Why We Love Underdog Stories
In almost every story about "the chosen one" it inevitably comes down to a hero who starts the story down on their luck. This chosen one then becomes emboldened by a mission or a cause and then excels to greatness throughout the coarse of the story breaking the stigma of their downtrodden existence.
The title of this blog post asks "why we love underdog stories" and in a nutshell I just gave an answer to that question. But there really is more to it than that.
We have all been burdened with struggle at some time in our lives. Even those with seemingly perfect lives on the outside are often dealing with of struggle of their own. Its because of life's challenges that we embrace the underdog story. In them we see a facet of ourselves. Though we may be battling different demons we are fighting to give our lives purpose, to accomplish a dream, or reach new heights in some way.
If you are born into a situation where everything is handed to you and you want for not, this may not apply. But most of us, even those gracing TV/movie screens, each started somewhere else in life and then marked their path towards the attainment of a different life they saw in their heads.
Sometimes its easy, most times its not. This is why the defining moments of the underdog story resonate with so many. Once they reach the pinnacle and achieve their goal we all cheer for it.
Take the biggest, most acclaimed underdog of them all: Rocky. A street kid who wants to make it as a boxer but has all the odds stacked against him. As fate would have it he finally gets his opportunity to show everyone what he can do, and though he doesn't win, we know his life is dramatically going to change by the end of the film. Beyond the triumphant music or the training montage it is in Rocky's passion while he's fighting, and afterwards when he's calling for Adrian, that stirs us and makes us rewatch the movie several times over.
Harry Potter is another depiction of an underdog and a perfect example of "the chosen one" storyline. It's up to Harry to defeat the great evil unleashed upon the world of magic (and the world itself) but all Harry has known up until he gets his letter to Hogwarts is that he's a simple boy who isn't special. This turns out to be far from true and as the reader (or viewer as it were) goes on the journey with Harry we are right there with him as he ascends to his greatness. The journey the character goes on as he seeks to attain his goal is what endears them to us. They face their flaws, grow and learn, and become stronger after failures. The underdog stories provide life lessons to never give up and continue to have hope even in the face of seemingly unsurmountable odds.
This is true of reality as well. I've written before on how pro wrestling can mirror writing and that's mostly because of its characters. The underdog story of 2018-2019 lay with Becky Lynch. As she fought her way out of obscurity to become the hottest commodity in pro wrestling. Today, that journey is being fulfilled by Liv Morgan.
Like Becky Lynch before her, Liv has been working hard for years to get a break in the business. She's been overlooked many times in her career but she never stopped trying. And because of that, the fans continued to rally behind her. Just like in novels or movies, the audience relates to the struggle of the Liv Morgan character. They want her to do well because they see themselves in her. So, when she finally took home the Smackdown Women's Championship at Money in the Bank in Las Vegas, the crowd went nuts...I should know, I was there live!!
Underdogs come from many places but they all share similar traits: perseverance, strength of character, and heart. That last one is important. If they don't have heart, they wind up becoming the villain!
Name your favorite underdog story in the comments...
"Original Cyn" Cynthia Vespia writes fantasy novels for deviant minds including urban fantasy vigilantes and heroic adventure fantasy. Cyn is also a freelance content writer and uses the art of storytelling to help brands engage their target audience through Original Cyn Content.