Thinking critically about “Legally Blonde”

I enjoy a romantic comedy now and again.  When Legally Blonde came out in 2001 it was promoted as such.  The opening scene seemed to set up a typical ditzy but beautiful protagonist, who will encounter comical difficulties parallel to “I Love Lucy” in the candy factory.

The first indication that Elle is not a typical ditzy blonde comes when a salesperson tries to take advantage of her because she assumes Elle is stupid.  Elle puts the woman in her place without going on about it or retaliating (as in Pretty Woman when she rubs it into the ‘mean saleslady’s’ face that she’s purchased clothes in other stores).  Elle has confidence in her knowledge and a strong sense of self.

After the initial blow of her boyfriend breaking up with her because she isn’t “serious enough” for him, Elle picks herself up and decides that she can and will become a “serious” law student.  Her friends and parents are more puzzled than unsupportive when she announces her intentions to attend Harvard Law school.

Elle’s fortitude and strength of character are tested again and again throughout the movie and although she is a stranger in a strange land, she is able to reach out and find a friend in the familiar comfort of a local nail salon.  Even in her grief Elle is not unkind when describing Vivian (who is engaged to Warren, the boy Elle was stuck on).  In fact, Elle accepts Vivian’s tacked on invitation to her “costume” party with hope and enthusiasm.  When she arrives to the party in a very revealing playboy bunny costume, she is met with disbelief and laughter by the other guests that are not in costume.  Elle doesn’t go to pieces or “tell” on Vivian, she delves deeper into the party to talk to Warren and this is the part that I wince at: When he sees her he says, “You look like a felony.” and she smiles and says, “Thanks.”

Ugg … that is such a toxic, victim blaming, rape culture thing to say…which, okay, we are not supposed to like Warren, but it is cringy that Elle accepts it as a compliment.  The final straw for Elle comes when Warren still doesn’t view Elle as smart enough to get the summer internship with their professor.

This is the point Elle really shows the audience what she’s made of.  She takes herself seriously and works to out achieve Warren, not to curry his favor, but rather to prove to him (and herself) that she can achieve anything she puts her mind to.

The film is heavily heteronormative and I take issue with the thoughtless bi erasure that is used as ‘conclusive evidence’ that the accused murderer was not having an affair with her ‘pool boy’ because he had a boyfriend.

The notes at the end of the film were also needlessly heteronormative in their happily ever after assumptions.  Elle could be happy simply left graduating at the top of her class.  She didn’t need an engagement to complete her perfect day.

 

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Textrovert by Lindsey Summers

See the source imageSummers crafted a hetro-normative teen romance story that touches on many current, important topics such as consent, sexting, ‘cheating’, loyalty, and honesty.  Although it had some cringy bits that were heavy with ownership language, overall it is a sweet story with a happy ending. The romance stays above the neck and the sexting is alluded to without overt description, so young teens won’t get in trouble for checking it out.

In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents and Five Black Lives by Kenneth C. Davis

Image result for in the shadow of liberty

Entwined is an overall description of this book.  Written by a white man, In the Shadow of Liberty looks at the documents of five enslaved people held in bondage by four U.S. Presidents.  This author struggles to describe and understand the life of a person enslaved through primary and secondary sources of information.  Davis provides copious citations and tries to give a balanced view looking back with modern day eyes.

As a look back into history for the younger generation, Davis tries to decode political jargon and antiquated phrases while trying to remain true to the history but with a more modern understanding. (He explains terms like ‘pickaninny’ among others)

The author reminds readers that the words spoken or written by former slaves about the white people who had been their captors must be taken with a grain of salt because of the severe penalties that were enmeshed in the American culture surrounding a former slave especially of someone influential or viewed as an American hero.  It would not be safe to speak or write critically of a former “master”.

Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris

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I picked out some paperbacks off our free rack with the intention of having easy reading that I could drop, deface, destroy without consequence.  Although I am never rough with my books, I was planning to take them on vacation and I enjoy leaving books that I’ve finished for other travelers to take if they like.  I pulled four books and read the first chapter of each to make sure they would be worth toting along.  However, Grave Sight caught my attention and interest enough that I have read almost all of it almost two weeks before my trip!

I guess that in and of itself is a recommendation for this title.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

Image resultWhere do we look for answers when the world stops making sense?

Mary Shelley Black was named for the author of the famous thriller, Frankenstein.  She shows scientific curiosity and has a fascination with electricity.  Mary Shelley is an anomaly in that she is driven by these passions in a time when women were not encouraged to step away from the rigid societal expectations for women.  Mary Shelley is skeptical of spirits even after the image (of a spirit) is captured behind her when she poses for a photo.

The story opens at the height of the flu pandemic and in the middle of WWI.  Mary Shelley’s father has been arrested for assisting draft dodgers and faces prison for his conscious objector stance.  Mary Shelley Black travels to her aunt Eva in San Diego where readers discover the breadth of the fear the flu has created.

She searches for answers and reasons where there seems to be only death and chaos.  Everything is mixed up like her friend, Stephen’s anagrams, and it will take some time for Mary Shelley to sort them out.  When she does, her search for answers will take on a new focus.

Everyday War

Schools

Movie theaters

Concerts

Libraries

Hospitals

Airports

Churches

Retail Stores

Nightclubs

Baseball parks

Post Offices

Restuarants

The list of public places where people have been shot in the U.S.A. travels for a long way.

The war is here and we are the refugees.