The Female Sidekick and the Perverse Pleasures of Narrative

I’ll be using this in my media course. In the meantime, it’s worth considering whether there’s a twist in the tale that this sort of analysis is missing. Is it possible that the Competent Female Sidekick actually is the hero in many of these stories? The mere fact that she is diegetically subordinated is not dispositive. Felicity is the only reason to watch Arrow, and certainly Karen was the only protagonist worth caring about in the second season of Daredevil. Similar examples can be multiplied, but the basic idea is that the pleasures produced by stories like this turn on the activity of the ostensible sidekicks. And in a key respect this can only work if these characters are hidden in plain sight—not because audiences or writers can’t bear to give them center-stage, but because the hero-function is itself dependent on that of the sidekick. In effect, turning them into official protagonists would preempt their capacity to function as heroes. Just a thought.

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