Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Always the Sidekick, Never the Hero?

When I was a junior in college, I got this great idea for a novel. Actually, it started out as the name of a title. I’m an extremely introspective person. I think about myself, my friends, my family, the world, and life quite a bit and not just in artificial, superficial, surface ways that many people seem to do. The deepest thoughts that many people seem to have is what they are going to wear to work, what to eat for dinner, the score of the game last night, etc. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t think about these things, too, because I do. However, that’s not where my thoughts end. Many, many, many times these thoughts are just a small chain of the grand narrative and adventure that I see happening around me and that I am living. And even at the times that I don’t imagine that this grand narrative is taking place (which happens more often than I’d like to admit) I still feel it within me. I also like watching movies and I’ve noticed that I see events happening more in more in my life accompanied by scenes from movies (for example, when something exciting happens I keep seeing the scene from THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK when the Rebel conveys first get away and the troops cheer for joy over the announcement).

Anyway, when I was a junior in college I was thinking about my life and got this great title for a novel, Always the Sidekick, Never the Hero. I thought that title summed up my life perfectly. I was sitting in a car with a friend who was driving me back to campus from the bus stop and I told him about it. He thought it was great, too. Then I thought I would collect some stories about my life and collect them in a book for a memoir and title it that. However, the more I thought about it, the more I thought that the title would make a great title for a novel.

As the years have gone by, I realize now that my initial impression was wrong. I thought that Always the Sidekick, Never the Hero was a great title for my life, but now I realize that I was wrong. In actuality, I’ve always been the hero and never the sidekick.

I realize how egotistical and arrogant that might seem. But it’s not meant to be. I’ve been doing a lot of researching and thinking about heroes the past six months (actually the catalyst was over a year ago when I first saw Peter Jackson’s version of King Kong) and I’ve discovered some stuff I knew, but just never understood.

Until recently I always imagined heroes being tall, buff men who most people adored and whom women were constantly falling in love with. In my mind, heroes never had worries about growing old and not having anyone to share their life with. In my mind, heroes never worried about the little mundane details of life, such as what to wear to their “real” job, what to eat for dinner, and who won the big game the night before because they had other people that took care of those things for them, for example Bruce Wayne has Alfred, Beowulf has Wiglaf, etc. If a hero didn’t have someone to take care of them they were either too nerdy to care or too cool and where above petty things like that. I had always looked at sidekicks being the people who got the raw end of the deal. Sidekicks constantly live in the shadow of the hero or heroes that they serve under. They could never have a serious relationship because they were always at the bidding of the hero that they worked under. They never got any fame, wealth, or glory of their own because they were the hero’s sidekick. That’s how I used to view things. Then I saw how wrong I was.

I was confused and had gotten it all wrong for years. Heroes might get fame, but they also get all the scrutiny and criticism. Sidekicks can always just blame the hero for mistakes and never have to take responsibility. Heroes are the ones who take care of others, not the other way around. Sure Bruce Wayne has Alfred, and even though Alfred is incredibly loyal, Bruce is still the guy who pays his salary and makes sure he has a place to stay (some will argue that Alfred is the real hero of the Batman stories and I won’t argue about them with that; there’s a lot of validity to the claim). Or take Don Quixote, he loved Dulcinea and viewed her as a lady, but she didn’t return his affection. Heroes are the ones who never are able to have a serious relationship, while the sidekicks can have a girl for every day of the week if they like. Heroes don’t get much sleep. The walk around concerned not so much about their own lives but about the lives of all those around them. It’s a difficult life and a thankless job. Watch the television show Heroes when it returns in a few weeks or read some old Hal Jordan Green Lantern comics and you’ll understand. Re-watch King Kong and keep in mind that Jack Driscoll is the sidekick and King Kong is the real hero and you’ll see. No, I’ve never been a sidekick, but I’ve always been a hero.

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