The Sidekick Manifesto
August 5, 2012 Leave a comment
Given the rash of incompetent Sidekick behavior I have had to endure recently, the Time has Come to write The Sidekick Manifesto, which is a detailed guide on How to be a Better Sidekick. This Manifesto will clearly detail all of the responsibilities a Sidekick is expected to undertake while under the direction of a trusted Mentor, as well as delve into the Sidekick-Mentor Dynamic.
Who is a Sidekick?
A Sidekick is an apprentice or protege who is serving under the tutelage of an experienced and wise Mentor. Usually, the Sidekick voluntarily elects to undergo this internship, but in some situations the role of Sidekick is forced upon an unwilling participant.
A Sidekick serves under a Mentor for an indeterminate amount of time, much like a squire serving under a knight. Continuing with this analogy, a Sidekick pledges allegiance and loyalty to a Mentor in exchange for an education of sorts, as well as a degree of social and possibly physical protection.
Once a Sidekick has reached a degree of relative maturity – and take note, this could mean emotional maturity just as easily as physical maturity – it is the obligation of the Mentor to release the Sidekick from her or his contract of service. It is then the obligation of the now-former Sidekick to continue this Circle of Life by one day taking on a Sidekick or her or his own and imparting the same lessons and wisdom that she or he was once taught.
Who Has Sidekicks?
A major male status-symbol is being adored and followed by other men. A concept as old as the Wheel is that of the less-experienced or younger man following the Alpha Male in the middle of his prime.
There are great demands on the time of an Alpha Male, as he likely means many things to many people. A Sidekick acts as a bit of an agent or press secretary for the Alpha Male, representing the Alpha’s interests when he is not able to do so himself. In exchange, the Sidekick receives a one-of-a-kind education on How to Be an Alpha Male, which will in turn one day allow the Sidekick to be equally beloved and respected.
The Fringe Benefits of serving as the Sidekick to an Alpha are extremely diverse. To cite Matt Damon as an example, his decision to sign up as George Clooney’s Sidekick has legitimized him as a box-office star and increased his earning power immeasurably. Meanwhile, the Fringe Benefits of serving as the Sidekick to the high-school quarterback could include the Sidekick’s pick of the women the Quarterback does not want. It greatly varies situation-to-situation.
Bad Boys need Sidekicks as “Social Liaisons”, since they tend to have a litany of ASPDs (Anti-Social Personality Disorders, not the burning-crotch thing you got from that sailor last July). While Bad Boys generally project the image of the toughened loner, as they say, “No Man is an Island.” The Sidekick, usually a younger female, is the boat that goes between this “island” and the rest of the world.
From the perspective of a potential female Sidekick, a Bad Boy is of course very attractive, as he is to most women. This attraction to the Bad Boy rarely fades (as long as he retains his edge), even as the Sidekick approaches Womanhood.
While the Sidekick may pledge her allegiance and stay with the Bad Boy due to her attraction to him, the Fringe Benefit she receives is adventure and drama (which I am told women enjoy to a small degree). The Sidekick’s life will get at least 100% more interesting by tagging along with a Bad Boy. While the Sidekick may at times chafe because she is again being forced to run from the cops or finish a fifth of 1800 Silver, secretly she is thrilled because she is no longer spending her Saturday nights cat-sitting or playing Jenga with a bunch of married couples.
Captains are designated leaders. They are not hired; they are appointed due to their competence. This theme is most prominent in Hockey, in which every team designates one player as its Captain. Peer appointment is a much-greater honor than being named Commander, in which a designated leader is chosen by some kind of hierarchy.
Real Captains lead, regardless of who follows them. They are seldom Sidekicks because they tend to jump head-first into all things, consequences be damned. Captains are fearless, and this inspires others to follow them.
The Sidekick of a Captain should note that she or he no longer has the ability to think, as a Captain does not think about any of her or his actions until the moment of truth. Even if a Captain has a Secret Evil Plan, there is a strong chance the Captain is going to be extremely VAGUE about the details. The Sidekick of a Captain needs to be very flexible and “read-and-react” rather than thoughtful. The Fringe Benefit is that Captains are constantly seeking Glory, which they are certain to revel in and share with their Sidekick.
Charismatics are principled on making other believe in their doctrine. The Sidekick in this case is the first disciple of the Charismatic, one who believes in the message of the Charismatic almost as vehemently as the Charismatic himself.
The loyalty of the Sidekick in this case is predicated on Faith, i.e. the belief that one day the Sidekick’s loyalty will be rewarded. This does not have to apply exclusively to religion; this could also be belief in the artistic, musical, or writing talent of the Charismatic. The belief is that one day, many others will recognize the Charismatic for having the same talent that the Sidekick him or herself sees, and the Sidekick’s Faith will be vindicated.
I have written more on Building a Charismatic here, to reinforce the concept.
Cougars are women of sophistication and status who prefer the company of younger men due to their firmer bodies and lighter emotional baggage. By nature, Cougars are decisive bordering on cutthroat, and their focus on their respective goals often necessitates a Sidekick in order to juggle a Cougar’s ever-growing list of business and personal ventures.
While the tone of the article may have suggested that “Mentor” was a Man-only position, nothing could be further from the truth. Many women can become outstanding Mentors, if they accept the duty willingly. Cougars, for example, embody all five necessary traits of a quality Mentor: Confidence, Dignity, Experience, Poise, and Self-Respect. Furthermore, having a Sidekick is a major status-symbol, and we all know how Cougars love those.
A Cougar may have particular value in that she can bring a wealth of female-specific skills to the Mentor-Sidekick dynamic. Whereas the above-listed traits of a Mentor are gender-neutral, a Cougar such as Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada” has a veritable arsenal of womanly charms that a female Sidekick could really benefit from cultivating.
The one thing a Sidekick must remember in this instance is that a Cougar, by definition, is someone who is making up for lost time. As such, a Cougar is going to be business-like bordering-on-salty, so it will behoove the Sidekick to be not only attentive to details, but also to develop unusually-thick skin.
Creators are visionaries. They are innovative, but their abilities to both lead and see the future are somewhat offset by their laundry-list of personal short-comings and inability to take care of themselves.
The Sidekick of a Creator fills the standard supporting role, with the Fringe Benefit of learning to think like her or his avant-garde Mentor. The downside is that a Creator is dangerously close to being an artist or even a bit of a diva, meaning that there is a direct inversion between his or her talent and his or her ability to cope with it. A Creator is more apt to be a bit of a drinker or even a drug-user, meaning that her or his Sidekick must be extra-vigilant and prepared to deal with the Mentor’s bouts of Drunken Inappropriateness.
A Commander is a whimsical leader who is forced to retain his or her authority through the use of coercion or power. There is an excellent chance you work under a Commander, i.e. someone who you would have little to no respect for if he or she did not have the power to fire you.
Commanders need Sidekicks because, like most Mentors, they have immense ambition but limited ability or desire to dig their own ditches. Commanders frequently take on the role of “Bad Cop”, so they compel or solicit the services of a Sidekick to play the role of “Good Cop”.
The Sidekick of a Commander is usually someone with integrity who takes the outrageous demands of a Commander with a grain of salt. While most Mentors are bossy to some degree or another, Commanders tend to go overboard in both their requests and the tone they issue these requests in. A Sidekick working under a Commander should expect their relationship to be Short-and-Sweet, as it is a Mentorship of mutual convenience (and often monetary or social considerations) rather than one built on affinity or personal growth.
Egomaniacs are people who have an inability to think beyond themselves and their own personal wants. As with Charismatics, there is a certain magnetism to the brazen confidence an Egomaniac tends to display, and someone who is less-certain of her or himself may find that she or he is drawn to the bullhorn personality of the standard-issue Egomaniac.
The Fringe Benefit is that the Sidekick is forced to be considerably less self-conscious, because all of the focus is constantly placed on the Egomaniac. While this does not seem like much of a benefit at all, for a person is who is constantly doubting her or himself, tending to the self-appeasing whims of an Egomaniac actually comes as a welcome relief. Beyond that, the Egomaniac is inadvertently teaching the Sidekick self-confidence, which is of course invaluable.
The opposite of the Egomaniac is the Hero, who thinks constantly about the well-being of others. This need to put others before her or himself can become an obsession, taken to such a degree that the Hero needs to bring in a Sidekick to assist him or her with whatever mission the Hero has set for her or himself.
The Sidekick could be drawn to the Hero for any number of reasons: perhaps, for example, the Sidekick has a similarly-ardent desire to protect others, but does not have the means to do so on a large scale. Aligning oneself with a Hero enables the Sidekick to perform acts of heroism her or himself.
The Fringe Benefit is the self-satisfaction that heroic-types feel after helping others. This is something a person either experiences, or they do not. Choosing a Hero as a Mentor allows a Sidekick to experience this feeling with much-greater regularity and often on a much-larger scale.
“Van: Do you know why I made you my assistant?”
“Taj: So you could teach me how to muff dive?”
“Van: No. Well, yeah. But also because you have the potential to be great.”
-Van Wilder to Taj, Van Wilder
Much like Alpha Males, Superstars need Sidekicks because there are tremendous demands placed on their time. Whether we are talking about Lady Gaga or LeBron James, the fact remains that a barrage of people are always clamoring after Superstars in an effort to eat up their attention and time.
In this case, a Sidekick differentiates her or himself from the rest of a Superstar’s entourage by having the Potential to one day be great in their own right. While a Superstar is guaranteed to have plenty of hangers-on who are otherwise devoid of talent, a Sidekick is someone who reminds the Superstar of him or herself, in some fashion. The Superstar takes a special interest in helping the Sidekick cultivate her or his unique talents to the height of their abilities.
As with the Alpha Male, the Fringe Benefits a Superstar can extend are myriad. In the case of the above-pictured Mario Lemieux, Fringe Benefits may include all-you-can-drink ’66 Beaujolais, a room in his swank mansion, choice seating at Consol Energy Center, pre-paid lap dances, Stanley Cups, etc. It really depends on the personal preferences of the Superstar.
What are the Responsibilities of a Sidekick?
“You know the expression, ‘a Man’s Man’? A Man’s Man is the leader of the pack, the kind of Man other Men look up to, admire, and emulate.”
- Lauren Holly, What Women Want
What are the Responsibilities of a Sidekick? Glad you asked. Here is an overview of the general responsibilities of a quality Sidekick:
* Unquestioned Devotion and Obedience – the Sidekick has pledged her or his allegiance to the Mentor. It should be a given that the Sidekick will never backtalk or question the Mentor, but like a frisky puppy, some Sidekicks just love to test boundaries under the guise of “being playful”. It is the duty of the Mentor to properly punish the Sidekick whenever this Acting-Out rears its ugly head, lest this behavior prompt an eventual Wingman Rebellion or other undesirable carrying-on.
* Unwavering Support of the Mentor – as a Mentor is very likely to be a polarizing figure, it is imperative that the Sidekick be feverishly loyal to the Mentor. The Mentor will be apt to make plenty of enemies, and it is the duty of the Sidekick to not only watch the Mentor’s back, but to refute any malicious lies or other attempts of social espionage people may attempt against the Mentor.
* Handling the Details – Mentors are typically inconsiderate, or at the very least preoccupied with more-important matters. Because Mentors are so valuable, it is the role of the Sidekick to handle any secretarial-type duties that may arise. These can include: booking hotels, event-planning, social media management, taking the Mentor’s car to get washed, answering the phone, and limiting the Mentor’s drinking if the Mentor appears to have a problem. Basically, anything you can picture an intern or a personal assistant doing within the realm of appropriateness and reason.
* Always Be Learning – Enlisting as a Sidekick is like going to college: you are permitted to be something of a bane on both the Mentor and society-at-large because you are ideally developing into a better human being. Bouts of incompetence will be accepted from the Sidekick because a long-term investment in making the Sidekick a more-effective person is being made. The Sidekick needs to always remember that the primary goal of taking on a Mentor is to learn, and thus a Sidekick should be hanging on the Mentor’s every action and word, even if the Sidekick is incredibly drunk (and especially if the Mentor is incredibly drunk).
* Helping the Mentor achieve her or his Goals – while the role of the Mentor is to make the Sidekick a better and more complete person, the role of the Sidekick is to help the Mentor achieve her or his goals, whatever those goals might be. If the Mentor, for example, desperately wants to have Awesome sex with Dara Torres, the Sidekick should be writing her hand-written letters once a week gently persuading Dara to think about it.
(Note: Let’s be honest – Dara Torres is a pretty perfect woman)
While this list may seem outlandish, remember that the Mentor is investing much of her or his time and energy into making the Sidekick a better person – probably without taking money for it. Just as it would be unreasonable to expect a Chiropractor or Psychologist to work on someone for months or years without any compensation, it is unreasonable for someone to expect free Mentoring with no repayment. The very least a Sidekick can do is to facilitate the whims of the Mentor (and make no mistake – more often than not, they will be whims).
Why Be a Sidekick/Why Be a Mentor?
I have covered the concept of the Circle of Life in previous posts. The Circle of Life is the concept that a father or father-figure passes along the lessons of Life to his son from generation-to-generation. This concept of progress is how we evolve as a species, and is prominently displayed in the film The Lion King.
I implore you to seek out both a Mentor and a Sidekick. It will make Life much more rewarding. Even if you are like me and think you know everything, adopting a Mentor can really help iron out some of your most glaring character deficiencies.
While my current preference is to take on a field of relative experts in a diverse range of skills (such as music, medicine, art, aka the GI Joe Model), I would not be averse to taking on a Mentor more similar to myself if I could find one.
Lastly, it should be noted that a Sidekick’s Sidekick is subject to the commands of a “grandfather” Mentor under the same line of thought as military chain of command. If your Mentor’s Mentor tells you something, you should take it in with the same level of respect as you would if your own grandfather said it.
Animal Sidekicks have the same responsibilities outlined above. In addition, they should be adorable, so as to attract as much attention from the opposite sex as possible. Animals in fact make ideal Sidekicks, assuming they can be trained properly.
Sidekicks vs. Friends
A Sidekick is both more and less than a standard-issue Friend; in fact, as a Sidekick you should view yourself as an unpaid intern working for a very demanding boss rather than a social equal.
While it is implied that a Sidekick is not the same as a Friend based upon the divergent ways in which a Mentor treats the two, there are plenty of benefits a Sidekick receives that a more-common “Friend” may not be privy to. These Fringe Benefits, or special treatments that a Mentor might not otherwise bestow upon a “Friend” can be diverse, ranging from Footing the Bar Tabs to Taxi Service to World Domination. Every Mentor-Sidekick relationship is different, and will thus be subject to differences in Compensation.
Sidekicks vs. Wingmen/Wingwomen
A Sidekick may be eventually promoted to “Wingman” or “Wingwoman” after an appropriate term of service. While “Sidekick” is a deferential position relative to “Mentor”, a Wingman or Wingwoman is more-or-less regarded as an equal and a peer.
The goal of the Mentor is to make the Sidekick self-sufficient and reasonably cool, rounding out the deficiencies in character or skill that a Sidekick might possess. This is commonly seen in parenting: at some point, a son or daughter stops being a child (in the strict sense) and can proceed to have a more adult relationship with her or his parents. The same concept applies in Mentoring, assuming the Sidekick achieves a reasonable degree of competence and self-sufficiency in the Mentored fields.
Not every Sidekick gets promoted to Wingman or Wingwoman; as written above, the promotion to Wingperson is based on Merit, not time served. A quick learner might be promoted from Sidekick to Wingperson within a single Summer; a more obtuse Sidekick might take years or even decades of tutelage before a promotion is in order, if ever.
Like other employees, a Sidekick who is not promoted within a reasonable term is quite likely to turn on her or his Mentor. This is an unfortunate situation known as …
The Wingman (or Wingwoman) Rebellion
The Wingman Rebellion is an ugly scenario in which the Sidekick wants to be released from her or his apprenticeship, but due to social circumstances cannot shake the image of being a Sidekick. This leads to a vicious cycle in which the Sidekick projects her or his frustration onto the Mentor, regardless of how warranted these frustrations might be.
If that explanation was unclear, here is a real-world example: picture two friends (let’s call them Maverick and Goose). While Maverick and Goose consider each other equals, Maverick is much better-looking and much more popular. Goose is decent-looking, goofy, and likable, but every time a girl comes over to talk to the twosome, she flirts shamelessly with Maverick and mostly ignores Goose. When she does talk to Goose, all she does is ask him questions about Maverick.
The same thing happens no matter where Goose and Maverick go. Goose tries not to get mad at Maverick, because Maverick is constantly supportive and respectful of him, but everyone else treats Maverick like the second coming of Jesus Christ while barely acknowledging Goose. Worse, the only time anyone does give Goose the time of day, they are consciously or unconsciously condescending to him. No one takes Goose seriously, except maybe Maverick.
This happens for weeks or months or years, until one day Goose snaps and lashes out at Maverick with unreasonable anger. Maverick is confused and a little hurt, because really, he has been nothing but a loyal and supportive friend to Goose.
Maverick never went to Goose and said, “You are my Sidekick,” but due to Maverick’s Alpha Male status, both men and women alike started viewing Goose as subservient to Maverick. This is galling to the male ego. While women are generally assigned social status based upon their looks, men are assigned status based upon how other people treat them. When a man starts to be seen as a Beta Male (or in this case, a Sidekick), a negative feedback loop is created in which the Sidekick must work ten times harder to get 10% of the respect that the Alpha Male gets. One can see where this would get very frustrating.
This clip from “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days” illustrates the difference between an Alpha Male (who is assigned the role of “Mentor”, whether he wants it or not) and Beta Males (who are assigned the roles of “Sidekick”, even though they would likely rather be “Mentors”:)
You are nuts if you do not think the other two dudes in the clip aside from Matthew McConaughey want to fuck Kate Hudson. Of course they do. They also realize they have no shot with her, so the closest they can get to being with a woman like that is to co-mingle with a “Maverick” like Matt McConaughey’s character. They have unwillingly, or at least unknowingly, elected to be Sidekicks.
The Wingman Rebellion is not always a male Sidekick rebelling against a male Mentor. For example, if a woman elects to be the “Sidekick” of a man she is very attracted to as a way of incurring his favor, she is likely going to get frustrated after years of her “Mentor” ignoring her sexually and making her do his laundry and help him chat up other girls. She will “rebel” by either angrily cutting him completely out of her life (similar to the male Wingman Rebellion), or by making one last desperation pass at him. The second scenario usually ends up being only slightly less embarrassing than having your mom walk in on you having sex.
Having said that, female Sidekicks seem to rebel against male Mentors less frequently. I attribute this to the natural male instinct to dominate, but really, who knows. I cannot speak to the tendency of female Sidekicks to rebel against female Mentors, as I have been neither.
“…Like the naked leads the blind.
I know I’m selfish, I’m unkind.
Sucker love I always find,
Someone to bruise and leave behind…”
Some less-ethical Mentors will use their physical attractiveness or Charisma to pigeon-hole a member of the opposite-sex into being her or his Sidekick. Perhaps the term “Lackey” should be used rather than Sidekick, as this type of Mentoring is rarely reciprocal.
This is distinct from a Bad Boy Mentor electing to take on a female Sidekick, despite her attraction to him. An ethical Mentor, such as a Bad Boy, will understand the situation and do his best to ensure that the Sidekick is receiving a proper education, and thus preserves the integrity of the Mentor-Sidekick dynamic. Even if the Mentor never verbally addresses the situation, the subtext is that the Mentor is in fact looking out for the interests and well-being of the Sidekick.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have unethical Users who control opposite-sex (or homosexual same-sex) Sidekicks through the power of attraction. The difference between the two types is the Lack of Reciprocation from the User. An unethical User will turn an attracted party into a Cuddle Bitch or Foot-Stool rather than a respected Sidekick.
This is neither a predominately male or female tendency. Users, indiscriminate of gender, will have lengthy histories of manipulating those attracted to them. While the discriminating and tasteful Mentor may have a preference regarding the gender of his Sidekick, there are usually logical reasons why the Mentor elects for one gender over the other, even if the only reason is social chemistry.
Has Jack Ever Been a Sidekick?
I have always had an excellent understanding of people and the world, and even at a young age demonstrated the confidence of a born Narcissist. Furthermore, you have to play to your skill-set; if you display the ability to throw a football well at a young age, it usually makes sense for you to play Quarterback rather than Receiver.
As such, I have traditionally taken on the role of Mentor, even to people considerably older than me. This is not always intentional, as my college Sidekick clamped onto me with the tenacity of a bear trap, despite my efforts to shake him long enough to get to third base with one or two of the girls in my dorm. While I do not claim to be competent in all fields, I generally play to my strengths (hockey, drinking, etc), and thus tend to serve in more of an instructional or leadership capacity.
However, there is one particular time in which I served as a Sidekick: in college, I worked for about 10 months at a strip club as a bartender. The club’s owner, whose name I do not dare write, took a particular shine to me; he memorably once said I was “so good-looking he wanted to fuck my mouth,” before taking two of the club’s young ladies back into his “office” to do hard drugs and fill-in-the-blank.
The club’s owner, who I will refer to as “Dirk”, was about 30 years older than me, and unarguably the most psychotic man I have ever met in my life. For example, he not only pulled a gun on one of his employees, but fired it at him. A routine internet search should bring up the details of the man and that incident, especially if you use the term “tax evasion”. He did not “believe in computers”, instead keeping the financial records of a $10,000-a-night cash business written on Post-Its and gas-station receipts. I am fully convinced the man tried to burn down his own club and collect the insurance money, which again a creative internet search could yield the details of.
Anyway, “Dirk” really liked me for some reason, and made every effort to take me under his wing. While I did not “party” much compared to “Dirk” (meaning I did not snort random powders off the unwashed stomachs of strippers), not once did I interact with the man without him going on some rambling tirade about God-knows-what. He was constantly dispensing advice on where I should get my haircut and what toothpaste I should use, and though he was keenly interested in how I behaved, he rarely asked questions and instead gave strict directions such as “if you leave your car windows cracked again, I am going to fucking stab you. There are all kinds of untrustworthy people around this neighborhood.” You don’t say, “Dirk”.
This certifiably-insane man does demonstrate what I sometimes fail to bring to a Mentor-Sidekick relationship: Experience. I might have an innate understanding of anatomy and the human body, but I have zero reps performing surgery on someone. Experience, regardless of the field of participation, is incalculably more valuable than all of the fancy book-learning you could hope to have. More than anything else, Experience is the trait you should look for in a Mentor.
As such, I have generally looked to people much older than me for Mentoring, such as my grandfather. Even when I was 8 years old, I thought I knew better than people my parents’ age and considered myself more or less their intellectual peer; but many older people project a sage wisdom that a 40-year old usually does not. A price tag cannot be put on the Lifetime of Experience a 65 or 70-year old can acquire. As people get into their 60s, they have seen and done it all a few times over, and can be extremely insightful. You would do well to be less dismissive and more attentive the next time some crazy old guy starts barking about economics or war, because there is a good chance he has first-hand Experience dealing in the matter at hand.
I have a great deal of experience as a Mentor, and thus thought it was my duty to write The Sidekick Manifesto before I get the bill for all of my years of repetitive head trauma from contact sports.
Additionally, my current Sidekick has gotten a little fussy and has started to test her boundaries on a regular basis. Since Negative Reinforcement seems to have run its course, I believe now is the time to appeal to her rational side and thoroughly explain the necessity of the Mentor-Sidekick dynamic, lest her petulant streak continue to bite me in the ass.
I believe this article nicely outlines the responsibilities of the Sidekick, as well as completely delves into the logic behind enforcement of the Mentor-Sidekick Dynamic. A good Mentor does not bop his Sidekick on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper just to be a prick, but as a way of maintaining the respect necessary to preserve the Mentor-Sidekick Dynamic. As long as Respect is maintained, the Mentor-Sidekick relationship can be fun and relaxed.
As for you, if you have acquired a good deal of Life Experience, perhaps the time has come for you to take on an adrift, eager-to-learn Sidekick. In the same vein, if you lack guidance or are otherwise lost, it may be time for you to seek out a learned Mentor to help right your ship. Both sides of the Mentor-Sidekick relationship can be extremely gratifying, if both sides properly accept their respective roles and heed the lessons passed along in this article.