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picspam - glee v. election - back in high school

May 30, 2009 | 03:16 pm
posted by: certifieddork in cuz_itsa_sin

How awesome is the new show Glee? So awesome, right? Right. But watching it, I couldn't help noticing a few similarities between it and Election - you know, that Matthew Broderick/Reese Witherspoon movie that is in no way about a Glee club? Yeah, that one.

Yeah, alright, there are some glaring differences. The whole tone, for one thing - Glee is about, well, opening yourself up to joy. There's drama, but the whole point of the show is to be happy, gleeful, empowering, fun and enthusiastic. Election is the opposite. The high school experience is degraded, becomes corrupt and licentious - as bad as the world outside high school, in fact..

Also, a warning: this post contains spoilers for Glee 1.01 Pilot - and I'm using the unaired, screener pilot. I haven't seen the aired one, and even though I hear 'not much' was cut out, you can never be too sure. There are no spoilers for any promos; I'm sticking to what we see in the pilot only. There are also spoilers for Election, but seeing as how the movie is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, I'm not too worried about people being spoiled.

That being said, I don't do storytelling. I'm assuming you're familiar with both works (see the summary/review for a refresher on Election) so that I don't have to say, 'In this scene, Jim McAllister blah blah blah.' Nothing is completely out of context, but I don't rehash details of the plot (mostly). I'm more concerned with characters.

ENOUGHT TALKING, LET'S PICSPAM SHALL WE? WARNING: IMAGE-HEAVY, DIAL-UP USERS BEWARE (but you knew that already). There'a also some words, and a picture that is NSFW.

for picspammy's 10th challenge, compare & contrast

1. location, location, location

Omaha, Nebraska and Lima, Ohio. The Midwestern United States. It's almost a cliche, isn't it - middle America, with good, home-grown values, not straying too far from the norm. Setting a story in these states is shorthand for This is not 90210; this is not Gossip Girl (or whatever glamourous New York-set show we were watching in 1999, when Election was filmed; the original Beverly Hills 90210 was still alive, of course - limping, but alive). These are 'real people'. (Screencaping Present Day, Lima, OH might seem like the stupidest idea ever, but hey, I'm trying to be consistent here.)

2. hot for teacher

Jim: What I do remember was that I loved my job. I was a teacher, an educator, and I couldn't imagine doing anything else.
Will: My passion is teaching, Terri! For the last time, I don't want to be an accountant.

They're young (for teachers), they're idealistic, they believe in what they're doing - they're the teachers of middle America! Sure, maybe Matthew Broderick isn't Ferris Bueller anymore - but you know he's that charming, you believe that Jim McAllister could have been Ferris in a previous life. There's just enough of a smirk there that just won't let you forget it. And I don't think I need to explain the ways in which Will Shuester is hot ... ? Didn't think so.

3. oh hey, slightly irrelevant detail

Um, it's the same car! ... No, it's not. But it's the same idea. Boring old car, seen better days, but a teacher can't afford a new car every two years, so he's kind of stuck. The devil's in the details, folks.

4. 'messy, and no accident'

Will: What I did then was the blackest moment of my life.

Idealists, yes, but not above lowering themselves to get what they want. In their heads, it's justifiable - Will needs a male signer to keep New Directions alive, Jim needs Paul to win the election just to stick it to Tracy Flick. Which is more devious - accusing a kid of bringing drugs to school, or rigging a school election out of spite? The only difference (so far) is that Will hasn't been caught. Yet.

5. the war at home

Will: Here's the thing. Terri rides me, hard. And I've always appreciated it. I figure she just wants me to be better, you know, but lately, though, I keep asking myself,
'Better at what?' Making money, being upwardly mobile? I don't know. ... I love her, don't get me wrong. But I dunno, she's - different.
We just need to get back on the same page.

These men are having trouble at home. Meet the wives: quiet and reserved Diana McAllister, and fierce and combative Terri Shuester. Both sadly under-developed (Diane tragically so, since Election isn't a series). One thing they have in common is trying to have a baby. Diane doesn't get pregnant; Terri announces that she's expecting. Both Jim and Will, however, are facing trouble in their marriage, and I think these couples are similar in that they're complacent; if either partner took a long hard look at their relationship, I think they would find it truly difficult to continue in it. More on this later.

6. i can has symbolism?

Simple, easy and it works. These men are teachers. They eat apples. It's cheap and unsubtle but sometimes, it's nice to not have to over-analyse a shot. Also, look at Will and that apple. It's not a great cap, but I couldn't not include it, could I? Really? ... Just saying.

7. type a (aka, enough about the effing teachers already!)

Rachel: These days, being anonymous is worse than being poor. Fame is the most important thing in our culture now, and if there's one thing I've learned, it's that no one's going to just hand it to you.
Tracy: You see, you can't interfere with destiny. That's why it's destiny. And if you try to interfere, the same thing's going to happen anyway, and you'll just suffer.

Basically, the reason that this picspam exists is because of the huge Tracy Flick vibe I was getting from Lea Michele as Rachel. She's driven, she's focused, she knows exactly what she wants, and knows just how to get it. These people will turn in their pedophilic show choir instructors for ignoring them, they'll tear down your election posters and lie about it, just because you dared to run against them. And in the end, didn't they both get exactly what they wanted?

8. let's go shopping, i: they're the same!

They're kind of teeth-achingly preppy, aren't they? Plaid skirts, sweater vests, button down shirts. It's a quick way of identifying both characters - no nonsense, straightforward, driven, whatever you want to call it.

9. let's go shopping, ii: no, they're different!

On the other hand, Rachel likes to have fun with fashion - knotted pearls, silk ties. These are still traditional looks, just reinvented. Tracy looks like a real geek (as opposed to a gleek), but we can't really blame her for being the product of the nineties - I thought over-sized wool sweaters were the bomb in 1998-99, too. The real telling point: Rachel would not be caught dead in those mom jeans. Sorry, Tracy.

10. home sweet home

Tracy: It's like my mom says, "The weak are always trying to sabatoge the strong."
Rachel: I have two gay dads.

This might be middle America, but these are not nuclear families. A single mom raising a child on her own isn't exactly unheard of, but it's non-traditional. Set ten years later, Glee can push the envelope a little more by introducing not only gay characters (more later), but gay parents. And these two non-traditional families are extra-encouraging: Judith Flick is behind her daughter 110% (and might be the brains behind Tracy's entire life) and let's not forget Tracy being involved in every other club in school, and appearing on 15 different pages of her senior year yearbook. Meanwhile the unnamed gay dads enroll Rachel in everything they can, to give her the competitive edge. We haven't met them yet, so it's hard to say whether they're just encouraging, outgoing parents or if they're really just pushing Rachel into believing that fame is the be-all, end-all.

11. sign your mark on the line

Rachel: You might laugh because every time I sign my name, I put a gold star after it, but it's a metaphor. And metaphors are important. My gold stars are a metaphor for me being a star.

Nobody comments on Tracy's dotting her 'i' with a star, but I will - it's a metaphor! Such a tiny detail, and not something I remembered at all until I rewatched the film. These characters are uncanny.

12. yay, cute boys!

Paul: I was so mad at God when I broke my leg at Shadow Ridge over Christmas break. [...] It was like the end of my life.
[...] I still couldn't shake the feeling that now my life had no purpose. What did God want from me? Why did I exist?
Finn: That really got to me, when Mr. Shuester said that because, every day out of my life, I expect more out of myself.
See, I might look confident and everything, but I really struggle with the same thing other kids do; peer presure, bacne ...

These boys are so earnest, and another cliche: the football star looking to be more than just a football star. Sure, Paul is thrust into this situation through an accident and Finn is blackmailed, but they're still trying to do the right thing. Paul isn't content to sit on the couch and live out his high school days as a washed up has-been, and Finn doesn't want to let his mom down with a drug charge, even a fake one.

13. the birds and the bees

Lisa: I'm not like you. I'm not a dyke.
Quinn: Wait. Let us pray.

These girls are badass, but they go about it in completely different ways; they have their own agenda. Lisa needs to prove to herself that she's not a lesbian, so the first thing she does is give Paul Metzler a blowjob after a ride home from school. Quinn, on the other hand, is the president of the Celibacy Club, and won't let Finn touch her ass while making out - after four months of dating. These girls know what they want, and what they don't want, and have their boyfriends wrapped around their little finger. And they both use sex to control them - Lisa gets Paul's attention right away, Quinn withholds it in order to keep Finn's attention. I think we'll see just how much in later episodes of Glee.

14. to sum up (or, 'o face' v. 'd'oh face')

Paul is getting some, Finn is not. Dude. That sucks.

15. can we talk about gays again? yes, we can!

Tammy: It's not that I'm a lesbian or anything. I'm attracted to the person. It's just that all the people I've been attracted to happen to be girls.
Tina: I kissed a girl/ And I liked it.
Kurt: I'm sorry, did I miss the election for queen, 'cause I didn't vote for you.

Let's put aside the gay adults, and look at the kids. Tina C is, I think, a bit on the fence. Yes, her audition is Katy Perry and yes, she doesn't seem to mind being groped by Rachel, at all, but her sexuality itself (whether she's a lesbian or bisexual or hell, a straight girl without inhibitions) is never addressed. Kurt, I think, is as out as it gets. The Marc Jacobs new collection is one thing, but he basically says, 'If anyone around here is queen, it's me.' Got to love a kid who's not ashamed to be what he is. Tammy, I think, is still struggling - she still can't identify herself as a lesbian, but she can't deny that she likes to kiss girls. And she's ecstatic to be sent to an all-girls Catholic school.

16. 'it was so wrong!'

Dave: Her pussy gets so wet.
Sandy: I'm not even gay!

The creepy teacher award goes to - either of these guys. Dave Novotny, for all his pleading, is not 'in love' with Tracy - she's just young and firm and, to get a little crass here, nice and tight. For all her acting like the grown-up after the fall out of the relationship, she really is the victim. Sandy Ryerson, however, doesn't just touch the students inappropriately (and it's one hand on the stomach, over a shirt, let's not get too carried away here - not that I'm excusing anything), but, when sacked, he turns to dealing drugs. And selling it to an ex-colleague teacher. And ignore his pleadings, too: he's in deep, deep denial. And Dave probably is, too.

17. the other woman

Jim: So what do you think? Should we get a room?
Will: I'll miss you.

I'll come out and say it - I don't particularly ship Will/Emma. I know, I know; Emma is adorable, Will is hot, they would be so. adorable. together. I get that, I see that - but maybe I see too much of it? It feels ... obvious and contrived. But enough about that, the point is, here's where Jim and Will really differ - Jim cheats on his wife. He's on a downward spiral, with the election, and it's not a far leap to adulterer (we already know the marriage isn't exactly warm and loving). I see Will as the kind of character who's willing to stay in a loveless, baby-less marriage, without cheating, and be completely content to do so, not for his wife's sake, but because it's just what he does. He's a nice guy. Of course, one pilot does not a character make; this is just my impression. And if he were to cheat (or leave his wife for another woman), I think most of the audience is rooting for Emma.

18. it needs to be said

Ken: You're ruining my life.

Ken Tanaka? Kind of a dick. Put-him-in-a-museum-so-future-generations-can-study-him kind of a dick.

19. at the end of the day

Jim: What happens to a man when he loses everything? Everything he's worked for... everything he believes in?
Driven from his home... cast out of society... how can he survive? Where can he go? New York City!
For centuries people have come to New York seeking refuge from their troubled lives. Now I am one of them.
Will: That was good guys - a nine. We need a ten. [...]
It would kill me to see you win nationals without me. From the top.

Jim McAllister is spit on and driven out of Omaha. Where does he go? New York. What does he do there? Teach. Will Shuester cannot and will not abandon his glee club; he's not going anywhere. Jim McAllister runs away, from Tracy Flick, from the past and the whole election mess. He's forgotten it, he thinks he's moved on. Will Shuester, on the other hand, cannot and will not give up on his Glee kids, even when life tries to take them away from him.

20. in conclusion

It's not rocket science: Jim runs, Will stays. Literally.

the end (finally)

Thus concludes today's picspam, THANK GOD. That was awesome and fun, but it has eaten my brain, you can't even imagine. Because I know I could keep going: the kid in the wheelchair, the voice-overs, the awesome music cues. But I think I've got to the nitty-gritty of what makes these shows so similar, and also, I'm kind of sick of talking about them. So let's open the floor, shall we?

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? You know what to do.

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Comments {34}

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(no subject)

from: caffrey
date: May 30, 2009 07:59 pm (UTC)

This is beautiful. And very well done and detailed with the explanations and everything. Thanks very much. :)

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ϟ ℓαυяα

(no subject)

from: certifieddork
date: May 30, 2009 10:46 pm (UTC)

Yay, I'm glad you liked it! Thanks for commenting.

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(no subject)

from: morethanexist
date: May 30, 2009 08:21 pm (UTC)

I've never seen this movie, but am seriously considering putting it on my netflicks list. I love the side-by-side comparisons and will completely agree without even having to see Election that the Similarities between Rachel and Tracy are freaky. In a good way.

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gravity always wins

(no subject)

from: yoshimi
date: May 30, 2009 08:42 pm (UTC)

genius. very well done. the similarities with glee and election were definitely what struck me first, too. can't wait for more!

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(no subject)

from: bonesfirst
date: May 30, 2009 08:54 pm (UTC)

I love Election one of my favorite movies in the 90's and you explain which part very well, and the pics are amazing and Really do see the common simlaries of election and glee uh imagine that thanks for posting.

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loving life like a fat kid loves pie

(no subject)

from: lloydsgurl
date: May 30, 2009 09:01 pm (UTC)

my biggest problem with Glee was in the signing of Rachel Berry's name. I just can't honestly believe that a girl that perfect and focused would have such sloppy hand-writing. tsk tsk, show.

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something holy used to love me

(no subject)

from: hyacinthian
date: May 30, 2009 09:30 pm (UTC)

ITA. THAT WAS THE THING THAT PEEVED ME THE MOST. A girl like Rachel totally would have spent her summers perfecting her penmanship for future autographs.

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(no subject)

from: asweetdownfall
date: May 30, 2009 09:11 pm (UTC)

Heeee. You mentioned Lima! /random

This is a wonderful picspam. :)

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ϟ ℓαυяα

(no subject)

from: certifieddork
date: May 30, 2009 10:49 pm (UTC)

I mentioned Lima because the show mentioned Lima, hehe. I'm glad you liked it, thanks for commenting!

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something holy used to love me

(no subject)

from: hyacinthian
date: May 30, 2009 09:29 pm (UTC)

Great picspam! In an interview, the creators/producers actually admitted that they totally based Rachel off of Tracy so, yeah.

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ϟ ℓαυяα

(no subject)

from: certifieddork
date: May 30, 2009 10:42 pm (UTC)

Ooh, I didn't know that, but it makes total sense.

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bazinga! i don't care

(no subject)

from: corsettes
date: May 30, 2009 09:39 pm (UTC)

this was an amazing amazing picspam!

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(no subject)

from: cammiel
date: May 30, 2009 10:08 pm (UTC)

really great

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(no subject)

from: tori6687
date: May 30, 2009 10:27 pm (UTC)


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ϟ ℓαυяα

(no subject)

from: certifieddork
date: May 30, 2009 10:45 pm (UTC)

OMG, Ferris! There needs to be more Ferris Bueller icons on LJ, for sure. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Matthew Broderick and that whole movie. Thank you for commenting, I'm glad you liked it!

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(Deleted comment)

Nicole Anell

(no subject)

from: nicole_anell
date: May 30, 2009 10:40 pm (UTC)

YES. I'm so glad someone did this, the Election/Glee rip-off parallels are very strong. :DDD

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ϟ ℓαυяα

(no subject)

from: certifieddork
date: May 30, 2009 10:48 pm (UTC)

It's an homage, I'm sure. ;) Thank you for commenting.

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make adjustments. go get it energized!

(no subject)

from: mocca_fix_gold
date: May 31, 2009 03:44 am (UTC)

Love the commentary! This makes me want to watch Election again.

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The Tea Shop Angel

(no subject)

from: touchthesoul
date: May 31, 2009 05:41 am (UTC)

Oh my gosh, hon, this is BEAUTIFUL.

I don't even know what to say. YAY GLEE AND ELECTION! <3

I heart you.

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ϟ ℓαυяα

(no subject)

from: certifieddork
date: June 10, 2009 06:21 am (UTC)

Awwwww, I heart you too bb. I'm so glad you liked it!

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k r i s t i ♥

(no subject)

from: cotton_candy8
date: May 31, 2009 05:28 pm (UTC)

Phenomenal!! Thanks for doing this! I noticed the differences right away while watching it, and you summed it up perfectly. I've always thought Election was a very funny, clever movie, and I love Glee as well! I read somewhere Lea said she used Tracy as inspiration for her character, but all of the similarities are undeniable. Great post!! :D

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