Everyone loves an underdog.
Coming up through the ranks and achieving the impossible is going to be a staple of books, movies, and television shows for decades to come. Why? Well, there are a lot of reasons. A lot of us average Joe’s think we are just that, average. So seeing someone “dig deep” to reach the peak of Challenge Mountain is equally satisfying for the character and the audience. But what about, comebacks?
You know, the promising main character is already written up as one of the best of what they do, then BAM! is sent rocketing back to earth with a giant slice of humble pie (or cake, I don’t discriminate). They now have to scratch and claw their way back up to the top (or at least to their previous level). Why is this interesting? Well, for one, it happens in fiction as well as real life. Take this guy for example:
Robert Downey Jr., shown here playing my favorite billionaire superhero Tony Stark/Iron Man was considered “un-insurable” in Hollywood in the ’90s when battling his personal demons. For those of you that don’t know, movie studios will not hire actors (who are essentially contract workers) who cannot be insured by bonding agencies. In short, if the film cannot be completed for any reason, the “completion bond” kicks in, defaults the film, and is designed to give the investors most (if not all) of their money back. Bad news? There’s no FILM for one, and people in Hollywood don’t make films and seek investors to break even. Long story short, “RDJ” had to claw his way back into fold by doing smaller independent roles to prove to investors that we was stable enough to insure. This all worked out in the end, because I for one love his new “cocky, funny” persona. Movies like “Iron Man”, “Due Date” and “Sherlock Holmes” really rested on Downey’s charisma.
As opposed to “US Marshals”. Allow me to blog about that film one day.
Anyway, this isn’t a Hollywood Gossip Blog (although I swear there isn’t one on the Internet these days) I am just illustrating a point. Comeback kids also happen in fiction, and what better example to use than the “Italian Stallion” himself, Rocky Balboa? The original Rocky is still the best, but I have a soft spot for Rocky Balboa (aka Rocky VI). Stupid naming convention aside (Why couldn’t they just call it Rocky VI?), the story was really about a past his prime Rocky trying to prove himself after years outside of the ring because a computer simulation said he could beat another boxer who was in his own prime at the time.
What could have been a disaster if they presented Rocky as a total threat, actually became a touching story about redemption because Rocky is seen as washed up and frankly, old. For him to even get into fighting shape at he (and Stallone’s) age was remarkable. I mean look at this!:
I’m kinda/sorta/lotta jealous right there.
There is something always appealing about the comeback kid. It’s an archetype you can really play around with. Too often we play the “couldda, wouldda, shouldda” game in our lives. In fiction when writing our characters, we can give them an opportunity to actually have another shot at redemption, instead of playing that terrible game.