Election (1999) Analysis

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Election. The movie captivated me from beginning to end. A rare feat nowadays. Ostensibly, the film is quite simple, yet there is a lot of fertile ground for analysis. As soon as the movie finished, I wanted to watch it again despite it being about two in the morning. I consider this proof of the movie’s entertainment value. In this post, I will attempt to decode the elements of this film to find out why I liked it so much. Hopefully I can discover something useful and relevant to my own creative endeavors.

Election stars Matthew Broderick as Jim Mcallister, a high school social studies teacher in Omaha, Nebraska. Jim is popular with students and he runs the annual school election. His life becomes complicated when Tracy Flick, an overachieving and self-important student, runs for president. Mr. Mcallister dislikes Tracy so he goes to great lengths to prevent her from winning the election. He persuades the high-school quarterback to run against Tracy and even attempts to rig the vote in the quarterback’s favor. The various characters portray the types of politicians usually scene in national elections. The film is prescient as it was made when politics and elections were very relevant in the United States.

One of the reasons I enjoy Election so much is because it refuses to cater to easy interpretations. While watching the film, I was tempted to make broad conclusions about the characters. I wanted to label Tracy Flick a villain because she represents a kind of person that I loathe: the overachieving and success-driven woman who will do anything to get what she wants. I simply wanted to categorize her to make my interpretation easier. Yet I could not conclude this so easily because the film also paints her admirably. She’s incredibly disciplined and driven so how could I hate her too much?

Tracy Flick is an anti-hero in all the right ways. She might be a total try-hard, but she has something worthwhile underneath. I believe this is what makes her an effective character. I simultaneously wanted Tracy to win and wanted her to fail. Matthew Broderick’s character is fashioned in  a similar way. His flaws are not as apparent as Tracy’s but they still exist. Broderick is living a stagnant life yet he is convinced that everything is great. His level of self-denial is astounding. On the surface, he is hard-working, likable, and popular, but this veneer hides the darker side of his personality. I wanted to see Mr. Mcallister as the righteous hero of the film even though some of his actions are objectively villainous.

Election has a very uncensored attitude towards sex. It straddles the line between creating a realistic depiction of sexual relations and using sex as a means entertainment. Election does not had the fact that both teachers and students are interested in sex. The film surprised me with its lack of censorship. It throws down the sexual gauntlet early and does not back down. This element is very much a successful one for Election and its creators.

This film has a lot going for it so why did it take me so long to discover it? It achieves a balance of comedy and drama in a way that few films do. It has something relevant to say about politics and its characters are well-rounded and relatable. Do yourself a favor and watch Election.

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