Random thoughts on our impending doom and everyday life, courtesy of a Romance Writer who occasionally feels the need to talk like a Sailor.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Alpha vs Beta Battle Royale...

Alpha: Oh yeah, you should totes come pat me.
Us here in Romancelandia have a thing for Alpha Heroes. And it’s a big thing. You might even call it a THING... if you wanted to be painful. Now, the differences between an Alpha and a Beta character can seem obvious and yet elusive all at once sometimes. The Alpha is blunt and bluff while the Beta stays caring and sharing. The Alpha stomps while the Beta soothes. The Alpha confronts problems with a singular sort of focus while the Beta mops up the mess and diffuses tense situations with a splash of humour. The Alpha protects what’s his while the Beta puts the needs of others before his own. The Alpha leads while the Beta is content to follow. Or is he?

Beta that believes she can fly.
How about Professor X of X-Men fame? He was the undisputed leader of the mutant goodies, and yet he was a sensitive, kindly, good for a chat and a cup of tea kind of fellow. Professor X was the shoulder to cry on come good times or bad. And Rhett Butler was some kind of fool for Scarlett O’Hara but would you call him a Beta? Not a chance. The man led with strength and always landed on his feet. No way did he pull his punches. But when Scarlett had bad dreams, Rhett was there to wipe away the tears and renovate Tara to cheer her up. What a man! Maybe being a sucker for the woman of your dreams is a trait best removed from the debate.

Sleepy, fluffy Beta.
It seems the one thing we can all agree on is that the Beta is always the ‘good-guy’ of the piece. He is the best friend who is always there when you need him but never quite exciting enough to warrant heart palpitations and over excited phone calls to your girlfriends at two in the morning. Or is he? Rory waited 2,000 years for Amy on Doctor Who. Try and tell me that sort of steadfastness doesn’t make you swoon just a little. Neo donned a lot of leather and downloaded martial arts for dummies into his geeky little mind and voila! But he’s still rocking the Beta personality till part way through film two. Neo still defers to Morpheus and follows Trinity around like a lap dog despite the dramatic rise in power. Characters can transition. Betas hold definite appeal to women who don’t mind a fixer upper (I never said that). Maybe those that don’t want to share the limelight, also.

In Avatar the blue chick led while Sam Worthington’s marine followed, until he felt compelled to do otherwise. Betas make great reluctant heroes­­­­—it gives them the opportunity to transition into more of an Alpha personality. But they always end up at the sunset showdown opposite the evil gunslinger because they felt they had no choice. When Rambo was tossed out of town he promptly turned around and walked back in. He chose confrontation. In all likelihood he felt terribly misunderstood for much of the movie, but he chose to make it an issue. John McClane of Die Hard fame is the hard done by Police Detective out to visit his estranged wife and see his kids for the Christmas Holidays. When confronted with a troop of terrorists out to do harm he does his utmost to defeat them. He’s charismatic and people will follow him, but he doesn’t want the hassle of being a leader if it at all can be avoided. It’s simply not his scene. His anti-social instincts prevent him from a possible full Alpha promotion. He would try to diffuse the situation with a quip or two before resorting to guns IF possible. If not? Oh well. Yippee-ki-yay mother f*cker!
Cat is above such stupidity.

Maybe it’s best to see it as degrees of Alpha & Beta elements within the one personality. What do you think?

Doctor Who
Rory Pond
Han Solo
Luke Skywalker
Rhett Butler
Ashley Wilkes
Rick Blaine
Victor Laszlo
Gale Hawthorne
Peeta Mellark
Morpheus (3rd movie excluded, groan)
Malcolm Reynolds
Hoban Washburne
Professor X
James T Kirk
Spock (and Bones)
Khal Drogo
Eddard Stark
Tony Stark/Iron Man
Steve Rogers/Captain America
Strider (see what I did there?)
Hans Gruber
John McClane

Now, just out of interest, let’s start a list for the girls too...
Catelyn Stark
Princess Leia
The Ewok Nation

Come on then. What other female characters can you think of that fit nicely into our Alpha/Beta chart? Disagree with one of my calls?


  1. I like people, not just men, who stand up for what they care about and are brave when times call for it. But braggadacio and posturing and swagger leave me cold. A lot of so-called alphas in fiction just give me the shits. There's a not-so-fine line between being driven and being a dickhead. I want fictional heroes that I wouldn't want to kill in real life.

    1. Yes, I think you're spot on. A lot of Alpha's don't quite hit the mark, they go over board with the 'Me is Man' bullshit. Balance is ever important. You've got to want to take the hero home for the next fifty years or so. Thanks, Ms Im!

    2. A lot of so-called alphas... I like the way you've put that Imelda, because I think a lot of writers totally miss the point or go overboard with the alpha personality. He doesn't always have to be a douche. I think the character of the alpha has been stereotyped a little too much. For me to be an alpha is to be a leader. To be beta is the backup, the loyal right-hand man, the kind who can step up if he needs to but who's first instinct isn't to lead. I'll be honest - I see Wolverine as an alpha, but I also kind of see Prof X as alpha too, in a completely different way. I agree with the rest of your list however. (:

    3. Thanks for commenting, Bec. You know, I just can't make up my mind about Professor X. He's a very interesting case because as a leader he is supremely capable.

      And yes again to the over-acting-Alpha syndrome. Not good. It's good to get everyone's take on what they see an Alpha or Beta as being.

  2. Fantastic post, Kylie, loved reading about it (and the cat caption is SPOT ON!!! LOL).

    Hmm, alpha/beta female characters, let me think for a bit on that one.

    ALPHA'S - Aeon Flux, Catwoman, Starbuck (female version), Aeryn (Farscape), Max (Dark Angel), Elektra, Guinevere (Clive Owen version of King Arthur), Erin Brockovich, Katniss (The Hunger Games), Sarah Connor (Terminator), Xena & Gabrielle (in later seasons), Lara Croft, Eowyn from LOTR series.

    Beta - Selina (Catwoman's alter ego in the beginning), Zahn (Farscape), Baby (Dirty Dancing), Hermione Granger, Gabrielle (from Xena, earlier seasons), Deanna Troi (Star Trek), Rose DeWitt (Titantic), Arwyn (LOTR).

    1. Cool, Kylie. Was hoping you'd comment. Knew you'd have lots of idea's. Sarah Connor is another perfect reluctant hero who morphed from Beta to Alpha. Hermoione Granger is an interesting one. Very bossy but not necessarily Alpha. Eowyn and Arwyn! I'm embarassed to have missed those.

      Well done! Thanks, Kylie.

    2. I love watching/reading about beta's who morph to alpha's (Bec's definition). It's the growth and journey that intrigues me. Chest beating-must be top dog all the time alpha's just don't appeal to me.