I wonder about the underdogs. Why do we like them? Don’t we want to root for the winner? What is it about the underdogs that’s so appealing?
There’s a glory in the struggle. We may not notice it when we’re our own main character, but seeing it in others – we want to support them, even if they’re not actually real. We see them struggle so they can be victorious. The steeper the climb, the greater the victory, I think.
That’s what I’m told the people like. And, to be fair, if it’s the dominant football team (I don’t watch football) or the up-and-coming group, I’m more inclined to root for the latter. For whatever reason, we want to see the little guy win.
But what about the overlooked guy? I have to think that – yes, God loves the underdog – but I think even more he favors the overlooked. It wasn’t that Jesse was asked which child was weakest to battle Goliath. God wanted the one that wasn’t even considered by his own dad – the runt out doing the labor while Jesse showed off the strength of the rest of his sons. As a child, David was completely overlooked by everyone, and yet he’s the only King David we hear spoken about.
When the city was surrounded on all sides by a conquering army with no way out, God didn’t rally an army from the king’s forces. He used the lepers – practically invisible by their own people – to drive away the sieging army.
The harlot. The foreigner. The man hunting the Christians. Again and again we see this theme Biblically.
Then why don’t we see it in so many other stories? What about Neville Longbottom? Why can’t Samwise Gamgee be the hero?
And another thing – what about prophecy and destiny? Why do we shy away from free will when we can give our character the choice not to be a hero? The prophecy said Harry Potter would bring down Voldemort. Achilles was chosen by the gods to be this powerful warrior. I always preferred the characters who didn’t have to be the one the world depended on, but instead stepped up to the plate when no one else would.
I’m not talking about the unwilling heroes. Those people don’t exist. At some point they must decide to accept the burden or accept the consequences. The hero who won’t kill during a fight is soon to be a dead hero. Avoid the fight, if possible, yes. But when the time comes to fight anyway, lay them flat on the floor or dig your own grave.
But doesn’t making someone destined to defeat evil really defeat the point of them being a hero? Is the heroism in the action or the courage to act?
I know – I’m one to talk. I’ve written about prophecy before. Therefore, I can say from experience that it sucked. It was terrifying beforehand, and lame afterward. I liked the burden that came with the name, but not the “he will save the world because I said so” idea.
Wow, I really diverted on a tangent there, didn’t I?
My point is: easy path to victory is bad, the underdog is good, and the overlooked is best.