A couple of weeks ago I posted an article about cowboys and cowgirls and “the cowboy way.” If you are old enough to remember those characters you probably also remember that each of them had a sidekick: Wild Bill Hickock had Jingles; Gene Autry had a sidekick played by Pat Buttram; Cisco had Pancho; and the Lone Ranger had Tonto. And then there was Don Quixote, who had a sidekick in Sancho. Achilles had Petroclus in the Iliad; Moses had Aaron; Martin had Lewis; Batman had Robin; Holmes had Watson and Thelma had Louise (or was it the other way around—don’t recall). The list goes on.
So, what’s up with all the sidekicks?
In films, comedy, drama and real life, for that matter, the sidekick often fills many roles, not the least of which is to make the hero look even more heroic or smarter than he might otherwise appear. George W. Bush had Dick Cheney; President Obama has Joe Biden. President Obama looks pretty good next to good ol’ Joe, in my opinion, although Mr. Biden’s speeches are a lot more fun to listen to. The sidekicks in those old films, though, and those in more modern times (Conan O’Brien has/(had) Andy Richter; FBI Special Agent Seeley is the counter for Dr. Brennan in the TV drama Bones), also give the hero someone to talk to so we can learn what he or she is thinking, or saying, in the case of the latter. And, on top of that, some of the viewers or readers might actually better relate to this subordinated companion than the hero himself. Something for everybody.
Regular people have sidekicks as well. I don’t know about you, but I have played that role on a few occasions, particularly during the early years of my various careers with titles of “assistant” one-thing-or-another. In those cases, I sometimes found that my role was to be my boss’s confidante so that he would have someone with whom to commiserate and could feel better about himself. I got paid for that. Other times it was my job to do all the work while my boss took all the credit. I got paid for that, too, but not nearly as much as my boss.
I was once a rhythm guitar player in a band, backing up the lead player. No money in that in any event.
And we shouldn’t overlook villains. They, too, can have sidekicks. Remember Dr. Evil’s “Mini-Me”? Except, these folks are usually referred to as “henchmen” or “lackeys.” I really like the term “lackey.” Has a nice sleazy, subordinate sound to it.
And so, it would appear that these dyads are a natural component of our ever so complicated social world. The trick, though, is to determine whether you are going to be the hero or the sidekick. It seems that some people tend to fall naturally into one or the other of these roles. But I know that some prefer the number-two spot on the billing if for no other reason than to avoid being in the line of fire—let the boss take the bullet, ay? It could be that the loveable sidekick is the smarter one in such cases.
Lastly, the hero/sidekick duo often consists of a married couple. This arrangement has been around since Adam and Eve. In this regard, I have decided that I have lived the bachelor life long enough. Therefore, please let it be known that I am currently seeking a smart and attractive woman with a boat who might wish to be my wife/sidekick. If you know of someone who may be interested, please ask her to send me a picture of the boat (sorry…old joke).