Monday, September 10, 2007

Sidekick Sympathy

Once again, I post not out of inspiration but out of desperation and a vague sense of duty. Miri shrugs at me. 'Eh. It's a blog. Who cares?' And she very well may be right.

I have never been able to enjoy Sherlock Holmes properly. Not that he isn't all very clever, for a supercilious druggie, and not that the stories aren't well told, evoking a period aura as thick as the fog that the stories always take place within. But I just can't read sidekicks. Especially admiring, inferior, happily condescended to sidekicks like Dr. Watson, who round about being straight men and wagging their tails every time their master throws them a 'scintillating'. (Not unlike the way that they're trying to force me to write Zeresh, but that is a different rant.)

I was once going to write a short story in which Watson shoots Holmes to death, gibbering about 'Capital, am I? Good old Watson, am I? The one steady thing in a changing world, eh? Well, steady this!' and so forth. I never did because frankly the above is all the cleverness that could even theoretically be gotten out of it, but still.

For some reason, the idea that one person would devote their life to the joy/success/fame/service of another person is like a rake on sidewalk to me. But I mean, why not? If you can contribute X to the world on your own, but you can help another person to contribute X+Y more than he would have without you, then it's clearly the better part to do so. And if you end up being the cheerful, bumbling comic relief of life- the one whose big heart never saves the day, but often warms those around you- well what of it?

For some reason, I tend to mind the 'brains behind the throne/boys in the back-room' sort of sidekick less. Maybe because I generally think that they're laughing at the hero behind his back. Maybe because often enough, the hero is secretly their sidekick.

(When I was younger and my brother and I had to share video games- generally of the Masters of Orion/ Civilization genre, he would have me be the Emperor, while he would serve as General, Grand Vizier, Secretary of State, and Chief Adviser. This meant that I got to push the buttons and he got to tell me what to push.)

Maybe the difference is just ego and internalization. Because I think I could stand being a boy in the back-room in a way that I could never stand being a big hearted bumbler. See, boy in the back-room doesn't require you to admit that you are in anyway deficient- that the hero is actually in some way more honorable or worthwhile or special than yourself. He may get the charisma and the girls, but really you know that you're the one who gets the intense close-ups and real contributions, so it all evens out. While the other kind of sidekick is constantly being rescued, ridiculed, and generally dependent.

I guess it's the dependent that gets me. I hate being dependent. I have an almost phobic dislike of asking for help- an inconvenient thing in a country without parents- because dependence admits weakness. Even when it comes to lifting heavy closets up narrow flights of stairs, I am practically offended by the idea of summoning male friends to do heavy lifting. It is not a feminist thing- at least not a rational one if it is- it's simply that I'm loath to admit that there is anything that I'm not just as capable of doing. Said practice almost got me crushed to by said closet, but what can you do?

But I think the sidekick thing is something more than that. A sidekick automatically accepts his secondariness. Robin would never dream of trying on the Batman costume because he knows his place. He thinks of himself in terms of Batman- his definition is 'youthful ward', even in his own head. And I don't like that. I think that everyone should- must- be their own main character, even if their lot in life is to serve by standing and waiting, or waiting on others. Watson should have been able to write some fun autobiographic stuff as well, regardless of the preferences of the public. And every cheery bumbling sidekick should see their life as episodes into which the hero occasionally wanders, not vice versa.