‘Legally Blonde’: The ‘Ovester’ Joke Actually Happened Where the Real Elle Woods Went to Law School

Legally Blonde helped put Reese Witherspoon on the map. It also has a cult following after it hit theaters 20 years ago. But what some fans of the comedy may not realize is that much of it was based on a true story. Though she had a different name, there was a real person who embodied the main character, and many of the film’s subplots are at least partially based on fact. There’s one particularly hilarious joke that actually happened to the author of the novel the film was based on. 

Reese Witherspoon in 'Legally Blonde' walking down a crowded street
Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods | Tracy Bennett/MGM Pictures/Getty Images

‘Legally Blonde’ was a surprise hit in the summer of 2001

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Legally Blonde told the story of a woman named Elle Woods. While externally she seems like a stereotypically ditzy blonde woman, Woods actually possesses a lot of intellect. The film follows her as she is dumped by her boyfriend, and then deciding to follow him to Boston where he planned to attend Harvard Law School. She miraculously gets into the prestigious law school and eventually meets and falls in love with another man. The movie relies on a classic “fish out of water” formula with surprisingly hilarious results.

Elle seems like a classic sorority type, but underneath her superficial trappings lies a talented legal mind. Legally Blonde was something of a surprise hit. Not only was it successful with movie fans, but it actually spawned a sequel. It also helped launch Witherspoon as a big box office draw. From there, Witherspoon went on to star in films like Sweet Home Alabama and Four Christmases as a major star. It also helped solidify Luke Wilson as a lead actor. He later starred in the hit comedy Old School. 

The true story of ‘Legally Blonde’

While Legally Blonde may seem like something too good to be true straight out of Hollywood, it actually has a basis in fact. The film is based on a book written by a woman named Amanda Brown. Brown wrote the book about her time as a law student at Stanford. According to an interview with Stanford Mag, the idea just came to her while listening to a law professor: “I was sitting in tort class when the novel popped into my head … I wanted to do a parody of law school.” Brown’s story spawned an entertainment empire. Her time at Stanford gave her the material she needed to create an engaging, hilarious story. Plenty of people agreed as the book and the films were massively popular. 

The “ovester” joke from Legally Blonde was also based on a true story

The movie has plenty of great jokes in it. One of the most memorable ones came directly from Brown’s experience at law school. There’s a joke in the film where someone recommends changing the name of the “semester” to “ovester” as a way to be more politically correct and feminist. The joke was a commentary on feminism that attempts to address issues that don’t really further women’s rights. What makes the scene even funnier is the fact that it actually happened. 

In an interview with SF Gate, Brown said she attended a women’s group meeting while at Stanford. That’s what inspired her joke in the film: 

“I went to the meeting, and these were not women. These were really angry people. The woman who was leading it spent three years at Stanford trying to change the name ‘semester’ to ‘ovester.’ I started laughing and I realized everyone in the room took it very seriously. So I didn’t make any friends there.”

Brown persevered and went onto great success. Thankfully, laughing too much at the “ovester” reference didn’t stop her. While she left Stanford after a couple of years, she eventually found her true calling as a novelist.