When Legally Blonde was released in 2001 I was obsessed with it.
Thirteen at the time, I was completely taken with Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods, a woman who defied expectations by being both stylish, smart, a little ditzy but also a fighter who refused to allow herself to be boxed in by other people’s stereotypes.
Now with the news that a third Legally Blonde movie is being planned, I’m of course excited, but mostly because I’m hoping that in this #MeToo climate writers Karen McCullah and Kirsten Smith will rectify a plotline from the original that deserved far more affirmative action.
That plotline being the sexual harassment Elle experiences at the hand of her Harvard Law professor Professor Callahan.
If you remember Callahan (Victor Garber) calls Elle into his office to discuss the future of her career after she impresses him during the trial they are working on to defend Brooke Windham (Ali Larter). However, he puts a hand on her thigh and makes it clear that if she wants his professional support, she’d have to sleep with him.
Are you hitting on me?
You’re a beautiful girl.
So everything you just said…?
I’m a man who knows what he wants.
And I’m a law student who just realised her professor is a pathetic asshole.
She doesn’t fall victim to this quid pro quo sexual harassment but after Vivien (Selma Blair) mistakes Callahan’s harassment for seduction and suggests her classmate only got the internship because of her looks, Elle packs up her stuff and leaves both the case and Harvard.
Her reputation is later redeemed after a pep talk from Profesor Stromwell (Holland Taylor) leads her back to court. Brooke sacks Callahan once she learns of his harassment, and hires Elle instead (who wins the case, obvs) but by the movie’s end we never find out what happens to him. The professor might have got sacked from that one case but what about his position at Harvard? Did he target more women than Elle? Was there an investigation into his conduct? Was he fired?
Legally Blonde 3 could answer those questions as well as have Elle Woods lead the #MeToo fight in the courtroom. Maybe she’s now a Harvard law professor herself who is inspired to take on a class action sexual harassment case against a movie mogul because of her own experience.
Or maybe a Harvard law student comes to Elle, now the managing partner of her own law firm, because she too has been harassed by Callahan, as he managed to get away with his predatory behaviour due to his former students’ silence on the matter.
There have been several movies released in the last few months that have felt like a comment on #MeToo, but they were all conceived before that bombshell New York Times story about Harvey Weinstein sparked the global movement.
It also galvanised the Time’s Up organisation into being, which Witherspoon is a leading member of. The actress is one of many A-list figures behind the legal defence fund created in response to the tidal wave of stories about sexual assault, abuse, and harassment within the film and television industry.
It provides subsidised legal support to those who have experienced sexual harassment, assault, or abuse in any workplace and there’s no doubt that Elle Woods would champion it, so Witherspoon could incorporate Time’s Up, or something similar, into the next Legally Blonde film too.
Reese has proven time and time again that she’s both a brilliant actress and producer, thanks to films like Gone Girl, Wild and the HBO show Big Little Lies, so she’s in a prime position to negotiate the narrative direction of Legally Blonde 3. There’s plenty of possible scenarios that could See Elle Woods tackle #MeToo, and plenty of other writers already penning their own stories on the subject too but right now, I’d rather see someone like Witherspoon tackling the issue than Brian De Palma.
That’s because Legally Blonde has always championed the message of female empowerment and this third movie will no doubt continue this message, but with the right script it could also tie up a 17-year old narrative thread as well as tackle one of the most prominent issues faced by women today.
Every Elle Woods fan could get behind that story, and as one of the cinema’s most beloved lawyers as well as feminist icons, it seems only natural to make her silence breaker too.