There is a definite case to be made for scarcity, because if there’s one thing nerds love, it’s minor characters who get limited screen time. In fact, it’s difficult to go through iconic pieces of nerd fiction and find one where the main character is the runaway favorite. Harry Potter? Nope. The Lord of the Rings? Buffy? Dollhouse? Angel? I think the best you can probably do is Firefly’s Mal Reynolds and Star Trek’s Captain Kirk and Captain Picard, though it’s highly debatable that any of those were the main character. (Which brings up a separate discussion over whether a show with an ensemble cast can even have a main character.)
But why? Why do we love the Weasleys over Harry, why is Spike better than Buffy? Why do we find that, sometimes almost meaningless, side character to identify with?
I think because many of us are those characters. Or at the very least we don’t see ourselves as leaders and celebrities like Buffy and Harry. Many of us grew up being the sidekicks, the afterthoughts, just hoping for that one small chance to prove ourselves. That’s why it’s so satisfying when Molly Weasley calls Bellatrix Lestrange a bitch or Spike Sacrifices himself for Buffy or River
stops being crazy starts being crazy effectively. Furthermore we escape the burden that the leaders have to shoulder. For most of Harry Potter, Neville is just Neville and Molly is just the Weasley’s mother. Anya can make quips and Spike can be humorously infuriating and River can be an endearing sort of nuts and Troi can…do whatever it is that Troi does.