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.


Halfnutcase said...

a post! :-)

which would probably be one reason why you apperantly didn't listen to your bais yaakov teachers I imagine.

(did I push some buttons? doesn't matter, you posted! :P)

but I think that there are other kinds of sidekicks too. Sometimes you have people who have differing abilities who work together to solve one of their problems, and the hero is only so defined because they are the one with the problem and the invested interest in the outcome(sadly this doesn't seem to happen to much in litturature).

and besides, sometimes you really just need an extra set of hands, and there is tremendous honor in being able to be that extra set of hands. Some people can't necesserily do much more than that, for what ever reason, I mean, maybe they just don't have any ambition.

Or take a (maybe ex) friend of mine, she's bright, creative, clever and generaly brilliant, but she never knows how to accomplish anything, so she always works on it and works on it and gets absolutely nowhere, and then runs with the peices to her elder brother crying for him to fix her grand idea, as she describes for him what she wants done and he does it.

This has led her to being the kitchen sink for purim one year. It has led her to have many other costume party prize winning quality costumes in the past, and could she have done it on her own? NO! Could her brother ever have done such a thing on his own? NO! but she's still dependant, and accomplishes alot more than she would have alone by admitting this and asking help.

OF course on english asgnments g-d forbid she should ever ask for help, she'll do it her self thank-you-very-much, but there is a certain mila towards admitting when you need to be dependant and when you need to be depended on. there is a word for it: interdependence.

I won't recount for you all the crazy times we've seen the neighbor lady try and do everything herself and the weekly fight dealing with she shabbos table is, because she absolutely won't accept help, and we don't want her to set her own table.

e-kvetcher said...

Gertrude and Alice?

Halfnutcase said...

(and btw, people say that I'm dependant, but I will tell you in school I rarely group with others if I don't have too, and do everything my self because well, I hate being dependant for stuff I can do by my self. I also frequently refuse to ask for help on lots of things because I don't want to admit that I can't (there was one time that I was moving furnature with my broken leg and dropped a broken bookcase full of books on top of my self because I wouldn't ask for help as I was rearanging my yeshiva dorm room because I couldn't sit still in my bed.)

mike said...

Those MOO2 games were awesome, my Grand Visier, (actually I think I was the Grand Visier you were the Emporer)

Larry Lennhoff said...

I've been privileged to be a sidekick to a number of people. In general, I'm much better at critiquing than originality, and better at planning than following through. I used to tell my bosses I was more of a 'staff' person than a 'line' person.

Anyway I've generally been delighted to help other people achieve their dreams, since I don't tend to have a lot of dreams of my own.f

Miri said...

yeah but the best part of our cupboard story, Tobie, was how everything was solved by Ilana taking it apart piece by piece and then putting it back together in your that's a tale of victory for feminism, bc even the big strong males couldn't do it!

Halfnutcase said...



an ounce of brain is frequently better than a pound or more of brawn.

but you have to be careful with that, because I've broken things trying that before.