At face value (especially to those of us who were younger upon our first viewing), Legally Blonde is just the story of a young woman who goes to crazy lengths to win back her ex, and happens to stumble into an affinity for law along the way. However, as many of us have grown older, we realized that the movie is actually a pretty badass story of a woman who suffered an intense heartbreak and ended up finding herself and her own inner strength in the middle of that pain. Legally Blonde isn’t a romantic comedy. It’s a movie about strength, believing in yourself, and if it’s about any sort of relationship, it’s about friendship.
But originally, that wasn’t the message that the film was going to send. Entertainment Weekly has informed us all that things almost ended a bit differently for Elle Woods. While we’re all used to the version where she wins her court case, tells off Warner, and then goes on to graduate from Harvard Law at the top of her class, the original vision took the story in a different direction.
The film’s co-writer, Karen McCullah, told EW that originally the ending had Elle winning her court case, and Emmett congratulating her with a big kiss. It would then jump to a year in the future where Elle and Vivian (who had dyed her hair blonde) started the Blonde Legal Defense Fund and were handing out pamphlets to students on the quad.
However, when they showed that ending to viewers, test audiences hated the ending. Having Elle go through everything she does in the film and then ending it with a kiss from Emmett being her big reward made it seem like a straightforward romantic comedy — which it isn’t. And having Vivian change her whole look to align more with Elle’s really goes against Elle’s whole message of owning who you are and loving the skin you’re in.
Of course there’s nothing wrong with dyeing your hair, but part of what made that movie great was that Elle and Vivian were two very different women, both inward and in their appearance, but they found a way to not only work well as colleagues and have a professional respect for one another but to also become really great friends. It sent a message that you don’t have to look like a Vivian to be smart and taken seriously, just like you don’t have to look like an Elle to be beautiful and fun.
Upon hearing audience reactions, the ending was rewritten quickly. It allowed Elle the opportunity to tell Warner off, which the writers all agreed needed to happen, and then gave a triumphant ending for Elle, graduating at the top of her class in law school. Though the actor’s schedules proved to make reshoots a challenge (Reese Witherspoon was busy shooting The Importance of Being Earnest, so she had to wear a wig for her big scene telling Warner off), they made it happen, and we’re so glad they did.
The ending we all got to see in theaters was the perfect way to end that chapter of Elle’s story, and it really stuck the landing when it came to making Legally Blonde a movie about working hard, overcoming challenges, female empowerment and friendships, and not selling yourself short for a guy. It’s an awesome message in an awesome movie, and even though it took a bit of work to get there, we’re glad Legally Blonde ended on that feminist note.