Alpha vs. Beta: The Great Man Debate

During my morning blog roll read through yesterday, I came across a comment about arrogant heroes in fiction.

The comment caused me to do a little research via Google and I was surprised by what I found.

1) Many female readers/writers say they dislike arrogance in the hero. This shocked me because of the enormously devoted readership of the Romance genre and the fact that Alpha’s rule there. A little cockiness adds sex appeal. Doesn’t it? It does for me, anyway. 😉

2) There are tons of articles teaching men how to be Alpha and how to avoid being Beta at all costs.

3) I found that there has been an upswing in Beta Male adoration in fiction.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, here are my definitions of both:

Alpha Male
Mr. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice
Jericho Barrons from Fever Series
Logan/Wolverine from X-Men
Beast from Beauty and the Beast (Hey..when he turns into the prince he’s hot).

You get it. Characteristics usually contain some blend of arrogance, strength, attitude, aggressiveness, leadership, territorial, fearlessness, desire to win, and fierce loyalties just to name a few. Think PURE TESTOSTERONE. Now….

Betas
 Steve Carrell in anything
Duckie…Pretty In Pink
Michael Cera in anything
Okay…I had a hard time with the Beta’s. Apparently none of the books I read contain Beta’s or else I have completely looked them over, because I could think of none. Even Google wouldn’t surrender any advice for fictional Betas. But Beta’s are typically the guys you just want to be friends with. Think sidekick. Think passive. Think peacemaker. They are usually kind and sensitive. 
For me, the Alpha male wins, but I do think there can be hybrids. Writers can always blend characteristics as heroes don’t have to be totally alpha or totally beta.
An alpha can be a complete jerk, but given the right redeeming qualities and a weakness for the heroine, he becomes irresistible.
A beta can be a complete turn-off. But, make him kind yet strong, sensitive yet confident, and attentive yet protective, and you’ve made him wonderful. 
So…though I love an intriguing, rough Alpha, I could swing for a hybrid.
What do you think? Alpha or Beta? Can you think of any famous Beta’s in fiction? 

And check out this photo. You can automatically determine the Alpha and the Beta. Notice how the women respond…..


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16 Comments

  1. I think at different times I'm in the mood for different kinds of heroes. Sometimes I really want to read about the alpha guy and sometimes it's comforting to read a love story about the beta guy!

    Didn't know about gamma, but that sound pretty appealing!

  2. Gamma sounds good to me. I like Beta (kind of adored Steve Carell's character in Dan in Real Life) but, um, Wolverine? Yes, please.

    Exactly what Kait said – I like the dominance, the "manly" quality of the alpha. But who doesn't want someone caring to?

    I don't claim to know who falls into which category, but I imagine some of the characters Cary Grant used to play. Manly, but not distant, and with a sense of humor.

  3. Gamma ftw. Though, I think Xander in Buffy is a beta. As is Steve in Sex and the City. Both of them are appealing. Beta doesn't necessarily mean weak.

  4. I'll take an Alpha to play with, a Gamma for an actual relationship, and a Beta to live next door to. He can catsit when I go on vacation.

  5. Alphas are nice to look at, but usually aren't husband material. I think that's why I like alphas in books. In the pretend world, all their faults don't cause me any problems;) IRL, I don't need that much drama.

  6. @Michele Shaw I agree Michele. They are very fun to read about. If we met some of those characters in the real world we would run. Fast. ;)But on the page they make things intense and interesting, huh? I'm lucky to live with a hybrid. 🙂

  7. First visit to your blog Charissa and this post is a lot of fun! Are there alphas in a brooding intensely passionate artist kind of way, who once you get to know them, have an inner beta streak? I want one of those. (In books, in books I mean… I'm married already.)

  8. Fun blog 🙂 I can't help but think of Don Draper. I am definitely an alpha male girl, so much so that not one beta male character comes to mind.

  9. Yes, ladies always prefer bad guys to the good ones 🙂 It's quite sad when you come to think about it deeper.
    I like writers who wouldn't use these alpha or beta models and would simply be creative and inventive and make a new kind of character, somebody who would make people want to become better instead of constantly falling for bad guys and feeling sorry for the good ones.

  10. @DEZMOND Good point Dezmond. I'm not sure writers use these as models, but I do think male characters typically end up fitting into one of these categories and sometimes they are a good blend of both. The thing about the bad guy is that he usually contrasts the heroine and that makes for an exciting, tension filled read. It's hard to dedicate yourself to 500 pages of sacharrine romance without a little edge to it. Thanks for stopping by!!