Elle Woods is more than just a Gemini Sagittarius with a signature color. She represents perseverance and a will to succeed. Thanks to the direction of Sam Goober, A&S ’15, the Boston College community gets to see Elle’s success story first hand in the Bonn Studio Theater over the weekend. Goober puts a new spin on the movie-turned-play looking at ways in which patriarchal and discriminatory forms of thinking are embedded in a text and uses her stage direction to undermine them in hilarious and fun ways.
The play begins by introducing Delta Gamma President Elle Woods (Meghan Linehan, A&S ’17) soon to be engaged to Warner Huntington III (Alex Rougeau, A&S ’18)—the two would become UCLA’s most perfect power couple. This all suddenly changes, however, when instead of proposing, Warner decides to break up with his “pooh bear” to pursue someone more “serious.” This is when Elle starts her journey to becoming a serious girl, the type of girl Warner would want to put a ring on. This ultimately leads her to Harvard Law School (thanks to a recommendation from Oprah and an impressive dance number), where she experiences life as an “other” for the very first time.
Elle feels out of her element here. She’s on a different coast at a place that stresses an academic calendar over one dominated by social events. She is surrounded by people who choose black over pink. Suddenly, “serious” becomes all too real. Right off the bat, Elle is made fun of for the way that she dresses, her pep, and her answers in class. This all speaks to something fundamentally human—the tendency to make face value judgements and to discriminate against “otherness.”
These social constructs of gender, race, and origin begin to be challenged as the play unfolds. We see the effects of privilege in her interactions with Emmett (David Makransky, A&S ’17)—he sings about the “chip on his shoulder” and how it has motivated him to study so hard for his law degree while working two jobs. He encourages Elle to put a chip on her shoulder too, and to embrace what’s stacked against her. He sees an exceptional student and person, not just a Malibu Barbie, and for the first time Elle is able to see herself apart from the image her peers reflect back to her.
Elle goes on to challenge the ideas of femininity and marriage as she transforms from a girl whose only wish is to marry a well-dressed, successful man into a woman who “still [has] so much left to do” on her own. She no longer aims to define herself through marriage but rather through personal achievement and growth. She gets a chip on her shoulder and it’s the best thing that ever happened to her. Elle sings about the fact that she “feels so much better” about her own achievements than she ever did in the hot tub with Warner.
Once Elle scores a highly competitive internship with her Criminal Law professor, Professor Callahan (Andrew Babbitt, A&S ’15), the musical spotlights gender and sexuality once again. Working on a case with Callahan, Elle becomes convinced that her defendant’s (Caroline Portu, A&S ’16) poolboy Nikos (Chris Pinto, A&S ’16) is gay. She does the “Bend and Snap” in front of him, getting no response—it is effective on 99.9 percent of the straight male population, after all. She brings it up to her team, and they become hotly divided on the question of whether he’s “gay or European.” They can’t be sure until Callahan tricks him into admitting it on the stand—turns out he’s gay and European.
After that day on trial, Callahan asks to speak to Elle in his office. Once she gets there, Callahan hits on her and tries to tell her that she must do “certain things” if she wants to be successful. Elle quits the team and runs off, dejected. If that’s the only reason she got the internship, she resolves, perhaps Harvard Law isn’t for her. Luckily, Emmett, Vivienne (Christy Coco, A&S ’17), and her chorus of supportive sisters bring her back to her senses and encourage her to stay. As it turns out, they were right because Elle ends up graduating at the top of her class, surrounded by all of her friends.
The play isn’t just empowering. It’s also an absolute joy to watch. From stuffed dogs to hilarious and ridiculous scenes at the salon with Paulette (Lili Chasen, A&S ’15), there’s never a dull moment.
Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor