Famous Personality Assessment: Elle Woods

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By Samantha Woznica

Elle Woods is the protagonist in the movie Legally Blonde. She is the head of her sorority Delta Nu and has a love of fashion and style. Elle has no qualms about her life and absolutely enjoys herself. She believes her life is already set, believing her boyfriend Warner Huntington III will propose. When Warner dumps her for not being serious enough, she makes an attempt to impress and prove him wrong by going to Harvard Law School. Her motivation to one up Warner’s fiancée, Vivian Kensington, pushes her to work her hardest. Elle Woods debunks the classic blonde bimbo stereotype and proves that having good looks doesn’t make a person hollow, dumb, or slutty. Elle helps win a court case, graduates at the top of her class, and marries a more mature law student - Emmett - who appreciates her intelligence and personality. Over the course of the film, Elle faces many obstacles concerning her looks. Her intensely creative outfits, blonde hair, and Southern California attitude make her appear less intelligent and an outcast when compared to the prim and proper Harvard community.

Perspective One: Neo-Analytic and Ego Aspects Alfred Adler
Alfred Adler focused on individual psychology that focuses on what motivates people and the importance of the individual’s position in society. He suggested that people react certain ways and do certain things as preventive measures to avoid changing their personality. In Legally Blonde, Elle Woods solidifies her position in society as a lawyer. What makes Elle unique is that her motivation to become a lawyer stems from her simple desire to win back a man.
Elle expresses a superiority complex. When Werner dumps Elle after claiming “I need to marry a Jacqueline, not a Marilyn” (Legally Blonde) he takes a blow at Elle’s self-esteem. She cries after her breakup believing that she isn’t good enough for him. Rather than accepting the breakup, and wallowing in defeat, Elle reacts by making an effort to be the strong woman Werner wants. She expresses a superiority complex when facing her guidance counselor who insinuates that she isn’t good enough to get into Harvard. Elle presses it as her only choice and accepts the challenge rather than conceding to failure. She does not believe in impossibilities and works hard to prove her self-worth.
According to Adler, every person suffers from some form of organ inferiority and tries to make up for it. In Elle’s case, physical health and appearance are no problem, but the issue of her intelligence is challenged. She works on gaining knowledge by studying diligently for the LSATs and forgoing her partying habits. While at Harvard, she takes initiative to get ahead of the curve and improve her grades and performance. She switches to working very hard to prove her smarts.
The motivation and endurance Elle exhibits when pursuing her law career exemplifies her aggressive drive. She reacts to Werner’s attack on her intellectual organ inferiority by applying to Harvard to prove him wrong. She pushes herself harder and doesn’t give up both when applying to law school and when stuck in it. Elle’s aggressive drive is motivated by her inability to win Werner back right away. She did not expect Vivian’s presence to be such a road block. Her competition with Vivian increases
Perfection striving – the pursuit of fictional goals – occurs at the beginning of the movie. She has the idea that she will marry Werner who she considers a smart, handsome, rich man and will be happy forever. The fictional goal is vanquished once she is dumped, but she does create a new fictional goal: go to law school to win Werner back. She works diligently and with great focus and drive in order to pursue this new goal. Werner’s engagement to Vivian and his increasing status as an asshole becomes a roadblock in Elle’s strive for perfection. She does not reach her desired goal, but ends up better off. Elle undergoes masculine protest and resorts to superiority strivings once she realizes Werner is a jerk who thinks she’s dumb. She makes every attempt to beat Werner and have him under her foot to kick in the dust.
Over the course of the movie, Elle focuses on occupational tasks, societal tasks, as well as love tasks all in one. She pursues love by trying to match the description of the woman Werner wants. Her pursuit of love unexpectedly forces her to focus on occupational tasks and finding her place in society. While at school, she works on befriending others and increases her ability to socially network. Elle gains a good number of friends, wins her court case and proves her potential as a lawyer. While she doesn’t end up with Werner, Elle finds a romantic partner in Emmett, who doesn’t judge her based on her looks. According to Adler, Elle’s personality type puts her in the category of Socially Useful, which adequately describes her.

Perspective Two: Contemporary Trait Approach - The Big Five
Gordon Allport recorded the Big Five traits as being Extroversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness. He suggested that these five character traits provided insight into a person’s real personality. Elle Woods has high levels of extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness while rating lowest in neuroticism.
I’ll define extroversion as related to Eysenck’s Model of Extroversion. “Extroverts have a low level of internal arousal and seek out more stimulating social environment” (Friedman). Elle thrives on creating a vibrant environment wherever she goes. As head of the Delta Nu sorority, Elle lives with her sorority sisters and head’s many events, organizations, and social gatherings. She seeks connections with those around her and doesn’t leap to judgment. What also pushes her to rate high on extroversion is her active pursuit to challenge herself. She takes up all opportunities even if they seem out of reach. When the opportunity to work with Professor Callahan on his next high profile case arises, Elle jumps to sign up even though Werner tells her to back out and save herself the shame. She rates extremely high on extroversion with her very active lifestyle.
Elle rates high on openness since she never backs down from a new opportunity. A love for parties and meeting new people shows her interest in gaining novel experiences. While she attends Harvard simply to try and impress her ex-boyfriend, Elle doesn’t consider not attending Harvard on the basis that she isn’t interested in law. She makes this decision and works hard to make it a possibility, showing that she does have some interest and potential of becoming a lawyer. Her huge leap from LA fashionista to Harvard Law student shows great openness to new experiences. Not only is Elle open to new experiences, but she also brings her personal street smarts to the court room. She doesn’t drop her old way of thinking just to appear professional. Instead, Elle adapts her wit to the situation even when people scoff at her and think she’s not thinking outside the box. The application of street smarts helps Elle prove Brooke innocent. She questions Brooke’s step-daughter who claims to have taken a shower after getting a perm. Elle spots the lie as a she knows that taking a shower after getting a perm is a big mistake. The step-daughter admits to the murder and gains Elle her first big win. The ability to bring knowledge of hair care shows Elle’s active thinking and ability to point out a mistake that a male cross examiner would not have noticed.
Neurotic is a term that doesn’t exist in Elle’s dictionary. She reacts in an extremely healthy way when dumped by Werner. She cries and is sad for some time, but she does not become depressed or exhibit anxious behavior consistently. Elle remains buoyant, and quickly recovers from any blow life throws at her. She prevails until the end when she reaches success.
Elle Woods rates high on agreeableness and conscientiousness. She never thinks of anyone in a negative light without having reason to. She constantly tries to make friends, even when she knows she is unwelcomed. She never pokes fun at people, and stands up for even less popular types, showing her friendly disposition. Elle has a great talent for forging friendships and proves her loyalty. She helps Paulette, her manicurist, assert her femininity in order to seduce the delivery man she has a crush on. She also aids in reclaiming Paulette’s dog from her ex-husband. When Elle recognizes Brooke Taylor as a famous former Delta Nu she gives her word that she won’t share her Brooke Taylor’s career destroying alibi. Elle refuses to tell Professor Callahan despite his persistent and misunderstanding badgering. Proving her loyalty and adamant attitude, Elle reveals her superb friendship capabilities. Even Vivian is impressed with Elle’s ability to stand up to Callahan and deny him information showing that the word of a friend is more important than the law. This moment helps break the ice between the two and opens up their friendship because she shows she can be trusted. Elle shows her altruism by helping out friends in need. When she sees a tall dorky Harvard boy being picked on by girls, she approaches him and pretends that he left her after she had “the most wonderful night” of her life. Once she leaves appearing distraught, the two girls suddenly become interested in him and quit teasing him about his looks. Elle exhibits modesty by not falling prey to Professor Callahan’s advances. The sleazy professor thinks that she’ll hook up with him because she looks easy. Elle is disgusted and runs away.

After analyzing the personality of Elle Woods, it became extremely clear to me why her success as a lawyer comes about. She exemplifies such a passion and drive to become Werner’s perfect woman that she will do anything. Her ability to continually pursue a career in law shows great determination I think very few people have. Personally, I would never be motivated enough to apply and attend Harvard Law just to win someone back. To do so seems like a very drastic and irrational decision. Yet her character traits help make her a great lawyer. She has passion, a love for people and new experiences, shows endurance and perseverance, and sticks to her beliefs. While lawyers are often stereotyped as shrewd filthy liars, Elle expresses a high level of honesty, trust, and reliability that makes her an ideal lawyer. She has the best interest of others in mind, and has no desire to slander anyone without just cause. I’d actually want her as a lawyer. The fact that she comes out as Socially Useful does not surprise me. She takes things seriously and proves valuable to society.

Platt, M., Kidney, R., Lutz, K. M. C., Smith, K., Luketic, R., Witherspoon, R., Wilson, L. MGM Home Entertainment Inc. (2004). Legally Blonde. Santa Monica, CA: MGM Home Entertainment.
Friedman, H.S., & Shustack, M.W. (2009). Personality: Classic Theories and Modern Research, 4th edition. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. ISBN-13: 978-0-205-57968-6.