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11/05/2005 - SIDEKICKS, CONFIDANTES AND CONFEDERATES
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Where would we be without our friends? Imagine a world where you had no one to hang out with, seek advice from, confide juicy secrets to, hitch a ride from or rely on to cheer you up whenever the universe comes crashing down. Movie heroes and villains need a circle of buds in their lives, too, although for entirely different reasons. These associates are collectively known as sidekicks, confidantes and confederates--supporting characters without whom the main players' quests would be that much more difficult. In addition to helping carry the ball, these characters are often incorporated as the means for a hero or villain to let an audience know what's going on in his or her head without having to resort to voiceovers, contrived soliloquies or breaking the fourth wall.
For heroes, these characters fill the role of sounding-board, pep squad, and devil's advocate, providing the necessary encouragement to see the task through to completion. Villains, in contrast, already have all the motivation they desire; what they need is a core group of expendable hit-men flunkies who will do their jobs without question and never aspire to promotion. A hero's buddies are in the relationship for the long-term; a villain's recruits are more interested in the prize than in warm and fuzzy camaraderie. Likewise, a villain's ensemble is quick to scatter as soon their leader is killed; a hero's team is committed enough to the cause itself to keep on fighting in the name of their fallen pal.
Cohorts from either camp, of course, abide by a common code that writers need to be aware of; specifically, a sidekick's own story, dilemma, shtick, or lines of dialogue must never, ever upstage their boss. Not only do such faux pas detract from the hero's (and villain's) journey but annoy lead actors who dislike supporting players stealing their thunder.

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