Susan Boyle, a dowdy-looking Scottish singer, impressed not only the judges but millions of YouTube viewers. You watch, feeling somewhat sorry for this 47-year-old who admitted to never being kissed, and cringe for the poor woman who's about to embarrass herself in front of millions. Eyes roll, snickers snake through the crowd and then this Blackburn native opens her mouth. It's a magical sound -- "I Dreamed a Dream" from the musical Les Miserables -- and stirs inspiration. And suddenly the mocking transforms into rooting for the underdog, the realization that one is witnessing a true Cinderella story. So why the strong reaction to such a thing? We've heard amazing singers before, but this gut-wrenching reaction is different. She's the David among the Goliaths, she's the epitome of a wonderful comeback story.
This effect, coined as the underdog effect, is defined as people's inclination to support someone who is attempting to accomplish something so difficult that they're not expected to succeed against their advantaged opponent. We can all relate to this effect, no matter what our culture or background. Why? Because we've all felt small and powerless sometime in our lives.
Some studies do claim that this effect is only superficial, but think about it -- it's truly ingrained into our culture. Many of the popular movies and stories have this as a common thread. You only need to read a fairytale with your child. Most of the poor princesses are missing something. They're lacking in some way, whether it's a mother, a pair of legs, or stairs to get down from a tall tower. All these stories initiate a universal emotion of struggle and then overcoming.
As we grow, considering the impossible is pushed to the back of our practical lives. Yes, we need to set goals, be aware of reality, but dreaming adds dimension to our lives; a child-like energy and joie de vivre that we sometimes lack as adults. This is what Susan Boyle exemplified, and what opened the hearts of many of us. The impossibilities of today might be the norm for us in the future. So let's keep on dreaming and rooting for those Cinderellas along the way.