Day 21: Underestimated Underdogs

Welcome to Day 21 of the A to Z Challenge. For this year’s challenge, I’ll be examining different types of characters that can be found in international fiction. Today I’m looking at underestimated underdogs.

Underestimated underdogs live in worlds where they are seen as incapable. Though they may (or may not) believe in themselves, others are far from believing in them.

Underestimated underdogs tend to have people in their world that judge them and a drive to rise above criticism.


Underestimated underdogs tend to live in environments where everyone around them underestimates them. Katherine G. Johnson in Hidden Figures, for example, enters NASA and at first her work is considered a mere “dummy check.” Kay Graham in The Post is seen as merely holding a role and is expected to follow the words of her advisors. Jamal Malik in Slumdog Millionaire is seen as a poor boy from the slums whose success on a game show others assume has to be the result of cheating.

The Drive

The drive to overcome judgement is often connected to a characters held (or gained) belief in themselves. Katherine G. Johnson shows that she believes in her ability when a love interest questions if the work she is doing is fit for a woman. Kay Graham shows self-confidence when she stands up to her advisors when she is pressured to make a tough decision. Jamal Malik’s confidence stems not so much in a belief in himself, but a drive to do whatever it takes for the woman he loves.

Underestimated underdogs are versatile characters that can be found in every genre. Other examples of underestimated underdogs are Thelma and Louise in (wait for it) Thelma and Louise, Dorothy Vaughan in Hidden Figures, Frodo in Lord of the Rings, Veronica, Linda and Alice in Widows, Pat and Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook, and Miles Morales in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Can you think of other underestimated underdogs?

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