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Sadie Burton


English 101-02

18 September 2017

Rhetorical Analysis of Sue Sylvester

“You know what, I checked out of our conversation about a minute back, so good luck

with your troubles, and I’m going to make it a habit not to stop and talk to students because this

has been a colossal waste of my time.” (Laryngitis) How would you feel if an adult working at

your high school said this to you after you confided in him or her? If you were in a school with

Sue Sylvester, you would know how it feels, because this quote is a good example of her lack of

concern for others. In the Fox musical comedy-drama television series, ​Glee​, both students and

faculty members at William McKinley High School have to endure ruthless bullying from the

principal and cheerleading coach, Sue Sylvester. She is the main villain of the show, and presents

herself as superior, intimidating, and mean. Sue Sylvester has learned how to use others’ fear of

her to her advantage and is able to construct a cruel, unfair, and spiteful persona in order to

obtain power and authority throughout the school.

Sylvester is often in conflict with the school’s glee club and its director, Will Schuester.

She coaches the cheerleading squad that competes with the show choir for the school’s limited

funding. Sue uses daily insults and rude comments to annoy and intimidate Schuester. One of

Sylvester’s favorite tactics is to insult someone’s physical appearance. In Schuester’s case, it is

his hairstyle that is the target of Sylvester’s rath. She has even gone so far as to question whether

small birds have laid sulfurous eggs in his hair. Sylvester launches her own campaign to destroy
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the glee club using whatever power she has available. At one point, she finds a way to have the

principal of the school fired so that she can be appointed principal herself, and in doing so,

demotes the former principal to janitor. She tries scheme after scheme in order to get rid of

Schuester’s glee club. When the club has to travel by plane to compete in a national

competition, she books the tickets for the wrong destination. Sylvester uses losing in a single

competition as reason alone to take over the club’s choir room and turn it into the cheerleading

practice room, to fire Schuester as director, and to disband the club. When that didn’t work, she

forms a “League of Doom” and aligns with Schuester’s ex-wife, the former glee club director,

and the coach of the club’s biggest competition to ruin Schuester’s chance at having a successful

glee club. One explanation as to why Sylvester presents as such a heartless and cruel person is

due to her unfortunate childhood. Sylvester has the same characteristics as her mother, who left

Sue and her handicapped sister at a young age. In addition, Sylvester is wounded from a broken

heart when she finds out that her partner had cheated on her, right when she was beginning to

think that things were getting serious.

Sue Sylvester cares about nobody but herself. She will go to great lengths in order to get

what she wants, and she doesn’t care about the effect it may have on other people. Her position

in the school allows her to ignore any rules that she feels don’t apply to her, and she often

manipulates her own cheerleaders as a way to bring down the glee club. Once, Sylvester ignores

the obvious potential for great harm and considers shooting one of her cheerleaders out of a

cannon in order to boost popularity. She directs several cheerleaders to join the glee club as a

way to destroy them from the inside, and she also demands that the cheerleading captains

sabotage the fund-raising efforts of the rival club. It is this same lack of conscience that permits
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her to give the secret musical setlist to the glee club’s rival team. She shows her lack of character

even further by betraying people that have been loyal to her. For example, she kicks one of her

most dedicated cheerleaders out of the squad for getting pregnant, showing no empathy for a

character who was in need of support, but rather adding one more layer of guilt and

disappointment for that cheerleader to bare.

Perhaps Sylvester’s most outrageous behavior centers on her lack of sympathy and

concern for other’s feelings. In situations that would touch the heart of most people and result in

a show of supportive emotion, Sylvester processes her feelings by showing anger and aggression.

She will insult everybody in her path, and destroys whatever good is around her. Despite the

struggles and appealing nature of Becky, a cheerleader with Down syndrome, Sylvester removes

her from the cheerleading squad only because she reminds Sylvester of her late sister. When a

popular student dies and his fellow students mourn his death in part by creating a memorial to

him, Sylvester demands that it be taken down. The following quote explains Sylvester’s

cold-hearted demeanor, “It’s not easy to break out of your comfort zone. People will tear you

down; tell you that you shouldn’t have bothered in the first place. But let me tell you something:

there’s not much of a difference in a stadium full of cheering fans, and an angry crowd

screaming abuse at you. They’re both just making a lot of noise; how you take it is up to you.

Convince yourself that they’re cheering for you. You do that, and someday, they will.”


In reality, Sylvester’s outward persona, that of a heartless and evil authority figure, does

have a softer inner side. But, it is necessary for Sylvester to keep any and all of her warmth

hidden in order to be successful at bullying others, thereby gaining whatever power she needs to
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succeed. Her vicious personality, wrapped up in masculine athletic clothing, provides an

exaggerated, yet successful strategy to get what she wants.

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Works Cited

Batallones, Henrik. “'Glee': 15 Most Evil Sue Sylvester Quotes.” BuddyTV - TV News, Spoilers,
Photos, TV Personality Quizzes, Trivia, 8 June 2010

Dovey, Rachel. “Sue Sylvester: Fifteen Quotes to Live By If You Want to Be a Machiavellian
Cheerleader.”, 16 Apr. 2010,

“Laryngitis.” ​Glee,​ written by Ryan Murphy, directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, Fox, 11 May

“Preggers.” ​Glee​, written by Brad Falchuk, directed by Brad Falchuk, Fox, 23 September 2009.