Movie Differences: Elle Woods In The 'Legally Blonde' Book Is A Monster
It's hard to imagine a more perfect person than Elle Woods: She's sharp, tenacious, always ready for a costume party, and above all, unflinchingly kind and generous. She rarely has a bad word to say about anyone, and on the rare occasion that she does, she immediately acknowledges that she's just lashing out because she's sad about the way her more intellectual peers treat her, which only makes it clear that Elle is human, just like you, so why can't you be more like her?
In hindsight, it was a brilliant move on the screenwriters' part because it would be impossible to root for Elle if she was as much of a snob as she would realistically be as a beautiful, wealthy white woman. We know that because that's exactly what she is in the 2001 novel of the same name that Legally Blonde was based on. Literary Elle Woods is manipulative, narcissistic, lazy, entitled, and excruciatingly judgmental. She doesn't seem like anybody: Not her friends, who she screams at when they dare to pay attention to anything other than her and her recent breakup, although one of them demotes her from maid of honor in her wedding just because she's lost her tan after all that not studying, so they suck, too. Not her ex-boyfriend, Warner -- she recalls with relish "mock[ing] his political ambitions" whenever she needed to "bring [him] down a peg." Warner actually reminds her when he breaks up with her that he "never told [her] [he] felt the same way [she] did," suggesting that this whole love story is all in her head and adding a completely new and creepy layer to the plot.
Definitely not Warner's new fiancee, Vivian, who she bullies at every turn in the book but selflessly tries to befriend in the movie. Absolutely not her classmates, who she relentlessly ridicules for caring about things other than beauty and fashion. Even her nail technician, who movie Elle immediately recognizes as someone in need of her legal and romantic help, mostly exists in the book to agree with Elle about how terrible and ugly everyone else is.
Movie Elle eventually wins everyone over with her kindness, but Book Elle is shocked and outraged that the people she's constantly mocking in her head don't seem to like her. Movie Elle is humiliated when her lack of familiarity with the rigorous academic world means she didn't realize she'd be expected to read her books before the first day of class ...
... but Book Elle didn't even buy the books and intentionally blew off the reading. She reads Vogue in class when she's not making fun of the teachers and students with the only other vapid asshole she could find. It's not clear in the movie if or why Elle is allowed to have her dog in her Harvard dorm room (it's possible he's a service animal), but Book Elle openly and knowingly violates the campus' pet policy and can't believe it when she gets evicted because of it. She rails against the "political correctness" of the "lefties" on campus. She is definitely a Trump supporter.
It makes sense that the book began as a series of letters author Amanda Brown wrote to entertain her friends when she was supposed to be paying attention in class at Stanford Law, where she eventually dropped out. She actually couldn't find a publisher for her novel, but Hollywood saw potential under those truckloads of snobbery and recognized that all they had to do to turn it into a story they could sell was project that hate back onto the audience. We're allowed to hate Warner's new stuck-up fiancee precisely because Elle never retaliates over study group rejection and costume party lies. (In the book, Vivian's mostly just reasonably tired of Elle's bullshit.)
We laugh at the earnest feminist who wants to change the word "semester" to "ovester" at Harvard, but Elle only listens politely. (One of Brown's classmates apparently really did say that, and obviously, she laughed at her.) When this objectively silly character complains about the phallic overtones of the word "subpoena" in the book, though, it's easy to sympathize with her if only because the narrator clearly hates her so much. Making Elle such a better person actually made the audience worse, so don't be too hard on yourself if you can't be as perfect as her. It's all her fault.
Top image: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer