In a world where so many things are uncertain, there is something to be said for putting one’s faith in the underdog. People identify and feel comforted by supporting something that, much like them, isn’t going to take the world by storm. Look at the phenomenal show of empathic support to the Boston Red Sox in decades of almost, but not quite, winning the World Series.
In a world where so many things are uncertain, there is something to be said for putting one’s faith in the underdog. People identify and feel comforted by supporting something that, much like them, isn’t going to take the world by storm. Look at the phenomenal show of empathic support to the Boston Red Sox in decades of almost, but not quite, winning the World Series. Millions of new and old fans have stood by the team, not because they are the best or most successful, but partially because of the comfort they provide. They will always be there, playing and trying, giving people something to put faith in.
This is far from being just a sports team-related occurrence. In the world of music, there is a huge network of support for independent bands. Throughout the history of music, there have always been people who are proud of supporting bands that no one else knows about. When the masses are making the dominant form of music wildly successful, there will always be fringe groups that disdain the top bands and support independent acts. In the 1970s, when disco was surging in popular culture, punk rock raised up to counter it. Much the same thing happened in the early 1990s with grunge appearing in the face of pop and hair metal. Being part of the non-dominant movement gives people some sort of satisfaction that they are above the masses.
Of course, there are always people who are so fascinated with following the underdog that they actually abandon the original underdog when they become mainstream. This happens all the time in music, when bands are accused of “selling out” once they become popular. Perhaps some of this can be attributed to a feeling of rejection from something that once was so comforting in its obscurity. It is certainly possible that some people feel as though they were there from the get-go, and now have been left behind for success. There is definitely camaraderie in being unknown, and that holds people together.
One only has to look at national politics to see that people support underdogs there as well. How else can we explain thousands of supporters for presidential candidates like Mitt Romney or Dennis Kucinich? Romney, a former one-term governor of Massachusetts, is far behind other Republicans in national polls. He is not even regarded as a contender, yet he has been able to raise thousands of dollars from people who support him. Kucinich is in a similar position, although he hasn’t raised nearly the amount of money that Romney has. People support these two candidates for a variety of reasons, but supporting a possible winner isn’t one of them. Both men, whether it is Romney’s Mormonism or whatever it is that people support Kucinich for, have adamant supporters partially because they are on the fringe of the political spectrum.
This is not to say that people only support certain things because of their fringe status, but it is certainly a reason they stay so committed to a cause. There is something in everyone that wants to belong, which drives some people to follow what the general population is following. If everyone were only drawn to what is outside the mainstream, then we obviously wouldn’t have a majority following anything.
In popular entertainment, there has always been a very vocal group of people who show feverish support for what they may perceive is more intellectual than what is generally offered. Look at the popularity and fan base of The X-Files, Twin Peaks and Arrested Development, for example. Although these were not the most watched shows on television, the fans made them become cultural phenomena. Many fans would complain that they were the only “smart” shows on television, and many critics agreed. Nonetheless, they were still underdog shows. This was certainly a huge part of their appeal. The “selling out” complaint that people have against musicians also happens with fringe shows. When they become popular, and the masses accept them, a certain part of the original fan base abandons them.
There will always be underdogs, and there will always be people who will support them. We will always have teams that continue to dependably lose year after year, and bands that continue to make music that will never be top 40 but will always have a mysteriously large fan club. There will never be a shortage of people who get comfort from standing behind others who are out of the mainstream.