Learn all about the sidekick archetype, including definition, characteristics, examples and how it relates to the Everyman archetype.
What is the Sidekick Archetype?
The Joey to your Chandler, the Robin to your Batman, the sidekick is one of the most familiar archetypes in modern culture.
Usually associated with the protagonist of the story, though they can also be the sidekick to the antagonist too (see Mini Me, sidekick to Dr Evil in Austin Powers), the sidekick is a faithful, loyal and reliable friend.
They are always by the side of their best friend, ready to provide assistance, advice and a friendly ear at any time.
They are often a much more interesting and comedic character than the protagonist themselves, providing colour and contrast to highlight the capabilities and capacities of the main character themselves.
Sidekick Archetype Characteristics & Traits
- Usually less attractive than the protagonist so as never to take away from their limelight, the archetypal sidekick is often present in the story to challenge the protagonist and thus allow the author or creator to present their views to the reader/viewer through the sidekick’s eyes.
- They may have opposing views to the protagonist, thus challenging them to assess their own values.
- The sidekick is selfless, brave and dedicated, prepared to take a bullet for their friend if needed, and used to getting little thanks for it too.
- Sometimes the muscles of the duo, sometimes the weaker to allow the protagonist to shine physically, nevertheless the sidekick will not shy away from the physical challenge.
- The sidekick is usually youthful, energetic and eager to please with their self esteem and sense of self closely bound up in the person they have chosen to attach and dedicate themselves to.
Sidekick Archetype Examples
In literature Dr Watson, sidekick of Sherlock Holmes, is perhaps the most famous sidekick. Watson serves the purpose of allowing Holmes to vocalize his deductions for the reader, taking them into Holmes’ world.
He also humanizes Holmes, making an otherwise somewhat cold and disconnected man more relatable and likeable.
A recent example of the sidekick in film is that of Donkey in the Shrek movies. Full of fun, comedy and energy, Donkey provides a much needed foil to Shrek’s more cynical and pessimistic world view and for most people is clearly the more likeable of the two characters.
Further reading on the sidekick archetype includes:
- Characters: Creating Heroes, Villains, Mentors, Sidekicks, and Other Characters for Your Story – by Charles Euchner
- Good Guys, Bad Guys, and Sidekicks in Western Movies: From the 1930’s Through the 1960’s – by Gary Koca
- Life, Animated : A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism – by Ron Suskind