Evolution of a sidekick – What IS a sidekick?

I have this totally awesome dictionary of slang that my husband gave me for Christmas:

It is 1400 pages of bad grammar and taboo words from throughout the ages with an etymology and everything (when applicable).

In this book under sidekick it reads: 

side-kick. A close companion; a mate, occ. an assistant, on the job; Can. and Aus.” from not later than 1914. Ex the side-kicker of USA, where, since 1920, side-kick has been the more frequent; side-kicker is occ. heard in England, as e.g. in P. MacDonald, Rope to Spare, 1932. As side-kick it was, WW2, common in the British Army as a whole. Cf. offsider, q.v.

But ask someone what a sidekick is (and I’m going to use ‘sidekick’ as one word, not side-kick, because I’m making this word a title), and they will more likely tell you it is Robin from Batman than they will say Dick Grayson is a ‘close companion’ of Bruce Wayne.   I asked my kids and they both said it was the guy who helps the hero.  The heroes best friend.  My husband said a sidekick was: Hero’s Assistant… Comrade-in-Arms… usually plays second fiddle.  I think this is a little closer to a modern American definition.

I think a sidekick is the person who helps in a particular quest, or with a particular companion, knowing his glory, fame, paycheck, and power will all be less in the eyes of the public than the person they are aiding.  A sidekick does not seek to advance his station at 2nd fiddle but accepts the place at first chair should the need arise and goes back to 2nd fiddle without complaint if a more suitable replacement has been found or the hero returns.

A sidekick is a hero without the ego.  A sidekick is what we wish the hero were more like when we are tired of wishing we were more like the hero.  The ability we see in ourselves, the support, the encouragement, the fan, is what we see in a sidekick toward the hero.  In this way, a sidekick is more like us than he is like the hero.  We love him for that, but we also don’t think he’s worthy of more praise, power and glory because of it.

In a way, a sidekick is an amalgam, a mixture of all our experiences of all the heroes we have met or known.   With these varied expectations we create a golem so that we can keep our hero on a pedestal.  That golem is a sidekick.   We do it even in real life with real life heroes.  When the President fails, we blame his Staff, or his party leaders.  When Adam fell, it was Eve’s fault.

Now that you know what a sidekick is from a strictly Americentric POV, next we’ll talk about where to find the first sidekicks in history and how they fit into the definition laid out in this post.

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