In this year’s March Madness competition, we’re trying to determine the best, most influential, most kickass secondary character in the history of entertainment – and to do that we’ve polled the entire known universe to determine the #SidekicksThatMatter.
And to many of you, that was our first mistake.
You see, the term “sidekick” can have certain connotations. On the one hand, it’s specifically in reference to the superhero genre, referring to a hero’s ally, often costumed, often a child or young adult. Of course, that’s not always the case, sometimes a “sidekick” is a secondary character that compliments the “hero” or main character of a story, or is a comedic partner, or even a foil. The term has deep meaning, but it isn’t consistent amongst all readers. It is perhaps most useful when read along of a list of characters, but even here we have a problem. Surely Obi-Wan from Star Wars isn’t the same sort of character as Dobby from Harry Potter? Kate Bishop and Hermione as so much better than the so-called heroes of their respective stories, how can they possibly be considered sidekicks? Isn’t The Miracle Worker based on Helen Keller’s life? What gives??
At lot of these questions comes from a misunderstanding (or at least, a disagreement) of what it means to be a sidekick. First, let’s establish a conceit; in lieu of an acceptable alternative, we’re using the word “sidekick” to stand for mentor, foil, love interest, team mate, or any other secondary character. A far better term, in fact, is “secondary character” but that isn’t as descriptive, or frankly catchy, as we’d like. So, that’s that. So now the issue is really whether the characters on our list are truly “secondary” or “sidekicks” at all.
I think that a lot of the resistance we’ve seen comes from the fact that many of these characters are deeply beloved, and we resent the fact that they are being misrepresented or slighted. But that’s the very point we’re trying to get across with this entire competition, that some characters, despite not being the focus of the stories they are in, can grow to mean more to us than anyone might expect. The fact that our audience has issues with this list is evidence that these characters do in fact matter. But let’s review a few, shall we?
Harvey Dent from The Dark Knight
He’s a villain! How can he be a sidekick?!
In The Dark Knight, Harvey spent a majority of the film representing the hope for a Gotham that didn’t need Batman. He clearly wasn’t the main character of the story, he was just a good man that showed our hero that there could be another way… and eventually showed us all that we’re all just one bad day away from being monsters.
Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy
Groot is a superhero, not a sidekick!
Really? He wasn’t Rocket’s sidekick in that movie? Hell, he was the loveable comic relief, hit man, and heart of the film – but he wasn’t a main character. The climax of the film wouldn’t make sense without his actions, but in the end he was but a secondary character – a wonderfully realized secondary character.
Erkel from Family Matters and Fonzie from Happy Days
Clearly these guys are the stars of their shows, right?
Well, not at first. They were guest stars and foils and mentors that were so well received they took over their shows, and thereby changed them. A secondary character that can do all that deserves special recognition.
Carol Cleveland from Monty Python
She’s the only recurring female cast member in one of the most influential comedy groups of all time. Perhaps she wasn’t a main cast member, but she was a vital one.
Hermoine Granger from The Harry Potter Series
Hermoine is a wonderful character, with emotions, drive, and purpose all her own. And she is not the main character within the Harry Potter series (that’s Neville Longbottom). Again, the fact that she’s so well received is evidence that good sidekicks can be more than “Harry’s friend who’s a girl and is smart”…
Gandalf from The Hobbit
If you think Gandalf did more than pick a fight in The Hobbit, you may have seen too many of the movies. Please don’t send us hate-mail.
Kate Bishop from Hawkeye
Yes, in universe she basically refuses to be Clint’s sidekick – but that’s what makes her interesting! In the superhero genre, she could have easily been written as a Kid Hawkeye or Lady Hawkeye or Hawkeyegirl, but she wasn’t. Her role, as written, helps further the story of Hawkeye (both Clint Barton and the meta-concept of the character) in ways lesser writing wouldn’t be able to match.
So, there you have it, a loose conceptual defense for an issue that not many of us are seriously having – but are toying around with in our geeky brains. Got any more fun fights you’d like to pick? Please comment below and tag us in so we can defend ourselves or fluster about for lame excuses!