9 important lessons I learned from 'Election'
Let’s be honest about autumn for a second: October trumps September about one hundred times over, and even as a teen at school, I only really started taking anything seriously from about October 1st onward. (Also: I was a terrible student. Don’t do what I did. Since this is a place of welcoming and awesomeness, I assume I can just be myself here.) But do you know who took school seriously ALL THE TIME? Tracy Flick.
Tracy was inspirational because of her work ethic, and a nightmare because, as Reese Witherspoon just told Vogue, she is probably heading up the Tea Party someplace. And, well, no thank you.
However, none of this can or will stop us from embarking on a journey called “student elections.” Or more specifically, “What is wrong with Matthew Broderick’s character?” Or even MORE specifically, “Here are 10 things I learned from Election.”
1. Student elections should never look like this
Contrary to my stories of being the worst student ever, I will say that I managed to involve myself in student council for one year because a) it meant I could miss class, and b) my friends were on it, and I was lonely and bored. (I eventually lost my place when I just stopped going. But for that glorious student election, it felt okay to be involved . . . kind of.)
However, in no way, shape, or form should student elections be as intense as we see in Election. At no point should anybody be on the verge of committing a felony in order to cement a place at the top of the student body. At my school and in my province, colleges didn’t even really care if that’s what you did. And if colleges DO care, still . . . please make sure YOUR student election is nothing like this.
2. Bee stings in movies will traumatize you forever
Do you know what I think about when I think about Election? Matthew Broderick being stung by a wasp. That’s exactly what I think about. I think about the same thing when Macaulay Culkin dies in My Girl, and whenever I see Nicolas Cage in general. (“No, not the bees!”) Even now, writing this paragraph, I’m thinking about Matthew Broderick with his bee-stung eye. AND I HATE IT. I hate that I’m thinking about that.
Are you a director? Are you a screenwriter? Try this on for size: if you want to traumatize your audience with something that could happen when you sit down on the grass (case in point: my friend got stung by a wasp by EXISTING this weekend), throw a bee sting into the mix. And I promise you, everyone everywhere will be fighting the urge to both throw up and go, “AHHHHH NOOOO WHYYYY.”
3. Despite your feelings about Tracy, this movie really does examine the patriarchy in a big way
So Matthew Broderick hates Tracy Flick because she had an affair with his best friend (an adult male teacher), and that friend got busted, and his wife left him, and Tracy remained unscathed. But I mean. . . let’s think about this: Tracy is a teenager. Yes, teenagers are smart people, but no, they are not adult humans who are married and in a position of power (as seen in this film). So when the school treats the adult male party the way he should be treated (aka he is fired), Matthew Broderick gets angry. And instead of looking at the situation for what it was, he pins the blame on Tracy, and that hate ends up ruining his own life.
NOW, if we want to say that Tracy was a very willing participant in everything she chose to do, then Matthew Broderick STILL has no reason to hate her as much as he does. First, again, his pal was an adult in a position of power. So “she seduced me!” doesn’t really hold up. Second, Matthew Broderick assumes Tracy wants to hook up with him (nope), and then he manipulates another student in order to destroy this teen girl.
In fact, you could say that Election is actually a very interesting interpretation of how scared some men are by women in power. Or at the very least, what patriarchal thinking can lead to. (I mean, she’s one student: hang with the other teachers and just leave it be, guy.)
4. Honestly though, this movie is really important in terms of looking at gender and social norms
First, we have Chris Klein’s sister Tammy, who’s relatively open and comfortable with her sexuality at a young age, and beautifully rebels against the school and the establishment. (“I will disband the student body!”) Then, we have Chris Klein, who’s basically just a dude trying his best. And, as misogynistic values would have it, Matthew Broderick–a man in power–manipulates this young guy so that he’ll do his bidding. He uses him to undermine a classmate (a woman), which teaches him this is how a man should act.
But. BUT! Chris Klein won’t have it–he votes for Tracy instead of himself because he doesn’t want to be arrogant. This cements Tracy’s win, and Jim’s breakdown, and his spiral downward. So . . .
5. Election is a movie about choices
Everybody in this movie makes a choice. Tammy chooses to take the blame for ruining her brother’s campaign posters. Chris Klein chooses to be noble and vote for Tracy. Tracy chooses to have a tantrum (and tear down Chris’ posters in the first place), then she chooses to say “whatever” and embark on what we can only assume is an illustrious and terrifying political career. Matthew Broderick chooses to let his hate and biases fuel him. And ultimately, the only loser in this movie is him. Everyone else goes on to live their lives and do their things.
6. No campaign slogan will ever be as effective as “Pick Flick”
And the sooner our governments understand that, the better off we all will be.
7. It’s okay to admire Tracy Flick’s dedication and determination
I’m going to put this out there prepared to take all the heat in the world: Tracy Flick is like an American Hermione Granger, if Hermione hadn’t gone up against any of what she did in Harry Potter, and never became friends with Harry and Ron. The organization! The dedication! The obsession with being right and perfect! Even if Tracy’s political leanings went on to be more left than right, we can probably assume that Flick’s path would lead towards the White House. And I know Hermione didn’t really have that option, but if she wanted to, I’m sure she could’ve made it happen. (After granting herself American citizenship, obviously.)
8. Tracy Flick also epitomizes the double standard
Because if Tracy Flick were a man, she would be applauded for how obsessed she was with winning. And I’m not saying that’s necessarily a good trait for anybody (and there are absolutely aspects of her character that are downright scary), but considering The Wolf of Wall Street was heralded as a comedy despite it being centered around a sociopathic money-obsessive dude and Election offered more sentiments like “Ohh Tracy’s intense, eh?” I think it’s safe to say that Election just kills what’s considered okay for a man and not okay for a woman.
Man, I wish I’d paid more attention to this movie in 1999.
9. Election would actually be a perfect sequel film
And I’m not saying that because I necessarily want to see it (just kidding I totally do) but I mean, think about it: 15 years later, and Matthew Broderick, now a beekeeper (*sobs*), watches as Tracy Flick gets closer and closer to the Oval Office. WHAT WOULD HE DO?!
Also, for the record, Matthew Broderick’s character would’ve HATED Ferris Bueller. SO MUCH.