The Farce of High School Elections by Amanda McAfee


Election (Alexander Payne, 1999, USA) follows the campaign for school president of three students. The film as a whole focuses on the power struggle between Tracy and her teacher Jim McAllister. In these scene we see one candidate, Tammy, use the message of a hotheaded political figure that calls for radical change, makes no promises but how they will make grand changes and openly acknowledges the hoax of the elections, just “something to add to your college transcript.” This follows the trend of politicians that use “big lies” that they are so absurd that they must be true and by doing so debunks the trick of politicians and releases the voters from the need to believe the magic trick of persuasion a serious candidate, like Tracy, relies on.

Nussbaum sites comedy as a purveyor of truth yet comedy, as we have seen in gags and building laughter, is formulaic. Comedy as it was used in the Trump Hillary election period was used to propagate big lies and ad hominem arguments that focus on degrading the person (and subsequently degrade the political persona).

Propaganda is recognized as being translatable to drama but it seems that even long term critics of comedy are resistant to acknowledge comedy as being used for such a purpose that does not align with the “rebel cause.” By openly disregarding the seriousness of the high school election, which is a parody by nature, disrupts the illusion that serous candidates cling to the promises that in their seriousness will enact change within a known illusion. High school elections are inherently comical because they require a suspension of disbelief.

Brian Logan, “Arrest that comedian! How satire could swing the UK election,” (2/6/17): the-uk-election

Emily Nussbaum, “How Jokes Won the Election” The New Yorker (23/1/2017):

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