Up until Election Day on November 4th, we'll be taking a look at one movie every day that involves an election, which gives us seven great political movies to discuss. With only 2 days to go, here's movie #6!
What’s a list about election movies without Election? Although the one depicted on the film is only for a high school presidency, it’s surprisingly quite revealing when extrapolated to a bigger picture. As the title suggests, it’s a movie about the electoral process and the questionable motives of the candidates, a problematic system applicable to both a student body and the highest office of the land.
The film centers around Reese Witherspoon’s Tracy Flick, a zealously ambitious hopeful whose drive for getting the top spot has made her a malicious and manipulative woman (in other words, she’s Hillary Clinton). Knowing her true nature and afraid of letting her have the power, a vengeful teacher (Matthew Broderick) plans to crush her by nominating and coaching the dumb but popular jock Paul (Chris Klein), whose sister then also runs for school president out of spite for him. It’s hard to believe the movie came out so shortly before the 2000 election, especially with the ending involving a recount that reverses the outcome. Eerier still is Chris Klein’s character, a neanderthal who can’t say correct sentences, but is approachable to his constituents and gets by with someone grooming him to win. Remind you of anyone?
Resonance: The film takes a harsh look at politics by suggesting that it’s simply a playground to stroke egos rather than serving the people. It questions why they want to be in the race—one’s for selfish achievement, another’s because he can’t do much else, and the last one’s just trying to undermine the others—but it doesn’t put the blame solely on the candidates; ˆElection also assumes that a nominee's character trumps their policies (or at least, that the candidates think so), which we can see from the current election as something to be true or close to the truth. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be hyping McCain’s war hero status or Obama’s race, nor would we obsess over Sarah Palin’s vernaculars or the whole Bill Ayers nonsense. We would just be looking at their platform on the issues at hand.
Unforgettable Scene: The three candidates are given a chance to persuade fellow students during an assembly. After a concise speech by Tracy and a typical rah-rah jock call by Paul, Paul’s sister Tammy goes up and delivers an anti-election rant, ultimately saying, “Vote for me, or don’t vote for me. Who cares?” which ironically got the best reception from the crowd. Too bad we can’t find a video of it, because it’s really potent in its observation of politics being a matter of saying what people want to hear and spicing it up with a reliable catchphrase (hope, change, maverick, whatever). Oh well, here's the trailer instead.
Remember: after you're done watching movies, don't forget to vote!