Doesn’t everyone want to be inspired? Let’s face it. We all have that hunger to be the one-in-a-million shot. And if we can’t be it, we at least want to root for that underdog.
The first movie that had me sitting on the edge of my seat was Rocky. With my heart pounding with excitement, I watched as he beat the odds. I remember being so disappointed and even dumbfounded that Rocky didn’t win that fight with Apollo Creed. I’m not sure I even knew that he didn’t win until years later. I couldn’t imagine it. Where’s the happy ending? Between Adrian’s red beret falling off and her running, running madly for the man she loved and Rocky not caring a fig that the announcer was declaring the winner and him shouting, shouting soulfully for the woman he loved, it sure felt like he won.
But then, I got it. It was about GETTING THERE. Getting the shot and not being afraid to take it.
Everyone assumed Rocky would lose. It was a publicity stunt, after all. But they didn’t count on one thing. The drive and determination of the average guy, the common man, to rise above and let nothing stand in his way.
I love the real life underdogs as well as the fictional ones. I love ‘em all.
As writers, we want to create characters that not only go the distance, but make the journey to get there inspirational. As readers or viewers, we want to cheer for those characters.
Who didn’t cheer for Susan Lucci when she finally received her Emmy? After eighteen nominations, she finally won in 1999, and celebrities there that night openly cried. Hell, Oprah Winfrey rushed the stage in her excitement! Even though she’s beautiful and glamorous, we all felt a bit sorry for her when she lost. Because she lost so many times and became an ongoing joke in the media, we felt sorry for her—glamorous life or not. She was our celebrity underdog, and we rooted for her. I never watched All My Children a day in my life, but I sure wanted her to win that Emmy.
I also love the romantic underdogs or the story where either the man or the woman jumps life’s hurdles, takes the shot, and WINS! One of my all-time favorites is the original Ice Castles. Who can ever forget that moment when the blind ice skater finishes her program successfully only to slip and fall on the flowers? Or Robbie Benson coming to her rescue as he skillfully maneuvers her through them to the theme song “Looking Through the Eyes of Love”? And him saying softly, “We forgot about the flowers.” Oh. My. God. I loved that movie when I was a kid. The romance. The blind girl not wanting anyone to know she could no longer see after her accident. Wanting to be judged on her skill and not win by pity.
So, when writing or life is getting you down, do you tend to see movies or read books where the Underdog wins? And which of those stories are your favorites? I wish I could name the top 100, but I’ll limit my list.
Kim’s Top Ten Underdog Stories
- Rocky (of course. I’d pick all five, but that really limits the rest.)
- Karate Kid (the original with Daniel LaRusso and Mr. Miyagi)
- Gladiator (where a gladiator defeats the emperor of Rome)
- Slumdog Millionaire (all I can say, is OMG)
- Pretty in Pink (this is what I call a romantic underdog story)
- Gattaca (defying the odds at any cost)
- Twilight series (need I say more? Vampire…human. Yeah. Work THAT out.)
- Eva Peron (from the common people to EVITA, for God’s sake)
- Ice Castles (the original. I Cried. Cheered. Cried. Cheered.)
- Cinderella Man (Russell Crowe apparently plays a great underdog. See #3)
- Shawshank Redemption (Okay. I know I cheated with eleven, but, come on. Who wouldn’t want Andy to get some recognition here? Defeating a corrupt warden and his posse? Climbing through literal crap to escape from prison after being falsely imprisoned….? )
Please share your top five Underdog stories. You can cheat if you want. I won’t judge if you list six.