The Portrayal of “Underdog-Dreamers” in Popular Culture Media

A dreamer is an individual who dreams. As an authentic definition, it is defined as a person who lives in a world of fantasy whose ideas are visionary.  Dreamers have a creative mind where they vision and fantasize about their life similarly to their imagination. An underdog is a person who has little money, power, and low chance of winning. The media frequently portrays characters who achieve their dreams as underdogs in the beginning. I will emphasize specifically on dreamers who start out as underdogs in this blog post. For my definition of an “underdog-dreamer”, it is somebody who has dreams which they desire to accomplish by believing in themselves, working hard, and refusing to quit. There is no universal dream. A dream can be anything, it does not have to imply to wealth or a successful career. A dream can be to have a joyful life, a loving family, an enjoyable career, fulfill your bucket list, or simply be true to who you are.

I believe which having dreams can relate to everybody. Every individual at least has one desired dream which they want to fulfill. As I mentioned above, a dream can utterly be anything from small desires to big desires. I have always been a person who have many dreams which I want to accomplish. My desires for acquiring my dreams continuously intensify because of the effects of popular media (movies, news articles, ads, and music). There are so many excellent movies and news articles which display a dreamer who starts out as an underdog. The media regularly portrays a dreamer in a very positive manner. For my blog post, I chose to analyze three different movies.

The popular media portrays “underdog-dreamers” as hardworking and determined individuals who overcome their personal obstacles to achieve their desired dreams at the end.

The Pursuit of Happyness

The Pursuit of Happyness is a 2006 American biographical drama movie directed by Gabriele Muccino. It is based on a real story of entrepreneur Chris Gardner’s nearly one-year struggle with being homeless. Gardner is an aspiring entrepreneur who invested all his savings in portable bone scanners which he had trouble selling. Financial hardship caused his wife to leave him with his 5 years old son Christopher Jr. One day, when Gardner was selling bone scanners downtown, he encountered Jay Twistle, a manager for a big company (Dean Witter Reynolds). He impressed Jay by solving a Rubik’s cube during a taxi ride. His new relationship with Jay earned him the chance to become an intern stockbroker. Gardner’s unpaid internship and empty bank account led to an eviction from his apartment. Therefore, Gardner and his son spent many nights sleeping in restrooms and a homeless shelter. At the end, Gardner received a full-time offer due to his performance at work. Gardner was overwhelmed with joy and happiness. The epilogue at the end revealed which Gardner forms his own multimillion-dollar brokerage firm years later (The Pursuit of Happyness, Sony).

The Pursuit of Happyness is an inspirational and compelling movie regarding an aspiring entrepreneur facing many obstacles before reaching success. The turning point of his life was when he impressed Jay Twistle by solving a Rubik’s cube. The act of solving a Rubik’s cube displayed intelligence. It foreshadowed which Gardner will have a bright future due to his skill and cleverness. Some other powerful details of the movie were when Gardner served in jail before his interview and when the landlord evicted him and his son out of his apartment with 22 dollars in his bank account. These scenes show the difficulties which Gardner went through. However, Gardner overcame everything to become a happy and successful man at the end. According to the article: “Climbing Out of the Gutter With a 5-Year-Old in Tow” Dargis, a movie critic, she thoroughly explained which this movie displayed there is no success without failure, and overcoming obstacles is the hardest stage of success (Dargis, 2006). The movie displayed an ultimate underdog in a typical way of telling a story of a man who overcame all obstacles to accomplish his dream of becoming successful. Gardner wanted to become successful so he and his son could have a happy and sufficient life. His obstacles included financial hardship, departure of his wife, homelessness, apartment eviction, jail, and an unpaid internship.

This quote perfectly summarizes the movie: Favorite quote: “You got a dream… You gotta protect it. People can’t do somethin’ themselves, they wanna tell you you can’t do it. If you want somethin’, go get it. Period”- Christopher Gardner (Pursuit of Happyness, IMDb).

La La Land
 La La Land is a 2016 musical drama written and directed by Damien Chazelle. The movie starred Ryan Gosling as Sebastian (a jazz pianist) and Emma Stone (an aspiring actress) who met and fell in love in Los Angeles. Sebastian is a passionate and struggling jazz pianist whose dream was to become a successful Jazz musician where he could spread Jazz to the masses. Mia moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of becoming an actress where she constantly failed every audition. The two characters are excellent examples of underdogs because they had no social status and nobody took them seriously. Sebastian drove an old car and lived in a small apartment where he could barely pay for the rent. His job consisted of him playing Jazz at restaurants making little money. Mia worked at a coffee shop where she shared an apartment with her friends.

La La Land is a beautiful and flawless movie which emphasizes on dream, passion, career, love, art, and music. I will mainly emphasize on the “dream” category. It told a story of two individuals who overcame barriers to accomplish their dream at the end. Mia’s obstacles included her six years of failed auditions, her failed show, financial hardship, and lack of social status. She was an underdog who thought she was not good enough to succeed. Sebastian’s obstacles consisted of him getting fired, being treated unkindly at workplace, and making very little money. In the movie, nobody appeared to care about him and his music. Whenever he played Jazz at restaurants, no customers even bothered to look at him. Despite all those obstacles, Mia and Sebastian overcame everything to acquire their dream at the end. At the end, Mia became a famous actress where she drove a luxurious car and lived in a beautiful house. Sebastian had his own Jazz club where customers enjoyed what he plays. His club appeared to be very busy and crowded. This beautiful and inspirational movie positively tells the audience which dreams are possible. It demonstrates which it is very challenging to acquire a dream. Many people quit and fail to accomplish it. However, your dream will come true if you are determined, hard-working, and refuse to quit. La La Land portrays dreamers in a positive manner where they start out as underdogs and succeed at the end.

Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump is a 1994 iconic American comedy-drama film based on the 1986 novel “Forrest Gump” by Winston Groom. The film was directed by Robert Zemeckis and starred Tom Hanks. Gump was a kind-hearted, positive, caring, and courageous man. Despite having diminished intellect, Gump still managed to accomplish many incredible achievements which majority of people cannot. He graduated college, enlisted in the army, met U.S Presidents, played sports, and started a three and half year journey. Forrest Gump is different than the other two movies because it depicted a story of a man with disabilities. Gump was an underdog who was bullied throughout childhood because of his disabilities. The movie demonstrated which Gump overcame the odds of having intellect disabilities to acquire many accomplishments. Despite having disadvantages, Gump turned out to be a very intelligent person who exceeded everything he did. He had the never-quit attitude where he had a very positive outlook on everything.

Forrest Gump is an excellent movie which illustrates a story of man with disabilities who overcomes his odds and acquire many accomplishments. The message of this movie is motivational because it tells the audience which everyone is capable of doing anything.

Another article I have which relates to this movie is “Boccia- “Follow Your Dream and You Can Do Anything” by Peter Rimmer. The article examines Boccia and its participants. Boccia is a competitive sport that tests muscle control, accuracy, immense skill, judgment, and concentration. Boccia is played by athletes with cerebral palsy and related conditions who use wheelchairs. The prominent athletes which are mentioned in this article are Stephen McGuire and David Smith. These two men excelled in this sport and won multiple medals for their performance (Rimmer, 2012). The article describes individuals with physical disabilities overcoming obstacles and accomplishing their dreams of competing in a competitive sport. Athletes have a reputation of being physically fit and strong. Society tends to look down on individuals with disabilities who desire to become an athlete. However, the article displays which disabled individuals who use wheelchairs can still become athletes and compete in a sport. The content of this article is compelling and inspirational. These courageous men and women achieved something which they did not even think they could. David Smith and Stephen McGuire both admitted which they are always overwhelmed before competing because there are so many fans attending to watch this sporting event. Despite having cerebral palsy, these two men have mastered a competition of skill, judgment, and tactics. These details depict which everyone can exceed their limits and achieve what they desire if they do not give up and continue to work hard.


 Reality can be cruel and it is not likely to imitate a movie. Almost everyone has dreams and goals. However, not anyone can succeed and accomplish their dreams. There are plenty of factors contributing to that problem such as financial hardship, technicalities, personal issues, family problems, etc. Many people dream too unrealistically and many do not even have a dream. It is extremely challenging to acquire a dream. However, I genuinely believe which passion, determination and hard work will lead you to further progress.

After analyzing my sources and doing research, I have developed multiple steps on how to accomplish a dream:

  • Establish a dream
  • Believe in yourself
  • Picture yourself succeeding in a positive way
  • Develop a plan
  • Work (dreams cannot come true orally)

These steps are good guidelines to follow. They do not guarantee which your dream will come true. However, I will try to implement these steps to hopefully achieve my dream one day.


Our popular media regularly portrays “underdog-dreamers” as hardworking and determined individuals who overcome all obstacles to achieve their desired dreams at the end. All three movies feature different characters and have a different plot. However, they all share multiple similarities. The similarities consist of all them starting out as underdogs and have a positive conclusion regarding their dreams. In Pursuit of Happyness, Gardner became a successful multi-millionaire. In La La Land, Mia became a famous actress and Sebastian became a prominent Jazz musician who had his own club. In Forrest Gump, Gump became a valuable and influential person for acquiring so many accomplishments. The media always demonstrates to the audience which hard work and determination will lead you to success. Although this is not always the case, but I like the fact that the media portrays dreamers in a positive manner. It is an effective way to convince and inspire “dreamers” around the world.

Learning Moments:

A learning moment from this was material from Week 1 where we discussed about information, technology, and society. The video “Filter Bubbles” by Eli Pariser from TED talk and the article “Why Students Can’t Google Their Way to the Truth” were very interesting. The “Filter Bubble” was described to be your own personal, unique universe of information that you live in online. I completely agree with this idea, and people always have a different browsing history. Individuals always search for different websites, ideas, and information. Your result is not going to match with others due to this filter bubble you live in. It is a good idea which individuals try to search beyond their filter bubble and look for new information. The second article demonstrated how many students simply use Google to answer all their questions. Many individuals are unable to perform a proper research using reliable resources. The article listed out three helpful tips to become better at doing research.

A second learning moment was from Week 6. In Week 6, we examined the issue of news and journalism. News media is a very powerful factor in today’s world, and it is important to distinguish between news and journalism. The article “News is Bad for You” by Dobelli was very intriguing and conflicting. He argued which news is bad and had some valid points to support his argument. I agree with many of his points which described the media is manipulative and news can cause fear, confusion, and aggression. I can apply these learning moments towards the media and my consumption in news.


Work Cited Page:

Rimmer, Peter. “Boccia- “Follow Your Dream And You Can Do Anything.” Palaestra 26.3 (2012): 31-33. Academic Search Premier. Web. 10 Feb. 2017.

Dargis, Manohla. “Climbing Out of the Gutter With a 5-Year-Old in Tow.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 14 Dec. 2006. Web. 17 Feb. 2017. <;.

“Forrest Gump | Paramount Pictures.” N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2017.

Agency, RED Interactive. “LA LA LAND.” Lionsgate. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2017.

“The Pursuit Of Happyness | Sony Pictures.” N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2017.

Muccino, Gabriele. The Pursuit of Happyness. N.p., 2006. Film.

Dobelli, Rolf. “News Is Bad for You – and Giving up Reading It Will Make You Happier.” The Guardian 12 Apr. 2013. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.

Pariser, Eli. Beware Online “Filter Bubbles.” N.p. Film.









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About Vu Tran

Hello, I'm Vu Tran. I'm currently a full time student at Portland State University. I'm a Business major in Finance & Management. My favorite hobbies are watching movies, listening to music, socializing, traveling, singing, and going to the gym.