Our Fascination With the Underdog

America can often be viewed by other countries as a big-mouthed cowboy, who likes to ride in to town and tell everyone what they should be doing in his effort to “save” the day.  I can see how we got that reputation; much of our foreign policy can be debated and critiqued by many, but that is not what I want to discuss here today.  Today I want to talk about something that is a global truth; human beings and their love of the underdog.

Now I mentioned America’s global cowboy persona for one reason and it wasn’t to start a debate about whether we are, or are not playing fast and loose out in the world.  I mentioned it because it perpetuates this belief that Americans are the big-men-on-campus, or that we are, to some nations, are villains bent on destroying their very way of life.  In my world view, I don’t believe that to be true.  I know we aren’t infallible by any means.  We as a Country have made mistakes in our dealings with the rest of the world.  Again, I must digress before I get myself into an argument here.  (Sorry Mom)

My point being that as much as our Country may be viewed as this nation of bullies, I don’t believe us to be so.  I believe that most American’s are much like many other people on this planet.  We are loving family members, devoted partners, caring friends and neighbors and big supporters of the underdog.  I mean, we even created a cartoon character with the name Underdog.  Mild mannered Shoeshine Boy by day and courageous Underdog when evil doers threaten the city.  You can’t get a better crystal-in-the-rough storyline than a shoeshine boy becomes superhero, even if it is a dog.

Our Country loves a good underdog story.  Look at its fascination with reality television shows that allow you to vote for your favorite contestant.  All of them have a portion of the show that is dedicated to telling the life stories of these contestants.  This is Johnny Average American, he has had a tough life.  Doesn’t he deserve your vote?  Of course he does!

Cartoons, TV shows, movies, magazines, books; anything where we can see someone who wins against all odds does big business here in America, as it does in almost every other country.

Harry Potter has an almost cult-like following around the world, I am including myself in that number because I love that story.  When the hero is knocked down we rally for him to fight on.  When it seems the very end in imminent we cheer louder to boost his courage.  We want the little guy to make it big and thereby prove that anyone can be a hero as long as their heart is in the right place.

What got me to thinking about the underdog was a clip from the show Britain’s Got Talent, which seems to have an underdog machine somewhere in the studio’s basement.  (See the several links below.)  When you watch these performances it is tough not to get choked up.  You see someone realizing the dream they have so sought to achieve and you feel as though you have achieved with them.  I guarantee the dopamine receptors in your brain go into overload.  Such a large pay off just to watch someone sing a song.  No wonder these shows do so well.  (If only Karaoke had the same effect.)

Jonathan and Charlotte

Susan Boyle

Paul Potts

It’s not just reality shows either.  Look at almost any Super Hero Comic.  Plot lines about the average Joe or Jill who becomes something more are plentiful.  Hello, Captain America?!

I have always said that we, as human beings, all have much more in common, than we have dissimilar.  Our brains are wired to seek out pleasure, whether it be from food, or exercise, or a good story, etc.  We all want the good guy to win so why do we spend so much time fighting over the little things that make the good guy, well, good?  Most religions hold the same tenants to be true, whether they follow a single god, or many.  We can all agree on wanting to live peacefully, but then we argue about who gets what.  If only we could all give in to our nature of loving the underdog and just agree that if we all focused on seeing the happiness in others that we so want for ourselves not as something to be envious of, but something that we should encourage.  Of course that won’t happen, but wouldn’t it be nice.

Want some more great underdog stories?  Head on over to this link at Cracked.com and peruse at your leisure.

And to give you a little smile for the day, here is a picture of my underdog.



2 thoughts on “Our Fascination With the Underdog

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