Movies + TV

Keep Your Eye on the Girl to the Side

An appreciation of smart-alecky best friends, plucky sidekicks and supporting castwomen everywhere.

Collage by Minna.

On television, you’re supposed to keep your eyes on the heroine. She’s the one breaking rules and beating odds, the one falling in and out of love, the one with the affectations that are swallowed up and internalized by millions of enamored viewers, who tuck their hair behind their ears and bite their lips just so for years in her honor, sometimes without even knowing it. She is the twisted mirror, and you are supposed to see in her all of the things you see in yourself, or all of the things you hope are within you, somewhere under a layer of apprehension. She is supposed to be everyone. And she always has at least one great friend.

I am going to ask you a favor: will you do this for me? The next time you watch a show with a female lead, keep an eye out for her sidekicks. Watch the way she treats them, and how they treat her. You can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat their friends. And you can learn a lot about heroics by watching more than the heroine of the story. The best friend, the sidekick, has heart, wisdom and kindness. It is important, I think, to remember that just as much as you are the hero of your own story, you are also, at times, the supporting cast. Not that I’m telling you to take a backseat, you superstar, you: I am telling you that you have many roles in your life, and any real heroine can recognize the importance of learning how to be a good friend.

Watch the way that Jane Lane checks Daria Morgendorffer on her cynicism, making little jokes to lighten the mood and to remind Daria that her bleak outlook is sometimes as silly as the stuff she’s mocking. In Jane, Daria has both a kindred spirit and a reason not to be as wary of the world—she’s not the only one who feels out of place. Jane and Daria help each other deal with the depressing reality they face on a regular basis. It is always easier to deal with a Sick, Sad World when you have someone to laugh about it with.

And keep an eye on Rory Gilmore’s best friend on Gilmore Girls, Lane Kim, who often takes a backseat to Rory’s prep school adventures and various boyfriends. Though the two are separated during the school day, they make an effort to stay close, with Lane keeping Rory filled in on all the town gossip, and Rory helping Lane sneak music, food and boys past her strict mother. In the episode “Love and War and Snow,” Lane feels the two drifting apart, as Rory always seems distracted by her schoolwork, or her boyfriend, and is never there for Lane, even when Lane gets herself into a particularly embarrassing situation featuring another member of the marching band’s hair. When Lane finally calls Rory on it, and Rory apologizes, Lane gives her a line that I think of all the time: “Don’t be sorry, be here.”

The best friend doesn’t always make the right moves, however. Millie Kentner, Lindsay Weir’s former best friend on Freaks and Geeks, attempts to “save” Lindsay by scolding her and frowning upon her new friends, who, drink, smoke, have sex and, unlike Millie, aren’t afraid of breaking the rules. Millie is often square and judgmental, but her heart is always in the right place; she’s worried about her old friend, and sad about losing her. It’s hard, when you are hurting that much, to recognize that the reason people leave you behind isn’t usually that you’re not a good person, or that you did something wrong, but that your paths are just moving in opposite directions, and your time together has come to an end.

Kim Kelly, on the other hand, provides Lindsay with a sense of excitement and danger. In turn, Lindsay gives Kim a sense of stability and normalcy. Their relationship is a lot like the one between Angela Chase and Rayanne Graff on My So-Called Life: two opposites drawn together in order to balance each other out.

Friendship is an unending series of lessons; if you watch these sidekicks and the way the main characters interact with them, you’ll begin to recognize the mistakes, the triumphs, the little things that make something big and lovely. Sometimes you don’t see them until you’re older and further away. But you can also watch for them before they happen, see them on the screen and live them in another world. Think of your own best friend, and the type of best friend you want to be.

The girls on the side have their own stories to tell. Think of Jane and laugh. Think of Lane and listen. Think of Millie and learn to let go. Think of Kim Kelly and make out with James Franco all day before driving like a maniac in your badass piece-of-shit car. ♦

19 Comments

  • EveyMarrie September 16th, 2011 3:13 PM

    Love this :) Sometimes I need to be put in check, like when I complain about my boyfriend and my friend’s will say “You’re mad at him for being sweet and caring?” and then I’m like “…. dammit” XD

    or how I used to make sure my friend (who was VERY overdramatic about everything) realized that what happened in her head was totally opposite. Like she’ll blow up a conversation about a boy and act like this person said something horrible and I’m like, “No, she was just telling you the truth, she wasn’t insulting you.” and then she was like “Oooh.”

    Friends<3 haha

  • emilyanne September 16th, 2011 3:35 PM

    love this – and Freaks and Geeks!
    great job with the site, I’ve loved every single article you’ve all written!

  • puffytoad September 16th, 2011 5:06 PM

    I think Rhoda on The Mary Tyler Moore show is way cool.

  • I.ila September 16th, 2011 5:50 PM

    I sort of resent that comment about Millie, because I was in that position once, and it took my friend a while to realize (mostly by herself) that this new girl did things my friend didn’t want to get mixed up in. You probably haven’t ever been in that position, but it isn’t that easy to just “let go” of a friend. And if that girl was your best friend for a very long time, and you thought you understood each other, it’s even harder.

  • Sphinx September 16th, 2011 6:00 PM

    I always love the side kicks (especially Lane)!
    They’re just as important as the main character, and always have useful advice.
    Sometimes I do feel like Lane,even I know that everyone is busy, it’s tough not having your friends there when you need them…

    Loving everything about Rookie so far, keep it up! (ok, 3 posts a day is so not enough, I’m totally addicted)

  • Gabi September 16th, 2011 6:47 PM

    Love this! Also sidekicks always have a better sense of humour + wear the coolest clothes.

  • Rita Unicornia September 16th, 2011 7:39 PM

    Every article in here is fabulous! I love this site.. it’s like an addiction… I feel addicted to it in a good way… it’s a good addiction..

    http://www.ritahasablog.blogspot.com

  • Angie Bitchface September 16th, 2011 7:54 PM

    haha, my best friend and I are exactly like this! some days we’re like Angela and Rayanne, and other days we’re like Daria and Jane.

  • jct348 September 16th, 2011 8:13 PM

    Not just in television, but in life. How someone treats the people around them (friends, parents, the gal at the coffeeshop) always reveals character. <3 this article :)

  • rayano-banano September 16th, 2011 8:32 PM

    this is great! I love all of these shows and characters.

    But I think it’s also important to remember that friendships (in reality, not on TV) are not as simple. There are so many dimensions and aspects to a real life friend, and one shouldn’t go about their relationship based on expectations and fictional ideas and instead focus more on being a good friend in the present in a real way to really experience the consequences of one’s actions. Not just do something that Lane did for Rory or Angela did for Rayanne cause it seems “right.” And friendships are worth going about them in a true way.

  • linnea September 16th, 2011 9:01 PM

    Grrrreat piece – where do you come up with everything?! I’ve been a stylerookie-addict for years and now I’m a rookie-addict as well! Iiiin a good way :D

    Where I’m at (waaay on the other side of the pond, in the little kingdom of Sweden) it’s like 3am and I just came home from some friends and found myself still on the alert and somewhat bored. But ofcourse I had the perfect solution for that – ROOKIEMAG :)

    Thanks for awesome pieces and photographs and whatnots. Also I agree with Sphinx, three times a day really isn’t enough ;) But I’ll make do hehe

    //Lelle

  • linnea September 16th, 2011 11:59 PM

    Here I am again. Commenting. :)

    Just wanted to say that I think Corey (from movie Prom, that I just finished watching) deserves a little spot on this list.

    He plays the best friend of Lucas and they’re both sophomore students but Lucas is in love with Simone and due to that Corey and Lucas friendship suffer a bit for a while. However I think you can learn things both from looking at Corey and what a good friend he is being but also by looking at Lucas and how he’s treating his friend – as a little reminder to never forget to be there for our friends, even though we might have much going on in our lives..

    I guess Corey ain’t a girl. But he’s still an awesome sidekick. And he’s ginger. Biggest plus ever ;) GO COREY!

  • honey-teeth September 17th, 2011 12:19 PM

    listening to ‘true love leaves no traces’ and ‘iodine’ while reading this really makes me want to hug my best friend

  • Laia September 17th, 2011 12:49 PM

    I always felt like a sidekick somehow… off to my own adventures that no one knew about ’cause they were off-camera.

    • Laia September 17th, 2011 12:50 PM

      this seems like a really deep realization? haha

  • rhymeswithorange September 17th, 2011 8:05 PM

    Love love love the last line of this article!

  • kombizz September 19th, 2011 9:35 AM

    I guess the best thing in the world would be friendship with friends no matter how far they might live.

  • sabrina September 20th, 2011 2:49 PM

    Lane Kim, best friend/side-kick any girl could have

  • saranev September 20th, 2011 10:44 PM

    I love that the Rookie staff shares all of my TV loves.