures placed upon you. I decided there was something to the film’s feel-good plot that was deeper than the “bend and snap.”

Even though I’m the first to admit that the idea women can succeed in higher education and operate on an intellectual level similar to men is a limited concession on behalf of feminism, it still seems revolutionary to be endorsed by Hollywood. The “girlboss” mentality may be a problematic view of female empowerment, but at the very least it makes strides towards progress. 

I couldn’t help but think of all the times I felt like a lone female in “the boys’ club,” being talked over by my male peers in discussions of great power politics and political theory, topics historically dominated by males. I thought of the humiliating moment I was asked by a female high school teacher if I was going to college to “find a husband” despite the fact I was one of the highest achieving students in her class. 

Elle’s drive and charisma stood out to me, making me vow to stand up for my own interests and disregard where some might consider my rightful place to be.

As the credits rolled, I made a set of promises to myself: that I would start focusing on my own development and success to make myself proud, that I would try to limit how others’ opinions affected my self-worth, that I would make a point of looking up every once in a while and enjoying the small things in life and that I would muster some of Elle’s bravado.

Hopefully as I come to terms with myself and my goals, the rest of the pieces will fall into place. I believe that positivity breeds positivity and that if you are good to yourself, others will be as well. Also, how could I forget to mention Elle’s style inspiration? I really need to incorporate more pink into my wardrobe!

Even though Legally Blonde may not be the most intellectual or groundbreaking film, its happy-go-lucky tempo and perfect ending were exactly what I needed as a reprieve from my overwhelming day. Taking time to breathe and unwind is essential, and you never know, you may walk away with a new idea or a new outlook. 

I may not end up at Harvard Law — it is hard, or something — but a girl can dream, and maybe she’ll end up somewhere! Sometimes a feel-good movie really is all you need. Abbie, you were right (as usual), but I still call the next movie pick!

Molly Gahagen is a sophomore from Key Largo, Fla. majoring in International Studies and Political Science. She is a News and Features Editor for The News-Letter.

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