On Glee

"You Think This Is Hard? Try Being an Antagonist, That's Hard"

Why Sue Sylvester Is Essential to Glee

By Jennifer Crusie

Sue Sylvester is an iconic figure, ranking with Iago, Hannibal Lecter, and Voldemort in her dominance and shaping of the story she’s in. Without her, Glee would just be a song list and Brittany and Santana discussing gay sharks. With Sue as antagonist, the stories rise to the level of Greek drama. Aristotle would have loved Sue Sylvester.

As Aristotle knew, the core of classic storytelling is the agon, or struggle; the main actors in the story are therefore agonists. The central or first character is the protagonist because his or her search for a goal begins the story and pushes it forward. In Glee, that’s Will Schuester, a Spanish teacher at William McKinley High School in Lima, Ohio, who was once a member of the now-defunct glee club there. Will is lost, aimless, stuck in a marriage to a harpy, and half in love with the school guidance counselor but unwilling to admit it. His finest moments were when he was part of glee club; as he said in the pilot episode, “Being a part of that, I knew who I was in the world.” Searching for meaning in his adult life, in a rare moment of decision, he went to the principal and began the arduous process of resurrecting the club by assembling a collection of talented losers in a group he called New Directions because they, like him, so desperately needed one.

But Will alone can’t make a story. He needs  …

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