Always the Sidekick (And That’s Not Good)

Growing up, I was always fascinated with the sidekick in my favorite sitcoms. Chandler, the funny FRIEND. Ethel from I Love Lucy. The Janitor from Scrubs. I always wanted to be the sidekick.

Mostly, I knew that the sidekick had all of the best lines. They got the laughs, or set up the laughs, and every scene they were in, they stole. Their flamboyancy and ability to garner laughs inspired me to engage in comedic writing today. Ethel was so flawless. Her love-hate relationship with her husband, always joining Lucy’s shenanigans, and never being afraid to use the full force of her lungs influenced my comedic ability today.

I never once imagined myself as a lead, though. I just don’t see myself, a queer person, able to maintain a lead role. I can think of maybe two popular, successful mainstream tv shows that have queer leads, Will and Grace and Torchwood. Of course, other queer characters exist in ensembles, but never in a leading role.

I watch so many television shows and watch queer characters get kicked to the sidekick role. On Witches of East End, the queer best friend is practically invisible. On Teen Wolf, the queer characters are minor and of no real plot interest. On Gossip Girl, the queer character is only shown as in relation to the main character.

Part of the problem is that queer characters are viewed as great accessories. “OH LOOK, OUR MAIN CHARACTER HAS DEPTH BY HAVING A QUEER BEST FRIEND.” Or, “OH LOOK, OUR RATINGS OUR DOWN, SO LET’S INTRODUCE A LESBIAN CHARACTER/KISS THAT WILL BE WRITTEN OFF AS A JOKE IN ONE OR 2 EPISODES.”

Or, even worse, “OH LOOK, WE HAVE A QUEER CHARACTER THAT WE USE TO SCAVENGE AT THE BOTTOM OF JOKE BARREL AND THROW PROBLEMATIC, STEREOTYPE-PERPETUATING JOKES FOR A CHEAP LAUGH.”

When I write my characters, whether queer or not, PoC or not, trans or not, religious or not, etc., I want them to not just be the butt of their own jokes, or perpetuate harmful stereotypes. I want them each to be able to have their own story, and not be cast aside to maintain the guise that a show has diversity.

All my life, I have had the belief that I wanted to be the sidekick, because I have never really seen roles where I could flourish in my own life as a lead character. Everyone deserves to be a lead in their own story.

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