From The Vaults: Top 5 Sidekicks (March 2008)

The next installment of the ever-popular This Used To Be My Playground is being delicately extracted, fossil-like, from the strata of my memory one sentence at a time. I don’t know how long it will take, especially as summer’s over for me and I’m back at my day job. In the meantime, I’m desperate to keep the Holy Bee of Ephesus site alive with viable content, so here’s a bit of recycling. Please enjoy the following brief Golden Oldie from the Institute of Idle Time’s Google Group discussion boards.

The Google Group for the Institute of Idle Time is still there, but sadly underused by its 76 members. In its glory days (summer 2007 – early 2009), it enlivened many a dull workday with debates, random thoughts, and the ever-popular Top 5 lists. As explained before, Top 5 lists were the zygote that grew into the Institute of Idle Time. Anyone was invited to come up with a list topic, and encourage everyone to weigh in with their own entries.

In the spring of 2008, no one had yet seen Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (and thus, no one had yet experienced the crippling disappointment of almost Phantom Menace proportions), but as a tip of the battered fedora to Shia LeBeouf‘s introduction to the series, Mike Di Gino posted the topic of Top 5 Sidekicks to the group. I was a little late in getting my list posted that day, so the obvious choices like Robin the Boy Wonder and Chewbacca were already taken. (Repeating items from someone else’s list was allowed in extreme cases, but generally frowned upon.) But here’s what I came up with in those heady days of 2 1/2 years ago…

Sidekick Type #5: The Sidekick Who Is Not As Cool As You
Milhouse Van Houten — The Simpsons
A walking, talking self-esteem boost for Bart, the rasping, bespectacled Milhouse would be the sidekick of choice for someone who associates with local psychopaths Dolph, Kearny, and Jimbo. Milhouse can be jettisoned at will, providing a decoy (if the bullies are victimizing Bart), or just because he’s too dorky to hang out (if the bullies are teaming up with Bart). But at the end of the day, Milhouse will always be there, usually stuffed conveniently in a locker.

Sidekick Type #4: The Sidekick Who Is WAY Cooler Than You
Doc Holliday — Tombstone
These are the type of folks who are content to let you have the spotlight, despite the fact they have more charisma, intelligence, and taste. Val Kilmer’s Doc Holliday played second fiddle to Kurt Russell’s Wyatt Earp, and made Earp look better by association. The audience figures if the super-cool, sharp-shooting, Latin-spouting Holliday sees something in the earnest, wooden dullard Earp, there must be something there.

Sidekick Type #3: The Sidekick Who Always Makes Your Situation Better
Brodie Bruce — Mallrats
Brodie worked tirelessly all day on behalf of T.S. Quint’s floundering love life, ultimately master-minding the successful hijacking of a live TV game show. At the height of the action, Brodie verbalizes the existential dilemma of sidekicks everywhere: “Hey! Why am I his sidekick? How do you know he’s not my sidekick?!”

[Pointless addendum: Out of dozens of worthy candidates, I hereby award Mallrats’ Claire Forlani the coveted Worst Performance In A Kevin Smith Movie prize. Watching her dither and flop around like a freshly-landed carp in her very first scene made Jeff Anderson’s work in Clerks II look like Olivier’s Hamlet.]

Sidekick Type #2: The Sidekick Who Always Makes Your Situation Worse
Walter Sobchak — The Big Lebowski
Walter has to know on some level that his clumsy, loud-mouthed attempts to assist The Dude in solving the mystery of the missing Bunny are only making things much, much worse. Therefore, the audience can only conclude that Walter is deriving perverse pleasure from the deteriorating situation. “This is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass.” (Or the edited-for-TV version: “This is what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps.”)

Sidekick Type #1: Your Moral Compass
Boo Boo Bear
The ideal sidekick: Your best interests at heart, the little voice in your ear encouraging you to do the right thing, wanting nothing more than to keep you out of trouble and on the straight and narrow as you navigate your way through the Great Jellystone Park of Life. A sidekick worth his weight in pic-a-nic baskets, and who never kicks you in his sleep when you share a suspiciously too-small bed with him for four months straight during hibernation season.

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