Talkin’ ’bout Books Weekly Discussion
Discussion #16 Question: What are the best qualities of sidekicks?
I thought of this question because I read another book that included a flamboyant, outrageous gay man as a sidekick. If you want to more about my thoughts on this, please read my review of Death at First Sight. It made me think more about what qualities I would actually like to see in a sidekick.
I want a sidekick to have a multi-dimensional personality, a background/history, and a job to do in the book. Of course, the main job of the sidekick is to help the main character achieve his/her goals. But, I would like it if the sidekick could stand on his/her own as well. Although I don’t think the sidekick should be stronger or more ‘together’ than the main character, I think the sidekick should be competent enough to do some things on his/her own.
What I don’t like is when the sidekick is mainly there to provide comedic relief. There should be more to the character than that. I also don’t like it when the author relies on stereotypes to create the sidekick such as the ditsy blonde, the jolly fat guy, or the scaredy-cat gay man. Sometimes using these stereotypes goes hand-in-hand with trying to add humor. To me, the cliches aren’t funny. I don’t find humor at the expense of a whole category of people.
I’m not sure if having the sidekick be the opposite of the main character is necessarily a good thing either. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. One example I can think of is Brennan and Booth from Bones. In that case, it worked, because Booth taught Brennan how to interact with people and also how to take things less seriously.
As an opposite example, I remember how Gabrielle was much weaker than Xena in Xena, Warrior Princess. She got into trouble and Xena had to save her a lot. While this was a good source of material for the show, it grew tiresome. I was happy when they made Gabrielle an Amazon and taught her how to fight. If they hadn’t done that, I think the show would have fizzled out. The two characters had so little in common that it was hard to understand why they stayed together.
Maybe a writer needs to be careful with opposites, giving the sidekick a little of the main character’s qualities, just so they don’t seem so far apart from one another in characteristics and skills. This is probably true for romantic relationships as well. If the characters are polar opposites, it becomes difficult to believe they would stay involved with one another.
In my opinion, the best qualities of sidekicks are the ones that make them stand on their own two feet without the main character. Robin might not have been as strong as Batman, but he could hold his own in a fight. The same could be said about Diggle from Arrow. Oliver Queen is the star, but Diggle can take care of himself.
I also think, like Diggle, that the sidekick can be a voice of reason for the main character. A confidant and a guide. Don’t get me wrong, it’s okay if a sidekick is funny, but I don’t want that humor to be based on stereotypes or have that be all the character is about.
What do you think? What are the best qualities of sidekicks?
About the meme…
Each Tuesday, we will post a discussion about a book-related topic. Sometimes, we will gear this toward writing books rather than reading them.
If you’re a blogger and you would like to join in on the fun, you don’t have to post about the same topic, but you are welcome to do so if you want. Just post a discussion and leave your link in the comments. If you’re not a blogger, that’s okay too. Just leave a comment with your answer to this week’s question.
This post is part of the 2017 Discussion Challenge, hosted by It Starts at Midnight & Feed Your Fiction Addiction