Sue Sylvester Is Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback: ‘Glee’ Takes on Arts Education Funding

It’s a matter of public record that I thought the last season of Glee was a travesty. So it’s almost surreal to see them get an issue right (with the standard minor factual errors that Hollywood always seems to make about the political process). Semi-contrary to what was promised in the pre-season news, Sue Sylvester is running for Congress, and channeling Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, who this year destroyed his state’s arts agency, meaning Kansas can’t get National Endowment for the Arts funding, which she’s decided to make her central campaign platform:

You know what’s getting me down in Western Ohio? The arts in public schools. Why? Because America is failing. China is on our ass, people. This isn’t the 1960s anymore, when jobs were plentiful…The arts are expensive, and we can’t afford it anymore…I will suspend all public school arts programs and reject all federal and state funding for the arts until every student reads at or above grade level.

Now, obviously a member of the House can’t turn down arts funding on behalf of their state. But otherwise? Economic and competitiveness insecurity? Check. Treatment of the arts as if they’re a luxury? Check. Folks responding to these kinds of attacks by whipping out arguments about the efficacy of the arts rather than their intrinsic worth? Cue Mr. Schue, who comes back at Sue with “The arts help kids do better in school. Kids in the arts record the lowest instance of substance abuse,” before retreating further by explaining that he really just needs job security because he wants to start a family with…a woman he hasn’t slept with yet. I mean, this is Glee. It would be too much to expect full-on emotional coherence.

But still, it’s Glee actually setting up a season-long arc that makes sense — for the first time since the first season, the Glee Club actually has an imperative to perform to survive, and the stakes are larger than simply disbanding the club. If they can stick with it longer than an episode, and come up with tactics more convincing than Will glittering Sue (if nothing else, the show should get credit for showing how silly glittering someone is as a way to make a point), the show will actually be contributing to an ongoing national debate about state and federal arts budgets. Which is rare for any show, much less one as schizophrenic as this.