Thoughts on writing, grammar, the moon, and friends--whatever comes up.
Friday, August 12, 2011
Personalities--alpha, beta, or gamma?
Bruce Willis, Tears of the Sun
As we all know, a SEAL team took out Osama bin Laden. I believe it was also a SEAL team that shot the Somali pirates, the ones who took the ship captain prisoner. SEALs seem to be the supermen of our day—no wonder they’re featured in so many romantic suspense novels. I wonder what sort of personalities they have in real life. In books they’re always alpha males, tough and hard but with a tender side the heroine uncovers.
Attila and his Hordes Overrun Italy and the Arts (Detail) Eugène Delacroix
So I googled alpha males. Try it. You’ll be surprised at all the advice on how men can transform themselves from betas (another name for lily-livered losers) into alphas and get all the hot women they want. (Alphas never chase women; women swarm to them.) Most of the advice struck me as how to turn wimps into jerks. There seems to be some confusion between being dominant and being strong and between confidence and arrogance (one site advises “never apologize”). From some of the descriptions and advice, I think they’re creating sociopaths. I kept thinking of a twist on Mae West’s words: Too much of a good thing isn’t necessarily wonderful.
The websites ignored the sensitive, caring side, seeing it as a weakness that needs to be wiped from the psyche. But there’s hope. According to a few sites, there’s another type, very rare: the gamma male. Having some of that tender side is what makes gamma males. Gammas seem to combine the strength of alphas with a little of the sweetness and sensitivity attributed to betas.
I think these advisers and men who want to change could learn a lot from reading a few good romance novels. The heroes of books are leaders because they’re smart, strong, and exciting but still good men. They lead through respect, not fear. “Bold” and “bad” are not synonymous. I don’t think women would find them so exciting if they weren’t decent guys with a sense of honor and responsibility, men who care about others. Those characteristics are as much a part of their attraction as the strong stuff. If that makes them gamma men, then let’s have more gamma men.
Real heroes, male or female, should be strong enough and confident enough that they don’t have to prove themselves. They can respect another’s knowledge or ability and work as a team, using everyone’s skills to the advantage of the team. It can be a woman’s skills as well as a man’s. If she’s the better marksman, let her pull the trigger. If she speaks fluent Urdu, let her do the talking. If he can calm the frightened child, let him be the one to hold it. That’s true confidence—when a person is comfortable in his or her own skin. That’s how I think of SEALs, and that’s how I hope to see heroes in books.
Some of the new super-tough, kick-ass heroines leave me cold too. Where are their redeeming qualities? There should be something to like, something to smile at.
What do you think about alpha personalities? What’s your definition? Do you have any good examples of alphas, betas, or gammas?