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THE EVOLUTION OF A SIDEKICK
IAXS Project #006
By Veronica "Roni" Arreola (varreo1@uic.edu)
Content © 1996 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 1996 held by Whoosh!
867 words



Gabrielle takes her sidekicking responsibilities very seriously

[1] Most adventure dramas and comedies employ a sidekick to play off of their main character. The AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY defines sidekick as a slang word for "a close companion or comrade." In television and movies a sidekick is used for many reasons, such as, comic relief, a protege, a companion, a friend, or a confidante. Being a tag-a-long alone does not merit one to be a sidekick. A sidekick must have a personality of their own, but not enough be an equal to the main character.

[2] There are instances where the sidekick upstaged the main character and became the focus of the story. A prime example is 'Ponch' from "CHiPS". The role of 'John' originally was considered the main character. However, 'Ponch's popularity skyrocketed and he quickly took center stage. This illustrates that it is possible for a sidekick to move up in the ranks to the status of full-fledged partner and co-main character.

[3] In an article about sidekicks in their September 7, 1996 issue, TV GUIDE described a sidekick as "those characters who demand attention whenever they enter a room. They grab our interest because they offer something defiantly or giddily memorable...They may not be top-billed--their shows are not named for them--but maybe that secondary status gives the best of these performers a unique freedom to make the most of their characters."


Iolaus is considered a master of sidekicking.

[4] One of the sidekicks reviewed in the TV GUIDE article was Iolaus, who was the sidekick of Hercules of HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS.

[5] In HERCULES, Iolaus seizes attention because of who he is. He craves the attention that Hercules has. This is his undoing in the HERCULES episode, WARRIOR PRINCESS, as Xena takes advantage of that.

[6] Iolaus does not appear in all of the HERCULES episodes. He usually 'just happens' to meet up with Hercules in many of the shows. I would not consider him a sidekick since he can hold his own along side Hercules and he is neither dependent upon Hercules, or least does not want to be. TV GUIDE, however, does. They describe Iolaus as the "fall guy for Hercules. Goof ball for the god-man." True, Iolaus may be goofy, but Hercules has his goofy side too. Hercules is not the serious partner and Iolaus the laugh track. Just as Hercules has his goofiness, Iolaus has taken serious turns, especially when he met up with Xena's sidekick, Gabrielle, the Bard, in the XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS episode PROMETHEUS.

[7] In XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, we can see an evolution to sidekick status by the character Gabrielle. Although I have not seen the first episode SINS OF THE PAST, I have seen enough of the episodes to notice this evolution. Regarding SINS OF THE PAST, the magazine SPECTRUM (June 1996, Vol. 1 No. 6) describes the first meeting between Xena and Gabrielle as one where Xena brushes off the young bard only for Gabrielle to save Xena from being killed by the townspeople from Xena's village. At the end of the episode, "Xena reluctantly lets Gabrielle accompany her on her travels." This reluctance is continued to the next episode, CHARIOTS OF WAR.


Ephiny wanted a sidekick, not to be a sidekick

[8] If we leapfrog to HOOVES AND HARLOTS, the 10th episode, we see the transition of Gabrielle from a gabby bard to a gabby warrior bard. SPECTRUM comments that "before this, Gabrielle adhered to Xena's instruction to talk her way out of a conflict or to run. Hereafter, when Gabrielle would inject herself into the fights, Xena would not complain." SPECTRUM also commented that they believed the evolution took place too quickly.

[9] But the evolution may not have taken so quickly after all. In THE PRODIGAL, the 18th episode, Gabrielle freezes up during a fight and returns home to consider hanging up her staff. In the end, Gabrielle joins up again with Xena after she proves to herself that she can still fight and that her freezing up may had been an exception.

[10] Gabrielle has gone from a young girl who hid behind Xena and Argo to a young woman who fights along side Xena and has conquered her fear of riding Argo. Gabrielle is still slightly a sidekick and still has much to learn. When she can go two episodes without getting a knife placed on her throat, she will have evolved completely from sidekick to full-fledged partner. She certainly is more of Xena's conscience than her partner at this point in the series. When will Gabrielle be able to go full out in a fight without Xena being in a coma? We will have to wait until the next season to see how she handles herself. She also must learn to fight better and knock people out so she does not end up back in the Elysian Fields.

[11] We should be happy that Gabrielle is now Xena's sidekick. She was an annoying tag-a-long at the beginning of their relationship. She has grown in many ways in one season and I for one hope to see her grow even more this coming season.

[12] References: Spectrum #5 (May 1996) and #6 (June 1996).


As sidekicks go, Gabrielle is up there with the best


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