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Wonder Women: Tracey Flick

This week is all about female heroes. Here’s Jorge with a cupcake early in the morning…

One of the (many) beautiful things about Alexander Payne’s Election is that, by immersing the audience into the different points of view of the main characters, there’s never really anyone who’s unequivocally right or wrong. There are no heroes or villains; the truth lies somewhere in the murky puddle of ethics, ambition, and torn down posters. Everyone had their part on the catastrophic school election events. It’s just that some came out better off than others.

But Tracey Flick would not hesitate one second in calling herself the true heroine of the story.

After all, everything and everyone was pitted against her during her run for student government president: the dumb though well-intended popular jock running against her, the ethics teacher that would never understand how much she wanted it, the student body that’s always beneath her, the pains of school politics and bureaucracy. She was beaten down mercilessly by the system: cheated, lied to, and taken advantage of. But she kept on battling, day after day, earning her righteous victory at the end.

As every other character in the movie, Tracey’s actions and thoughts are dictated by an enormous sense of entitlement and selfishness. At Carver High, everyone is out for themselves. She is far from the picture-perfect model student that she thinks she is. There’s a darkness simmering inside that she is unable to see or acknowledge (and that Reese Witherspoon conveys with pitch-perfect subtlety).

But Tracey’s not letting something as unimportant as her own demons get in the way of getting what she knows she deserves. And that’s maybe the most important trait Tracey shares with the ideal of a hero: she may be terribly flawed, but she will fight for (what she thinks) it’s right.

Tracey’s code of ethics and behavior has less in common with the average teenage character and more with someone like, say, Catwoman, a character also famously in the brink of heroism and villainy. While most of Tracey’s cinematic counterparts are questioning their identities, loyalties, and figuring out what they really want in life, she has it all figured out. She knows exactly who she is. She knows exactly what she wants. And she wants it bad, and she will do anything to get it.

Ethics and morals aside (what’s the difference, anyway?), the way that Tracey shamelessly owns her ambition is something to be celebrated. Especially for a young female. Her approach may be murky, but no one could ever say that she didn’t try. A strong personality, dubious practices, and just a sense that she wants it too damn much should not disqualify a woman from becoming a hero.

What characterizes a hero, more than their beliefs, their allies, or their intentions, is their willingness to keep fighting. No matter what. They never give up, win or lose. Tracey Flick wanted to become president of the student government, and the rest of her world did not want her to. But nevertheless, she persisted.

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Reader Comments (8)

It may have taken 18 years but I'm so glad that (with Big Little Lies) Reese now has a performance that stands shoulder to shoulder with Tracy Flick.

I like Walk The Line (and really like Reese in it) but the above two creations are her finest moments by far...

I also love that (even though she doesn't especially shine in either) she has American Psycho AND Cruel Intentions on her CV... both great films for vastly different reasons.

June 3, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterkermit_the_frog

Tracey Flick is tricky character to balance out but Reese Witherspoon manages it with great aplomb. She runs straight into the caricatures the role so easily lends itself to, overplays them for comedic effect and, from inside that heightened space, stretches out the character to embue it with sympathy and pathos. It's one of her finest accomplishments as an actress.

This still ranks as my favorite Payne movie ever (and I really like several of his films), and in great part thanks to her performance.

June 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

I love this film. Reese Witherspoon at her best!

June 4, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

Witherspoon shld've been nom for an Oscar for Election, which IMHO, a much betta perf than Walk the Line

June 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterClaran

A true one of a kind original and endlessly quotable.

June 4, 2017 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

What a delightful performance from a very talented actress.

She needs to be picky about her roles from here on. I liked her in Walk the Line, but did not

considerate it Oscar worthy.

June 4, 2017 | Unregistered Commenternatalie

Reese is phenomenal shading the ruthless and naked ambition and as a performance there is much too admire but Tracy Flick is a monster in training and not far from graduation.

June 4, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

This performance and movie could have easily gone too broad and become unbearable over a feature-length film, but the performance, writing and direction are so ace that the whole movie is just delightful. I think this was the second Reese performance I saw after Man on the Moon (and then *cough* Fear *cough*) and was really, really impressed.

June 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

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