Political Film Society - Newsletter #173 - July 15, 2003

July 15, 2003


Legally Blonde 2The film Legally Blonde was a hit in 2001 because Elle Wells (played by Reese Witherspoon), an intelligent yet flamboyant girl from Bel Air, was not only admitted to Harvard Law School but also made inroads into Washington politics. In Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde she triumphs in Congressional passage of important animal rights legislation. The story begins as she is making plans to marry her former law school professor, Emmett Richmond (played by Luke Wilson). She wants to send a wedding invitation to the mother of her pet Chihuahua, but she has to hire a private detective to find her. When Boston's top private detective discovers that her mother is at a research laboratory, Elle goes to the facility, only to learn that the material canine is being used to test cosmetics and cannot be released by the lab. Shocked that animals are being used to test the toxicity of cosmetics, Elle decides to go to Washington to have Congress pass a law banning animal testing in the cosmetics industry. Her Congresswoman, Victoria Rudd (played by Sally Field), arranges to have her sign on as a legislative aide, and Grace Rossiter (played by Regine King), her principal Administrative Assistant takes her to a subcommittee meeting so that she can speak her mind on the subject before hearings get underway. When committee members immediately pooh-pooh her idea of banning animal testing, Elle shifts gears. With the aid of Sid Post (played by Bob Newhart), the doorman of her apartment, she locates one committee member in a beauty parlor and obtains intimate details about the pets of other committee members. When she testifies before the full committee, she persuades them to support her. But just as the committee is about to end deliberations, Congresswoman Rudd withdraws her support, thus killing the bill (presumably for lack of a sponsor). Her chief financial backer is an executive in a cosmetics firm, so he threatens to support her opponent in the next election.

However, Rudd tells Elle that she made a deal to drop support for the animal rights bill in exchange for getting a vote on her pet bill regarding housing while getting the Boston lab not only to drop all animal testing and release the mother of Elle's dog but also to offer Elle a job as legal counsel. But Elle will not be bought off. Meanwhile, all but one member of the Congresswoman's staff, initially hostile to Elle in view of her excesses, quits when she rescinds her support for the bill; her Administrative Assistant is the only remaining member of her staff. With the aid of her friends and sorority sisters, Elle mobilizes a Million Dog March to get the remaining signatures on a discharge petition to force a vote on the bill on the floor of the House of Representatives. In need of only one more signature, the Administrative Assistant quietly threatens to expose Rudd's secrets if she does not sign. Then Rudd arranges for Elle to address a Joint Session of Congress to push her bill. Rather than doing so, Elle gives members of Congress a pep talk about democracy and honesty, which carries the day for her bill. And her fiancée goes to Washington for the wedding ceremony. As she drives away after the wedding, he asks whether she would prefer to live in Los Angeles, Boston, or Washington, but she simply nods at the White House, thus telling what is in store in Legally Blonde 3. Directed by Charles Herman-Wurmfeld, Legally Blonde 2 tries to establish a lineage with Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), which her future husband is watching in one scene. Similar to Head of State (2003), which also shows excerpts from the Jimmy Stewart classic, Legally Blonde 2 tries to argue that the ills of Washington will be cured if people will just behave with complete honesty. Yet none of the films comes close to most profound recent diagnosis of Washington's maladies in The Distinguished Gentleman (1992). In Legally Blonde 2 we learn nothing new--that campaign contributors call the shots, that bills pass or fail on the basis of back-room deals, and that seriously idealists can be easily bought off. Legally Blonde 2, however, points out that the mobilization of popular support for legislation is perhaps the only way to short-circuit political games and ensure that Congress will respect the will of the people. Unfortunately, that is not how plutocratic Washington works. The film's preposterous premise that silly costuming and naïve rhetorical masturbation will win the day is an insult to those who seek real change. MH