This isn’t much of a hot take to those of us who have watched and loved Election over the past twenty years, but The New York Times today offers a deep dive into what critic A.O. Scott believes America gets wrong about Tracy Flick. In Alexander Payne’s 1999 film, says the Times, “she’s preyed upon by a teacher and almost cheated out of her rightful victory. But somehow she’s the villain.” Nowadays, says Scott, “Tracy’s name has become a synonym for relentless drive and obnoxious self-confidence.” Whereas Matthew Broderick’s Mr. M, who Scott says was made more appealing due to the fact that he was portrayed by Matthew Broderick, is actually “a monster—a distillation of human moral squalor with few equals in modern American cinema—and that Tracy Flick is the heroine who bravely, if imperfectly, resists his efforts to destroy her.”
To which we would reply, channeling Tracy’s election rival Paul Metzler: “No shit.” While Scott seems to have taken an entirely different viewpoint after re-watching the film years later, it honestly seems pretty obvious that the guy who was planning to cheat on his wife with her best friend and fantasized about high school students while having sex with said wife was not set up to be the good guy. Scott goes into painstaking detail about the plot—honestly, just watch the movie, it’s really good—pointing out that Tracy is a self-made, tireless hard worker, while her fellow election-day candidates the Metzler siblings are rich kids who basically had everything handed over to them, which, again, is a point that the movie has no trouble making. Those cupcakes with her name on them didn’t frost themselves, after all
At the end of Election, Tracy’s the one with a job in Washington politics, while Mr. M is a mere museum docent reduced to throwing a soda cup at her limo. So the movie appears to wrap up everything, plot-wise and fate-wise, with the victor and her thwarted rival crystal clear. Honestly, Tracy Flick would have had her hand raised before finishing this article’s first paragraph.