Today, we’re going to discuss an elusive, mysterious creature who makes its habitat in corporations, pirate ships, Regency London, and the Wild West.
I am, of course, talking about the Alpha Male™. Chances are, you’ve encountered at least one in your reading adventures.
Alpha males are confident, suave, sexy, rich, and cocky. They lead; They don’t follow. Women want to bang them; men want to be them. They dominate whatever social situation they’re in. They’re the life of the party. They pop up in romance novels quite a bit.
They also bore the hell out of me. If I see one more billionaire playboy who sleeps around and parties instead of running his damn company, I will…stop surfing mindlessly through the Amazon Kindle section. (How’s that for an empty threat?)
Obviously, any character archetype can be written well–see Captain Kirk above. What makes Kirk a good character is that plot-generated obstacles constantly challenge him. The problem is that most alphas these days have nothing to do except smirk at their heroines and drive around in fancy cars. Clearly, they need more spaceships and new civilizations to explore. Until they do get a life beyond stalking girls and pretending to run their companies, I will stick to my snarky betas and Byronic antiheroes.
That brings up my next point. By definition, an alpha is a leader. He doesn’t have to be all friendly with everyone, but he should be part of a group and be in charge of it at least socially. No matter how “bad” he is, he’s not alpha if he’s all alone in his Gothic mansion/skyscraper/alien planet/creepy small town/BDSM playroom. He’s probably Byronic, which is a fancy word for alienated and broody. But not alpha. In my personal, highly arbitrary definition, alphas are in society, not cast out. They are not loners.
Edward keeps staring at me like an angry kitty threatening to scratch the car, and I lost my train of thought. I guess that’s his revenge for me exiling him to the kinky drama queen club (can you tell I’m writing late at night?). Anyway, everyone has different concepts of what it means to be alpha. Some readers put Edward Cullen in this category, even though he lost what few alpha points he had accumulated during the series when he asked Jacob to sleep with Bella. (Yes, that happened.) In my personal, probably faulty, opinion, the hero only achieves alpha status when other people want to emulate him. He can turn the crowd against or for a person with one devastating comeback, which is a trait I’m actually fond of, but all too often this translates into verbal humiliation of the heroine. This is where the alpha nearly always fails for me.
However, there are exceptions to my distaste, and those exceptions have stuck with me. In order to foster the creation of more exceptions, I have compiled five things alphas can do to avoid douchiness. I like lists.
1. Stop chasing after girls and do your damn job. I don’t care if it’s running a giant corporation or dealing drugs, just DO IT.
2. Be nice to your heroine. This is very important. If you have to be mean, please have believable and complex motivations.
3. Be nice to the guys in your life. Treat your betas with respect. He does half the work by providing the shoulder your heroine cries on while you beat people up and belittle her.
4. Stop turning every interaction into a powerplay. Sometimes your girlfriend really does have platonic male friends who pose no “threat.”
5. Finally, the best leaders respect and value their subordinates. If you push everyone down to get to the top, they will turn on you at first opportunity (in real life, anyway). Good leaders stay leaders. Where would Kirk be without Spock?
In other words, if you are a Kirk and not a Christian Grey, I will probably like you.