Picturing Justice, the On-Line Journal of Law and Popular Culture


Lawrence Friedman is Marian Rice Kirkwood Professor of Law, Stanford Law School, and author of "Law, Lawyers and Popular Culture," 98 Yale L. J. 1579 (1989); "Illegal Fictions: The Mystery Novel, Law and Popular Culture," 48 UCLA L. Rev. #6 (2001-forthcoming).

Read other reviews:

Paul Joseph
John Denvir
Michael Asimow
Paul Bergman
John Owens
Carrie Menkel-Meadows

Taunya Lovell Banks
David Papke

Internet Movie Database
All Movie Guide


It's a movie which reflects America's anti-intellectualism.

Feature article

Legally Blonde: A Bitter Residue
by Lawrence Friedman


I have to admit I found Legally Blonde pretty amusing; and Reese Witherspoon was very appealing (she was also terrific in Election). The story line, at one level, is a fairly traditional one: about the underdog, the unlikely person, the person nobody expects much from, who triumphs in the end--in this case, the Valley Girl who conquers the Harvard Law School.

It's good light entertainment; but it's important not to take it too seriously. If you do, you bump into something quite negative. Elle wins out over all the other law students (and lawyers and teachers) because she's smart; but also became she has keen insights, which come from her life as a ditsy, clothes-mad, superficial and shallow woman and human being-- someone whose idea of stress reduction is having her nails done. The movie does make fun of her, yes, but affectionately-- more affectionately than the way it treats the other students, except when Elle rescues them from their total dorkdom. It's a movie which reflects America's anti-intellectualism. Intellectual curiosity and broad culture are totally irrelevant to achieving success-- even at the Harvard Law School. The movie allows the audience to laugh at intellect and culture, even to pity them; and to cheer for the success of a woman who, for all her charm and brains, has neither intellectual curiosity nor culture of any kind. It was great fun to watch; but it left a slightly bitter residue in my mouth.

Posted September 21, 2001

Would you like to comment on this article? Please submit your comments here.

 Top of page

 Home | Silver Screen | Small Screen | News & Views