The ‘Legally Blonde’ Prequel Series Misses the Point of ‘Legally Blonde’

A pre-Harvard Elle Woods couldn’t be any more boring
The ‘Legally Blonde’ Prequel Series Misses the Point of ‘Legally Blonde’

Prequels are always a sticky proposition, and not just because George Lucas has made the word synonymous with “steaming pile of misguided fan service.” They necessarily take place before the interesting part, so coming up with a story that can stand on its own and also has a good reason not to have been included the first time around is a tall order.

One requirement for even the most criminally stupid of prequels is a protagonist that came to the original more or less fully formed. By the time Harry Potter gets to Hogwarts, for example, Dumbledore is Dumbledore, whatever his secrets may be. He learns some lessons over the course of the series, but his character arc took place a canonically confusing length of time ago, so the age of jazz wizards was theoretically fertile ground.

The producers of the recently announced Legally Blonde prequel, to be called Elle, seem to believe the same is true for Elle Woods. Reese Witherspoon, who has signed on as an executive producer, explained that “before she became the most famous Gemini vegetarian to graduate from Harvard Law, she was just a regular ‘90s high school girl,” and the official logline reveals that the show will “follow Elle Woods in high school as we learn about the life experiences that shaped her into the iconic young woman we came to know and love in the first Legally Blonde film.”

But we already know all about the life experiences that shaped her into the iconic young woman we came to know and love. It’s covered within the first 15 minutes of the movie. She was raised among the Southern California elite who prize money and superficiality above all else with a genetic phenotype that meant she would be taught that, regardless of her other talents, her beauty was her primary value as a person. Her parents care for little more than leisure and dismiss Harvard as a place for “people who are boring, ugly and serious” before assuring their daughter that she’s “none of those things.” All of that is conveyed in less than one minute.

But more importantly, before the events of the first film, she’s bought into the party line. She applies her considerable intellect to the study of fashion merchandising, memorizing episodes of Days of Our Lives, and not much else. Her biggest aspirations in life are to be sorority president, marry her boyfriend and become a (let’s face it, Republican) senator’s wife. She considers toilet paper quality an “important issue” and expresses only a vague interest in animal rights, which is, of course, developed further in Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde, because at that point, she’s actually become a person with interests and values.

That’s the whole point of Legally Blonde: Elle finding strength in her intellect and passions and realizing she didn’t have to be the person her culture had conditioned her to be. So why would we want to watch her be that person? If we did, that’s what the movie would have been about, but the screenwriters knew a spunky but puddle-deep character was only fun for about 30 minutes, let alone the several hours required of a series.

Listen, we’re not above a little nostalgia bait. It’s not like they couldn’t release Legally Blonde 3: Elle Goes Shopping for Yogurt and find a sizable audience. And some of the best media is about regular ‘90s high school girls — there are people out there who could watch Clueless every day. But they tried to make a Clueless TV show, too. 

It failed.


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