The Power of the Sob Story

Is it just me, or does it seem that on reality talent competitions, contestants with a sob story are favoured much more by the judges and general public than those without?

By “sob story”, I mean that often before their audition is showcased, there is a lengthy and often tear-filled explanation of the hurdles they overcame to reach that audition – death of a loved one, a disability, or financial problems are some examples.

I don’t have anything against people who audition and share their stories; I think it’s great that they overcame, or are in the process of overcoming, the hardships they faced, and it’s also great that they have a chance to inspire other people who may be going through similar problems.

But sometimes, it seems that in order to be successful, you have to have a past struggle that you moved on from. Many people think that if you haven’t overcome something, if you’ve been hardworking and determined and fortunate throughout your life, you don’t deserve an opportunity for success, because you will find it anyways.

I think people who have dealt with hardships are more successful not just because of the pity others feel for them, but because it seems that they are more deserving of the rewards of success. Whatever feat they achieved does show that they are talented and deserving, but I don’t think it should make them any less deserving than people who haven’t had difficult pasts.

If there were two contestants auditioning for a singing competition, of equal talent, and one of them had overcome poverty and adversity through their love of music, while the other had just loved music and had a passion for it, who would be more successful on the show?

I would be willing to bet that the contestant who had overcome their hardships would, because, although if they were of equal talent, their backstories shouldn’t have factored in, they would appear to be more talented, due to the fact that they overcame something.

This can be seen in many other scenarios than just reality tv; the business world, education system, and celebrities. For example – J.K. Rowling, author of the hugely popular Harry Potter series, was initially marketed as a struggling single mother who overcame her struggles to write a book. It seems that people who have struggled are more marketable – and a lot of people tend to cheer for the underdog, so they willingly accept any story.

It’s the difference between people who have consistently performed well, versus people who were doing badly and increased their performance greatly. The person who has turned his or her life around seems smarter, and more talented, because they have gone through, and overcome more – nevermind the fact that perhaps the consistent person is equally smart and worthy,  they just haven’t gone through a struggle to prove it.

As I mentioned earlier, I think it’s great when people can share their stories of overcoming hardships, but in some instances, people seem to define themselves by their pasts, and allow others to do the same. And in an instance such as a talent competition, where you are trying to do well now in order to succeed in the future, dwelling on the past doesn’t seem so wise. Just me?

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2 thoughts on “The Power of the Sob Story

    1. I agree – and while I do think it’s really nice for people to share their stories and have an audience, in some cases it’s a shame with people care more about the drama instead of the talent.

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