Monday, November 16, 2009

Underdog Culture

From a classic Joe Queenan article:

I like movies about underdogs as much as the next guy. This may be because my father was an underdog, as were two of my uncles, my cousin Francis, and a childhood friend who got hit by a bus. As a child I was infatuated by films like Shane (underdog farmers versus unscrupulous cattle ranchers), Gone With The Wind (dapper, underdog slavers fight the forces of virtue), On The Waterfront (underdog dock workers fight slimy gangsters) The Magnificent Seven (underdog campesinos hire underdog gunfighters to fight overdog banditos) and Spartacus (underdog slaves foolishly pick a fight with the entire Roman Empire). Later, I moved on to such classic David-and-Goliath set-tos as Chinatown (underdog private eye combats a villainous real estate developer), Shampoo (underdog hairdresser battles unruly bangs), Flashdance (steel-welding underdog seeks job as a ballerina) and Broadway Danny Rose (underdog talent agent fights to get meaningful work for underdog clients who, because they make elephants and poodles out of balloons, are no longer in great demand). Over the years, I also marvelled at the exploits of my favourite movie stars in such films as The Men (wheelchair-bound underdog fights for respect), All The King's Men (underdog northern Louisiana cracker becomes the second most powerful man in the United States by going to the wall for other underdog northern Louisiana crackers) and All The President's Men (massively outgunned underdog reporters with fabulous hair take on Richard Nixon and the rest of his close-cropped henchmen). I also devoured such classics as The Seventh Seal (underdog humans fight the Grim Reaper), Lawrence Of Arabia (underdog Arabs fight nasty Turks for freedom), and The Bridge On The River Kwai (underdog stiff-upper-lip POWs make life miserable for their cruel, neurotic Japanese captors.) So it's not like I don't enjoy movies about underdogs.

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