In the long run of Hollywood, high school movies have always found an audience for themselves. It doesn’t matter which generation we focus on; there will always bestories that tell the coming of age tale of celebrated stereotypes. These stereotypes are portraits of the people that we know and love; who we have grown up with and who make up a big part of our identity. Of course, some stereotypes are more relatable to us than others, but in the end, they’re just that, stereotypes. It is very rare that we see a sort of character in a movie, who breaks the convention and redefines what their role is supposed to be. Tracy Flick is one of those characters.
Tracy Flick, played by Reese Witherspoon is the character around which the world of the movie Election is built upon. She is a know-it-all student with heaps of ambition, who has no problem destroying anyone who comes in her path. It’s very rare for a movie to have a strong female lead, who is also the supposed villain. In the story, she has everything going for her, except for the support of her teacher, Jim McAllister, played by Matthew Broderick.
The whole story revolves around attempts made by Jim to stop Tracy from becoming the Student Government President, as if that would somehow destroy her spirit and save the world from her ambition.
From this statement alone, you can assume that the movie is more about the characters than the plot itself.That is not to say that there is anything wrong with the plot. On the contrary, not every movie can keep such a coherent plot while still giving so much time to character development. But let’s put our focus back to Tracy, as the movie certainly suggests we do.
Tracy as a person is a force of nature that cannot be stopped. This could easily make her one of those two dimensional female antagonists we often see in high school movies.But Witherspoon infuses her with so many layers, that she can’t be fit into just one mold. She is smart but not weak, mean but not without cause, ruthless but to the point, yet despite all of that, she believes in making the world around her a perfect place. The whole persona is so nuanced that you cannot help but love and hate her at the same time, which is what her teachers do.
She can both seduce her teacher and destroy his career without even blinking an eye; such is her strength. We all want her to lose but also realize the inevitability of her success, knowing how far she is willing to go for it; so much so that it doesn’t come as a surprise that when all is said and done, she is the only character who actually gets what she wants.
Her ability to generate this love hate relationship with her audience is what has led to this character being heralded as one of the most iconic characters on screen, with hundreds of movies trying and failing to capture it again.