So, I watched Legally Blonde 2 again over the weekend. It’s not a good movie. The jokes are sillier, the sorority set-up is less counterintuitive and smartly funny, Paulette is a one-off rather than an actual character who deserves fulfillment and who is a means for Elle to think about other people. But it does have the virtue of being a movie about a woman whose fiancee compromises for her career. And it’s actually a surprisingly accurate portrait of Washington, DC in spite of all the nonsense.
For all the pink hyper-adorability of the Reese Witherspoon vehicle, the movie actually has a major plot point a fairly obscure but real legislative procedure. The idea that you win votes on a discharge petition through makeovers and finding fellow dog people is ludicrous, of course, but the fact that the filmmakers actually found a real procedure instead of making up some additional nonsense makes me think more highly of them.
And while I realize it’s absurdly stereotypical to say this, I think the movie does kind of get the dowdiness of Washington right. It’s not that folks are ugly or unkempt, as of course they must be in the movie to activate the required makeover subplot. We’ve got The Hill‘s list of 50 Most Beautiful People after all! But the sequence early in the movie when Elle, in a pink Jackie O suit and pillbox hot, marches up the steps of a Congressional office building, parting a sea of black and navy suits like a chic little Moses, is a perfect illustration of the self-imposed restrictions official Washington so often places on itself.
Most movies about Washington avoid those lighter truths in favor of more serious ones, arguing that politicians are corrupt, or dishonest, or that conspiracy is inevitable. But truths of style and presentation and self-censorship matter, even if in a different way or to a different depth than truths about process. Deny who you are, or who you really want to be, and you often end up making bad decisions, or trapping yourself.