Why Do We Never Root for The Empire?

We never root for the gigantic, all-powerful seemingly impossible, immortal force in stories. The heroes are typically a rag-tag team of misfits that manage to gather together despite their differences and complement each other’s attributes to save the day. Oftentimes, even in this grouping the oddball choice or seemingly weakest of the bunch ends up remembering vital information or was born with a last-minute plot device that saves the day (looking at you wizard that can disintegrate his archenemy just by touching him).

Why is this? Why are we constantly rooting for the underdog in Entertainment?


These are not the heroes you are looking for.

This isn’t how the vast majority of people pick their champions in the real world. People typically want to see the best athlete win or the techiest-tech company to come up with another solution to mundane problems. Disney is the entertainment powerhouse which people can’t help but love.

There are bandwagon fans whenever a team wins a championship and most man-on-the-street surveys (according to Official Science Magazine) would say their favorite actor is whoever is popular right now. When selecting our real-world heroes most (certainly not all) people gravitate towards groupings that are the impossible juggernaut in their industry – Jordan-era Bulls, Triple-crown winners, Chris Pratt, Muhammad Ali, Steve Jobs, America, and many more.

But not in Entertainment.

Instead of aligning our interests with The Empire we root for the Rebel Alliance. I think this is one reason why the Prequels failed to engage in captivating storytelling (amongst many others) because the heroes were the large galactic police that controlled the galaxy. Even when the hero is part of an elite-task force of warriors that are capable of intimidating society they are typically sequestered to their own mini-adventure away from their resources.

Ultimately I think there is the answer – resources. Most of us aren’t super-rich (just regular rich) and don’t have unlimited cannon fodder to throw at our problems. We look at these stories with a small grouping of heroes able to undertake a huge challenge and think that we would be able to do the same. We don’t necessarily won’t to overthrow our own government and corporations (seriously CIA bots…no interest in a revolution) but we do want to believe in the power of one. That from humble beginnings we can be more than we currently are.

One is a hero... More than that is a villainous army.

One is a hero…
More than that is a villainous army.

Neo is a programmer. Luke Skywalker is a farmer. Superman is an orphan. Mario is a plumber. Master Chief is a bad example. These aren’t the trappings of greatness, but instead relatable easy to grasp starting points for the story. Through the adventures they embark upon they learn more about their hidden potential, what makes them special and it is usually something underneath the surface that they felt but no one else could notice.

Its this metamorphosis from the mundane to the awesome that we hope to see in our own lives. We can’t root for The Empire because we already exist within it – it is paying taxes, working in a corporation, driving on the freeway, sitting in the theater. The Empire is vast and powerful because of its numbers and 99.999% of participants don’t stand out. Within the random assortment of grab-bag heroes that gather together, everyone has a job to do and is important. And that’s how we want to fell within our lives.

That’s just my random theory based upon millions of hours of television, movies and video games? What about you…why do you think fans gravitate towards the underdog and never root for the established dominant force?