Sunday, April 15, 2007

What Would We Do Without a Good Sidekick?

Sidekicks. The number two man (or woman) who offers advice and one liners. How boring our heroes would be without them. So in honor of the faithful sidekick, I offer a list. A sort of tribute to the loyal few who make the heroes look good. Spock & Dr. McCoy: Okay, I know this is two sidekicks, but I almost feel that I can't have one without the other. The original Star Trek's Spock and Dr. McCoy (Bones) are almost like the angel and the devil on Kirk's shoulders; with Spock representing logic and Bones representing emotion. We all know the most famous lines the two characters utter that is not logical... I'm a doctor not a .........! and the show wouldn't have been the same without either of them. While Kirk was busy charging forward, these two characters were busily trying to make sure he made the right decisions; and bickering about it the whole time. Samwise Gamgee: Talk about your loyal friend. I don't think friends come more faithful than Sam Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings. Not only does Sam insist on accompanying Frodo on his dangerous journey to Mordor, but he refuses to lose faith in Frodo. Sam somehow manages to be simple and wise at the same time; and it's because of this contradiction that he became one of my favorite characters in the LOTR series. Robin: Poor Robin, always the bridesmaid, never the ...... never mind. Actually, Robin is pretty much the quintessential sidekick isn't he? Always there to help Batman and defer to the wisdom of the Caped Crusader. But didn't Robin often get short shrift in the Batman TV shows and movies? At least it always seemed that way to me. Though it appears that Teen Titans is doing what it can to make the character more cool. But I still love Robin for the simple fact that he is one of the first sidekicks I ever got to know. I grew up on the campy Batman TV show and loved Robin's holy......Batman! catchphrase. Willow Rosenberg: I know not everyone is a fan of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, but I enjoyed it. Willow was the best friend I wish I would have had; except when she went evil and started flaying people... But Willow was great. She was almost too sweet in the beginning but she was still fun; definitely the loyal friend who had the funny one-liners. It was interesting to watch her grow and develop as a character on the show. In fact, I thought she was more interesting than Buffy most of the time. Hoban (Wash) Washburne: I don't know anyone (yet) who didn't like Wash. He seemed to be the guy who would raise his eyebrows at his Captain, but follow orders nonetheless. I don't know if he qualifies as an actual sidekick since the show was such an ensemble, but he did fit the personae IMO. Wash could be laid back or a little panicked depending on the situation, yet you could always count on him as the comic relief. I still pretend the end of Serenity never occurred. Gabrielle: Xena is basically one of my all time favorite guilty pleasures. I like the campiness of the show. Gabrielle was a great sidekick IMO. Starting out as an innocent idealist, she slowly grows more world-weary as the show goes on. But she never stops trying to get Xena to be a little more idealistic and, like many sidekicks, has more faith in the hero(ine) than Xena does in herself. There was always a kind of wink wink, nudge nudge quality to Gabrielle and Xena's partnership, but the mentor-protégé relationship is still prevalent throughout most of the show. Starbuck: This is another character that I am not really sure if he is a sidekick or another lead in the show. But as the best friend of the main character, I'm going to put him in the sidekick category. I loved the original Starbuck on Battlestar Galactica. He was an unrepentant womanizer, gambler and all around goof-off, but he seemed to have such fun. There are moments when I like the new Starbuck, but she is quite a bit more psycho (than the original) and seems to have left most of the fun behind. Ron Weasley & Hermione Granger: Again, I have another duo. Harry Potter is obviously not everyone's cup of tea, but hey, it's a big seller, so lots of us like it, right? And I like Ron and Hermione. Harry is a hero with a lot of help: Ron throws himself right into the action with Harry and Hermione is always the one with the quick solutions. Like many sidekicks, Ron is forever living in the shadow of his friend, but gamely keeps his loyalty. And though Hermione is a bit of a know-it-all, she's still awfully handy in a bad situation. I think Harry Potter is in general a great story for kids and the relationship between Harry, Ron and Hermione is something that, as a parent, I like having as a example of great friendships for my own kids. As always, this is but a small sampling of some of my favorite characters from sci-fi/fantasy TV, movies and books. I'm sure I've left many off the list. So let me know who you think should have been included.

24 comments:

Alex said...

Mmm... Hermione.

Stewart Sternberg said...

I think the sidekick, or the foil (to use a literary term) is an important device to help accent certain protagonist qualities that the writer or filmmaker feel they want to highlight. Or the foil further helps provide motivation for the protagonist's movement through the plot.

My favorite foil? Judas. I've always looked at Judas as a most misunderstood figure. Where would Jesus have been without him? Judas to me was the voice of reason, begging Jesus to stay with the political program and not to overreach. Who was it who challenged Jesus' selfish use of the cause's resources? Judas. And what lame reply did Jesus have for his excess? "Surely your not saying we have the resources to feed the poor. There will always be poor."

So, let me cast my vote for the most misunderstood mythological figure: Judas Iscariot.

---this should make for some interesting response

SolShine7 said...

Sam, is one of the best. I also like Robin, from new show The Batman.

I would have added Chloe Sullivan from Smallville though. She rocks.

avery said...

Ah, now Willow to me was better as the flaying type -- or the lesbian vampire clone. The other Willow was just too saccharine for my tastes.

Another good Buffyverse sidekick combo is Wesley/Gunn. They began as bookish Englishman meets streetwise punk, and morphed throughout the show into the exact reversals of one another. By the end, Gunn was the by-the-book lawyer while Wes was blowing the shit out of anything that would take a bullet. Through it all (aside from a few misunderstandings), they had Angel's back, talking reason into a man of action. I suppose they were the recycled version of Spock and McCoy.

To go old school -- what about Hawk from Buck Rogers? No one else could break out the fur-trimmed pleather jumpsuit and feathered swimming cap and still be a badass.

UFR said...

My favorite sidekick is Chewbacca. Where would Han be without his trusted wookiee by his side?

SQT said...

Stewart

I never thought to characterize Judas as a sidekick. Very original thinking...

Solshine

I hate to say it, but Chloe kind of annoyed me (ducks). I think it's because I actually have a degree in Journalism and her character seems too stereotypical nosy-reporter to me. Just a personal peeve.

Avery

I so should have included Wesley on the list. I LOVED him.

Ufr

I thought about adding Chewy, but then I thought I'd have to add C3PO and R2D2 also. I already had a couple of duo's and I thought a trio might be pushing it.

Alex said...

I'd like a "trio" with Hermione and the Asian girl (with the scottish accent) in the last Harry Potter film.

SQT said...

*eye roll*

Stewart Sternberg said...

Quick retake:

Illya Kuryakin "MAN FROM UNCLE"
Dr. Watson "SHERLOCK HOLMES SERIES"
Ringo Starr "BEATLES"
Barney Rubble "FRED FLINTSTONE"

Hey there, Skippy said...

Stewart - I'm not sure Judas is a foil. I think he's an anti-hero, isn't he? I mean, he does a v bad thing, but its also necessary for the story to get where it needs to go.

"Side kick" has a certain deprecatory quality to it; literally someone who stands to your side and whom you then kick, prompting them to do something you want... Some of the more fun side kicks tend to be those belonging to villains, like Iago the parrot in "Aladdin"...

Although I just wikipedia'ed "sidekick" and it suggests that evil sidekicks are known as "henchmen"... I feel a post of my own coming on.

Fab said...

Sidekicks are always the first to be put in danger. They always need to be saved and even when you see it coming a mile ahead, they never do. Stepping blindly into the mess to be saved. And yet, they never leave. Loyal as a dog.

But sidekick changes do happen - Doctor Who. And even then, they still get kidnapped ... it's quite some fate!

Stewart Sternberg said...

Skippy, some people see Judas as villain, but let me propose a different perspective. What if we look at Jesus as a political figure and cast aside the religious stuff. Then, Judas becomes a person who is seeking to keep the movement pure while Jesus starts promoteing himself at the cost of the movement's success, the movement being the Jewish bid for independence from the Roman state.

Of course, looking at the political scene as a whole, the Jesus group was a small and unimportant bunch politically. So it depends on how far you are willing to stretch the story for the sake of argument.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Avery, I just read your comment about Hermione...I second SQT's eye roll. And I raise her a shake of the head and a "You're walking dangerous ground there, boy."

deslily said...

well you all know how i feel about McCoy, so I won't go there lol..

One of my OLD TIME favorite sidekicks is Gabby Hayes. (as all the young folks go: who? heh.)

Hey there, Skippy said...

Stewart - I don't think that it's possible to separate out the religion form the politics in the Easter story. "The Jews" were a religion *and* a nation simultaneously. Here both religion and nation mean "a body of believers". I'm also not sure that Judas betrayed Jesus to further the cause fo independence. The synoptic gospels tend to suggest that he hopes to force Jesus to reveal his divinity. The real radicals amongst the Apostles were James and Simon the Zealot

(Guess who went to Catholic school?) Point taken about how far one needs to stretch the story...

And Avery, I see Stewart's shake of the head and raise him an "In my day..."

SQT said...

Actually it's Alex who made the comment.

I mean, it had to be Alex, right?

Poor Avery, taking all this head shaking for nothing.

Hey there, Skippy said...

Profuse apologies, Avery! I shake my head at myself, which is no mean feat.

avery said...

And here I thought I was just being skewered for the fun of it.

That's fine. I'm needy enough to appreciate being the center of attention even when its misdirected.

The Curmudgeon said...

(Ignoring the entire Judas thread on purpose...)

Kato. Of the Green Hornet and.

No wimp like Robin -- can you imagine the Green Hornet accomplishing anything without Bruce Lee there to make it happen?

Mother Jones RN said...

Don't forget about Nurse Chapel. Where would doctors be without their nurses:-)


MJ

Jean-Luc Picard said...

A great collection of sidekicks. Gabrielle is something else!

Alex said...

Stew: the age of consent is 16 in the UK. No danger there, my friend. I think they're even legal in The States by now. Woot!

SQT: Why'd you have to go and ruin things? For once, someone else was taking the flak for my recalcitrant nature.

But, yeah. Who else but Alex?

SQT said...

But Alex, that's why we love you.

floacist said...

Gabrielle?! I hated her. lol Iolaus (Hercules) was a much better and a hell lot more useful sidekick than Gabrielle ever was. She always got captured and Xena always had to save her. Even when she became a so-called warrior, she still needed Xena's help.