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Girl Power: Patriarchy in Sheep’s Clothing

Welcome to Harvard Law School Graduation: a pert, slender blonde wearing bright pink lipstick and a mortarboard is giving the graduation address; her classmates leap up to applaud her as the camera focuses on her darkly handsome boyfriend. Beautiful! Fabulous! What, you wonder, is this girl’s story? Her story lies in the plot of the 2001 movie Legally Blonde, a pink and fluffy spectacular starring Reese Witherspoon. Reese plays Elle Woods, who decides to follow her ex-boyfriend to Harvard Law after their breakup. A fashion design major, Elle hits the books pretty hard to get decent scores on her LSATS, even missing parties – and then hires a professional to film her in a soft-core porn admissions video, focusing on Elle floating in a cool blue pool wearing a tiny pink bikini. Lo and behold, it wows the white, middle-aged male admissions board, and Elle goes on to take campus by storm.
And there’s good reason Elle makes such a splash: she turns out to be he only beautiful girl at Harvard. All the rest of the girls there spend their time studying and doing nothing else; they are dull, boring, and above all, unpretty. These smart women do anything but have fun. Most of them blur into one bespectacled, intellectual image, but there’s one young woman among them who is even worse than dull – our token Feminist. She has dreadlocks and a defensive attitude, talks about nothing but political rallies and is, of course, a lesbian. Elle hates her. Unrealistic? Sure, but what do we expect from the movies? The real problem begins when the ideas propagated by films that claim to be a “feel good, girl-power movie,” as People magazine called this particular brain-number, seep into our everyday existence. With the tagline “believing in yourself never goes out of style,” the kind of empty platitude that...

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