HANOI VIETNAM, December 24, 2012:
I was thinking this morning about sidekicks and how they get a bad rap. Even though, while the hero is dashing the villain's devious plan and untying the distressed damsel in the nick of time... it's only because his sidekick disarmed the time bomb beneath the trestle.
“Wherever I wander. Wherever I roam. I couldn’t be fonder of my big home.” -Disney’s The Jungle Book
Sidekicks never get their just rewards: Neither the damsel nor the reward and certainly not the insignia blazed in spotlights above the Gotham City of their wildest dreams.
“The bees are buzzing in the trees to make some honey just for me.” -Disney’s The Jungle Book
Nope! Just aid the hero. That's the sidekick's sole purpose. He's the deuteragonist, the second most important character in the story.
“When you look under the rocks for plants, take a glance at some pantsy ants.” -Disney’s The Jungle Book
The Greeks knew it. (Always go to the Greeks!) They knew it so much they even gave the third most important person in a story a name: the Tritagonist! And it's not a Foil, that's a mirror to the main character to portray his faults, and it's not the Antagonist, because he's truly the psyche of the hero and through his defeat or victory that audience gleans tragedy or comedy for their own reflection. No. We're discussing a character created entirely for the purpose of being secondary in importance to someone and something greater.
“Then maybe try a few.” -Disney’s The Jungle Book
Classical Literature is ripe with these examples: Achilles has Patroclus and Beowulf kicks around Wiglaf, Gilgamesh barks at Enkido and you don't want me to get into the exhaustive Shakespeare list, do you? Novels have our best intentions, don't they? Jim to Huck and Friday to Robinson Crusoe, Dr. John Watson to the drug addicted detective, and perhaps my favorite, Sancho Panza to the windmill chasing Don.
“The bare necessities of life will come to you.” -Disney’s The Jungle Book
Pop Culture reeks of sidekicks: Igor, Kato, Woodstock, Jughead, Milhouse, Samwise, Barney Rubble, Tonto, Robin, Barney Fife, (kiss of death, that name Barney) Baba Looey, Chewbacca and Jimney Cricket. Jimney Freakin' Cricket, for Crying Out Loud! Aren't any of these guys ever going to get a parade in their honor? Ever feel like any of these clowns? Yeah, me too.
“Now when you pick a paw paw or a prickly pear.” -Disney’s The Jungle Book
These days I'm a sidekick. Traipsing around with my daughters. Taking their little hands through traditional markets and dragging their little butts up steps to mountain temples. Showing them all I know. Making it their world, not mine. Daddy facilitator. They're the hero of the story. Not me.
And you prick a wrong paw, well next time beware.” -Disney’s The Jungle Book
Of course, they don't see it that way. No, I've been pretty clever about that. You see, my daughters believe the deuteragonist is technology. The web journal, the digital photo, the video camera, the instant playback of their memories moments after they've experienced them. I've instilled that in their young minds. They've learned to live, to record, to watch, ascribe importance, and playback. I've taught them the most essential skill in the modern age, to harness everything around them: people, experience, technology, memory, and make themselves the interpreter of it's significance.
“Don’t pick the prickly pear by the paw, when you pick a pear, try to use the claw. Have I given you a clue?” -Disney’s The Jungle Book
That's the magic trick, isn't it? Keeping the what and who that really matter in our lives. Because we're all just playing second accordion in the masterwork stories of one another.
“That’s why a bear can rest at ease. The simple bare necessities of life.” -Disney’s The Jungle Book
But to ourselves, it matters most. That's the necessity. It's naked and it's true and you shrug your shoulders because, yeah... duh?