Sidekicks are the best. Seriously. I may cheer for and cry with the hero, but the sidekicks are the ones with the lines and moments that stick with me after the story’s end. So, for this 5th Friday post, I decided to dig a little deeper into why I like sidekicks so much.
#5: Sidekicks get the story’s best moments.
The funniest one-liners, the most heartwarming speeches, the saddest death scenes…often, all of the above belong to the sidekicks. The hero is the take-charge campaigner, who is full of derring-do and moves the plot along, but the sidekick provides the charm, the wit, and the heart.
For a great example of this, check out the animated movie, Swan Princess. The prince and princess are…well…boring? Cliché? Extremely predictable? Yes, yes, and yes. The turtle, frog, and puffin on the other hand are hilarious, loyal, and the ones who save the day in the end. And then, of course, there’s the prince’s tutor with the best throw-away line in the whole movie: “You should write a book: ‘How to Offend Women in Five Syllables or Less’.”
#4: Sidekicks are the friends we always wished we had.
Who hasn’t longed for a friend just like Samwise Gamgee, willing to go to the ends of the world and back just to keep you safe? (Granted, Sam is arguably one of the best sidekicks ever. It’s hard for any other sidekick friend to measure up to his level of friendship.)
Sidekicks provide some of the best examples of friendship ever in both literature and film. They’re honest enough to point out the hero’s flaws and loyal enough to stick with the hero anyway. They believe in the hero’s dream or quest so much – or rather, they believe in the hero so much – that they are willing to abandon life as they know it to make sure that dream or quest is fulfilled.
#3: Sidekicks complement the hero.
Heroes are great – that’s why we read long books about them and spend two hours in the movie theater watching their stories play out. But let’s be honest, sometimes heroes are really extreme people we wouldn’t get along with at all in real life. That’s why they need sidekicks to balance them out.
My personal favorite example of this is Sherlock and John Watson (especially as portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the BBC show). Sherlock is brilliant and makes a fascinating character, but he’s also completely unaware of how to interact with other human beings. Watson is smart too, but he understands people. He is the normal man to Sherlock’s wild-eyed intelligence.
#2: Sidekicks can surprise you.
Think about it: The hero is the tall, dark, and handsome adventurer who will save the day in the end whether or not he wants to at the beginning of the story. The girl is thin, blonde, and beautiful and serves as either a damsel in distress or, more likely in today’s culture, some kind of warrior princess. The villain has hollow eyes, rotten teeth, and a chilling laugh and, if the story is well-told, has a creepily compelling motivation for doing something really terrible.
The sidekick, however, is…short? Tall? Round? Freckled? Old? Young? The sidekick might be the humor relief, the faithful encourager, or the unexpected savior. He might be a brilliant scientist, a wannabe musician, or a down-and-out cop. The point is, the sidekick has no predefined role in the story. Therefore, he can become anyone and anything the writer decides to make him…and chances are good he’ll steal the audience’s heart in the process.
#1: Sidekicks remind us of ourselves.
We aspire to be like the hero, beating the odds, defeating the bad guy, saving the world. But most days, saving the world sounds a little too intimidating for little old ordinary us. We may not trust ourselves to be smart enough to solve the crime, brave enough to stop the villain, or stubborn enough to finish the quest. But maybe we can give an encouraging word, provide a laugh, or offer what we know to help a friend solve a puzzle.
Heroes, by their very definition, must be extraordinary in some way, while sidekicks, more often than not, are quite ordinary. But in their plain, awkward, unsure ways, they remind us that maybe we too can be a part of something great, through the smallest, most ordinary of acts.