Gender Roles – Women
Self-Esteem and Body Image
Gender Roles - Women: 4 Stars
Tracy Flick is an unusually complicated character. She's smart and determined and clearly works hard for her accomplishments, even if she isn't as sweet or friendly as she lets on. She comes across as ruthless and manipulative at times, but these same qualities are often admired in male characters who aren't afraid to go after the things they want. Tracy's frustrations and anger are often understandable, considering the fact that her hard work and dedication are so under-appreciated and easily brushed aside in favor of popularity. She isn't as honorable or grounded as more universally liked role models, but she does offer a more realistic depiction of what bold young women are up against.
Paul's sister Tammy isn't nearly as impressive as Tracy Flick, but she also has her moments of glory. She finds the strength to run against Paul, even though she knows her chances of winning are bleak. And she is the only one of the three candidates that is able to tap into the angst of the majority of the student body, which is overwhelmingly ignored and miserable. While her motives are sometimes questionable, she has a raw potential that, unfortunately, isn't put to much use.
Self-Esteem and Body Image: 3.5 Stars
Tracy Flick is a curious mix of strength and insecurity. She's incredibly proud of her accomplishments, but at the same time, her self-esteem is terribly fragile and seems capable of crumbling at the prospect of failing. She needs to be on top - always - just to feel that she is worthwhile. She’s socially awkward and occasionally lonely. But despite these very human insecurities, Tracy is generally proud of herself and unafraid of showing her accomplishments to the world.
It’s also clear that Tracy’s self-esteem and sense of identity aren’t wrapped up in her appearance. She isn’t distracted from her goals by the need to attract male attention. Unfortunately, Election does give the impression that talented, intelligent women like Tracy are naturally irritating and more likely to end up lonely. But even so, Tracy never comes across as pitiable - and in the end, she even comes out on top.
Room for Improvement:
Gender Role – Men
Language and Sexual Content
Gender Roles - Men: 3 Stars
Paul Metzler is the only consistently likeable character in the film. He's considerate of other people and genuinely respects their space and opinions. It’s clear that he hasn’t let his popularity go to his head, and he’s a perfect illustration of the fact that men can be respected and admired without turning into egocentric or chauvinist jerks.
Jim McAlister, on the other hand, is the very picture of a warped adult male who feels threatened and emasculated by Tracy’s tireless ambition. His intense dislike of Tracy convinces him that she is responsible for the affair that got his colleague fired – despite the vast age and maturity difference between the two. Jim sees Tracy as a conniving and manipulative woman, rather than the vulnerable teenage girl that she is. Since we’re often viewing Tracy from Jim’s point of view, Election gives us an intriguing glimpse of how a sexist mindset can skew a person’s perceptions, and turn a normal, motivated young girl into something loathsome and villainous.
Plot: 3 Stars (Spoilers)
Tracy doesn’t do anything truly inspiring to win our support. If anything, she turns us off by bullying the competition and behaving as if she’s entitled to the position. She doesn’t spend her time connecting with the students or brainstorming ways to improve her campaign. Instead, she ends up tearing down all of Paul’s campaign posters, and then lets his sister take the fall for it. It’s unfortunate that Tracy never really receives a lesson in humility or honesty, but most audiences will still appreciate Tracy’s drive and dedication, despite her childish behavior. In the end, she still wins the election and goes on to bigger and better things. It’s difficult to argue that she doesn’t deserve it.
Character Development: 2.5 Stars (Spoilers)
To some degree, Tracy Flick is portrayed as the film’s villain. She is selfish and obnoxious and gets away with a clear act of sabotage. But it would be difficult to see Tracy as such a cold and manipulative ego-maniac if more of the story were told from her perspective. When Tracy is narrating, we see a different side o her. She is someone who is often lonely. Someone who doesn’t have many friends or a very supportive environment at home. It’s easy to see how her teacher might have manipulated her into a sexual relationship that she wasn’t ready for. Tracy also talks about the injustices of high school popularity. The way that she has worked so hard to win this election, only to have it stolen from her at the last minute. Tracy could have been a more likable, unambiguous hero if more of the story came from her perspective. And if Paul Metzler wasn't such an honest and likeable guy.
Love: 2 Stars
Election doesn't have much of a love story to it, other than Tammy's fruitless plan to get back at her former girlfriend. The film isn't demeaning towards the idea of lesbian relationships, and to some degree, illustrates that they are just as real and hurtful as any other relationships. But Tammy is too much of a side character, and her feelings too superficial to constitute a true, compelling love story. Although she does find her happy ending with another girl by the end of the film, this second romance is even more fluff and cliché than the first.
Language and Sexual Content: 1.5 Stars (Spoilers)
Election uses the word “bitch” in one of the most harmful contexts, that of a male authority figure, Mr. McAlister, demeaning an aggressive and empowered woman, Tracy Flick. While the word would be less problematic coming from a character that is clearly identifiable as a chauvinist or bully, Jim McAlister is occasionally sympathetic and relatable. For some audiences, Jim may even be the good guy, who is tortured and abused by a smug and manipulative high school brat. Given the complexities of Jim and Tracy’s roles, it’s far too likely that audiences won’t pick up on the sexism infused in Jim’s choice of words, and may even agree with it.
In addition, the sexual relationships in Election are overwhelmingly predatory and demoralizing. Tracy is pulled into a sexual relationship with a teacher twice her age, who takes gross advantage of her lack of maturity and loneliness. Jim also seems to have a weird sexual attraction to Tracy, which is part of the reason he's so driven to sabotage her.
Instead of acting on his feelings for Tracy, Jim fantasizes about his friend’s ex-wife, Linda, and eventually comes on to her. Jim and Linda share a passionate moment, but Linda later regrets the incident, claiming that Jim took advantage of her. We don’t know enough about Linda to fully gauge her motivations, but the suggestion is enough to make us question Jim’s behavior. His disloyalty to his wife and his other questionable decisions don’t help matters any. By all accounts, the depictions of sex in Election are disheartening portrayals of male quests for satisfaction, without much regard for the hearts and minds of the women involved.
Tracy Flick is a perky, over-achieving high school student who is pouring all her energy into becoming student body president. But not everyone appreciates Tracy’s commitment and drive. Her teacher, Jim McAlister, isn't impressed with her ambitious attitude and even blames her for an illicit affair that got one of his colleagues fired. Jim plans to ruin Tracy’s campaign by convincing the school’s star athlete, Paul Metzler, to run against her. When Paul announces his candidacy, his sister Tammy also joins the race to settle an old score. Tracy’s twisted side surfaces as her plans begin to unravel, but she isn’t the sort to go down without a fight. And it may be her, rather than Mr. McAlister, who has the last laugh.
Kelly is a labor law