I’ve learned so much about storytelling from studying the original Star Wars’ movies-as well as given myself an excuse to watch movies as part of my job-and one of the things I’ve discovered is the value of a good sidekick character. There are many different kinds of sidekicks, and they can serve different purposes. C3PO is great as a sidekick for many reasons. First, he’s not what we expect. Though most of us have no idea what a sentient android would act like, I can bet no one pre-Star Wars imagined one as a nervous fusspot with a bit of an ego. Too often a sidekick is the friend who is there only to give the main character someone to talk to, and that’s just boring. Sidekicks need distinct personalities of their own, and their own goals and conflicts. C3PO certainly has a distinct personality and his goal is to do his job as an interpreter droid, but his conflict is that he is thrown into very dangerous situations that go against his expected role.
Second, a good sidekick can provide an alternative perspective on situations that arise. C3PO acts as a contrast to the brave main characters of Star Wars, who leap into danger without a thought. It’s C3PO who often acts more human than Han, Leia and Luke, something the viewer doesn’t expect. Androids aren’t supposed to experience fear. A good example of this is the scene in which he is afraid to go outside the Millennium Falcon when it’s inside the space slug. When he says, “I think it might be better if I stay here and guard the ship,” he’s not only saying what a normal person would probably want to say, he’s also unintentionally funny. And that’s CEPOs third strength as a sidekick. A little humor can add tremendous value to an adventure, to modulate the tension, and to make the viewers (or readers) want to be part of the action. C3PO doesn’t know he’s funny, and that makes him even funnier. The audience knows he is incapable of guarding anything.
While C3PO particular blend of characteristics couldn’t and shouldn’t be duplicated, considering why the character works so well reminds me to take care in creating my own sidekick characters.