The Importance of Being a Sidekick

Lately I’ve been thinking about some of the TV shows I watch and just why I like them.  You may not know this about me, but I watch entirely too much television for someone who has writing and school work and a billion other things to do.  I mean, not that I actually watch on a television–I usually just find them on the internet–but the idea is that TV is one of my favorite forms of storytelling.  You have so much more time to get across your points, your characters, and your themes, than when it all has to be compressed into one 2-hour movie.

So, yeah.  I watch a LOT of shows.

But what I was thinking about was some of the ones I watch where my favorite character isn’t the main character, it’s a SIDEKICK.  Sidekicks can be really important!  In terms of superheroes, they usually end up saving the hero… Or something like that.  (I’ll admit that graphic novels and comics have never really been my strong suit, although I totally love the Avengers stuff they have going on movie-wise.)

Anyway.  The point is, side characters, or secondary characters, can be really, really important!  Take “New Girl” for example.  I mean, I think it’s a cute show, and I do find it funny.  But let’s be honest here–probably 50% of the reason I watch, maybe 75%, is for SCHMIDT.  His character is, to put it bluntly, hilarious.  He’s a douchebag, but he’s turned it into something lovable and oddly tolerable.  His character is just a league and a half above all the others, and in my mind he definitely carries the show.

In another example, the show “Grimm.”  I like it–it’s like a dark, gritty cop drama, but with magical creatures and stuff thrown in.  And I LIKE Nick, the main character, I really do!  But if I was held at gunpoint and made to say who my favorite character in that show is, it wouldn’t be Nick–it would be Monroe, Nick’s first and always seemingly put-upon ‘big-bad-wolf’ friend.  Another sidekick whose character is just so… funny.  Awkward.  Well put together.

So why does that happen?  Why are there any shows, books, movies, etc, where we find some of the secondary characters more appealing than the main characters?  My theory is that we try, more often than not, to make the main character relatable to a large audience.  We want lots of people to see themselves in our main characters.  That’s all well and good, but it means that usually you end up with a general persona who has a few quirks or traits but is generally… Everyone.

That then frees up all of the secondary characters where, it seems, the sky is the limit.  You can give your main character any number of crazy, insane, hilarious, old, mentally-incapacitated, socially-awkward friends or acquaintances that add spice and flavor to your soup.

Am I saying that’s a bad thing?  No!  But you should always remember that behind your main character is a host of other characters that are helping to keep your story afloat.  Should you put all of your time and energy into making THEM the main draw?  Not necessarily.  Just keep in mind that your reader should have a lot of reasons to keep going, and never underestimate the power of a sidekick.

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4 thoughts on “The Importance of Being a Sidekick

  1. I, too, always like the secondary characters and the best-friend characters best. Back when I watched Yu-Gi-Oh! religiously (you can tell I’m a fangirl because I still can’t type out the name without including the exclamation point…) I had the hugest crush on Joey Wheeler, and Pippin was always my favorite of the LOTR movies. Have you seen the movie Road to El Dorado? One of my absolute favorites, and in one of the special features/directors commentary or whatever, someone said that they decided to take two characters who would normally be secondary characters, and make a movie about those two guys. It’s an awesome movie! And when I think about it, a lot of my favorite shows/stories are the ones where there’s two characters, and instead of one being relegated to best-friend character, they’re both the stars. Think Sherlock, Supernatural, an unfinished book called Wanderlust…

    • Ah ha ha, that’s a good point! 🙂 (Have you ever seen Yu-Gi-Oh! Abridged? Just wondering… x)) But you’re right though, I loved Road to El Dorado! And I see what you did there. xD I like the idea of that. Lord knows Supernatural rocks. Hurry up so I can read Wanderlust, ha ha! :))

  2. Very interesting point! And it’s definitely true — take How I Met Your Mother. The big draw with that show is Neil Patrick Harris as Barney, hands down. I think the big problem comes when shows/books forget that secondary characters are supposed to be secondary, and they try to give the secondary characters more plot points and bigger roles. MISTAKE!!! Secondary characters are awesome because they’re NOT the main focus — they show up, are awesome, and then leave. If they’re on-screen/page all the time, they can’t possibly be awesome all the time. They would have to actually accomplish things. And that would dilute their awesome.

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