In all aspects of life, people are drawn to the underdog.
- the geek who saves the planet and gets the girl/boy, while the jock is passed by.
- the outsider team with part-time players who topple the mighty favorite with the money and star players.
- the ‘David’ meets ‘Goliath’.
- the poor farm boy / girl who becomes the great warrior / saves the universe / becomes the hero of the quest.
There is a reason why we love the underdog, and it all comes down to psychology.
As a writer, understanding the reasons and psychology behind our love of underdog characters can greatly help us when we are crafting our work.
Why do we love the underdog?
As the saying goes, no pain, no gain.
The greater the effort required, and the closer, more nail-biting the ending is, the greater our sense of fulfillment and achievement. While there’s nothing wrong with natural talent (who doesn’t want it), stories are not made out of millponds, we need challenges that require a gargantuan effort to overcome.
And our trusty underdog delivers.
2. Reverse psychology
When we back a ‘winner’ that gives us the same euphoric winning feeling. So, while the underdog by definition is the least likely to win, we have been conditioned by the stories we have read, watched and heard to expect the underdog to win.
3. Pleasure at others misfortune.
Yes, humans are sick bunnies. This is the whole reason why shows like ‘the office’ are so popular. We love watching other people fail from the comfort of our safe lounge chair. Evil hands are rubbed together as our hapless hero faces an uphill battle just to stay afloat.
You are all sighing in relief now! No, humans are not completely evil. While we love to wallow in the misfortune of others, there is a huge thrill when the underdog perseveres, overcomes their many misfortunes, and endures challenges along the way….as long as they succeed.
And in those few stories where they don’t succeed, we often feel cheated.
Life and society is full of ebbs and flows.
Great civilizations rise and fall, and the only thing that is certain in the uncertain nature of the world, is that nothing stays the same.
The top team will not remain the top team for ever.
Good and evil.
Power and poverty.
Every dog will have its day.
How we love to love the underdog.