Monday, April 25, 2011

Sue Sylvester: The New Snidely Whiplash

Strong beginnings are important, but if that's all your story has, it'll fall apart like a zombie on a hot day. And no one wants to see that.

Like many Glee fans, I wish the writing quality would return to that of its first season. The list of annoyances is long, but if I had to pick what bothers me most, it would have to be what's happened to Cheerios coach Sue Sylvester. It's painful to witness the downward suck-spiral of my favorite character and the waste of Jane Lynch's talent.

Sue was funnier when she wasn't completely evil. Despite her many flaws, we saw that she had a heart somewhere under that track suit. She was tough on Becky, a student with Down Syndrome, but made her part of the Cheerios squad. Later in that episode, we saw Sue reading Little Red Riding Hood to her own mentally-challenged sister. You could tell she'd read it a thousand times, but she was perfectly happy to do it. Would the Sue we know now do this? No, she'd probably tear the book to pieces and push her sister down the stairs. Or she'd give a staff member a kick to the face for not bringing her an energy drink.

The character that Jane Lynch (a brilliant comedic actress) signed on to play was a cleverly written complex character--she said some mean things, but we laughed, and we loved her. There's nothing to love anymore, and she no longer seems like a real person. Why isn't she in jail? She punched a judge in the face at regionals (or was it sectionals? Seems like they're always getting ready for sectionals), and nothing came of that. She's physically aggressive with students.

I know it's fiction, but part of being a good writer of fiction is keeping our characters from turning into caricatures. (I wrote more about one-dimensional villains in "Lessons from Austin Powers.") It's easy to write someone who's all evil, all the time. It's harder to write a flawed character your readers will love. Snidely Whiplash is easy; Hannibal Lecter is hard.

Not that the Glee writers are concerned with consistency (plot lines that have been dropped from one week to the next could be a whole series of posts), but what's going to happen with Sue's character now? I'm almost afraid to ask this, but how ridiculously bad can she get? I can't see any way out of this direction her character has gone, other than a new plot line that reveals a brain tumor to explain her erratic behavior. Or like Tom & Lorenzo suggested in their post, "A Night Of Neglect," she'll hold the school hostage and go down in a hail of police bullets.

Hey, that's not a bad idea. That makes room for yet another new character on the show. Maybe a not-so-evil twin to take Sue's place?


  1. Excellent post, Lynne. Sue has been a blast to watch, but I too have been considering the her growing violent behavior and wonder where Glee's writers are headed with that.(I did think The Grinch was brilliant--but I don't remember it violent.) The way she slams kids against lockers should be bringing all the parents and their attorneys into the school with assault charges. Will she wind up so angry, she'll bury Will alive in a wooden box? I assume she wouldn't kill him--the show wouldn't be the same without him. And probably she won't bury him at all because there's not a peppy song for that. The first season was amazing, and I think the writers need to revisit the magic.

  2. Thanks, Nancy!

    She does seem homicidal. If her behavior escalates any more, that's where it'll have to go.