Kathleen Recommends…Underrated TV Characters

Sue Heck — “The Middle”

Sue Heck was a girl you went to middle school with, but probably never noticed (except for that one time she went to the school dance dressed as a crayon). She was the girl who tried so hard at everything—to fit in, to be good at things, to get boys to like her—but never quite succeeded. Instead, she ended up with a gay boyfriend, an 8th place ribbon in a square dancing competition, and a wardrobe seemingly composed entirely of unflattering sweaters. You probably would have pitied her, if you had ever bothered to notice her (hint: she’s the one who came in dead last at that cross country meet), but, the thing about Sue is, she doesn’t need or want anyone’s pity.

On “The Middle,” Sue Heck (Eden Sher) is upbeat even when life is beating her up. She continues to believe in herself even when all evidence points to the contrary. Sure, there is something downright delusional in the way she finds success in her failures, but, frankly, it’s the kind of delusion we could all probably use more of. She’s willing to celebrate personal victories, even if they don’t look like much from the outside. Although she’s the quintessential awkward teenager, you get the sense that, in the future, she will be just fine. And she knows it. She’s know that middle school, and high school, and probably the first few weeks of college, won’t last forever. She’s buoyed by the knowledge that the best is always ahead of her.

Let’s face it, I probably like Sue Heck because, at some point in my life (maybe even now) I was Sue Heck. I was awkward. I was forgettable. I didn’t do a whole lot of winning. But, like Sue, I didn’t let that shake my sense of self. I didn’t allow myself to be defined by others’ versions of success.

…Plus, Sue is just super funny. Eden Sher is great at both delivering the jokes and doing physical comedy. She doesn’t worry about looking cool or being “hot” — she just goes for it. The result is a character whom we all recognize and take notice of, even when no one in her world does. She’s someone you actually want to root for; even when all that rooting gets her is just a trophy for punctuality, you still count it as a success. Because that’s what Sue has taught you. And it’s good enough for her.

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