Thursday, June 07, 2007

The alpha male revealed! (paca)

Those of you who know me from romance-related discussions know that I periodically go off about the unfathomable mystery of why women like "alpha males" in romance novels. Now, I'm not going to try to define the definitive uhhh definition of the definite alpha male. Definitely not.

... verb, check. adjective, check. noun, adjective again, adverb, check. preposition, not possible. Interjection? Definitely!

sorry, I got lost in my own little part of speech game. Where was I? Oh, alpha males. Well, a classic romance hero is a duke, CEO, sheik, pirate captain, vampire lord. He's covered in muscles and he takes charge of anything and everything. None of those items are necessarily bad. But he's almost always arrogant as well. Often it's supposed to be "confident" but it's usually arrogant in reality.

I hate those guys, in real life and in fiction. I sorta went off on this when I discussed the erotic romance I read. (I've now read two, 'cause I read one of December's as well.) What's the charm in arrogance?

A lot of reasons have come up to explain the appeal. Here are a couple discussions:
One at Romancing the Blog
One at Teach Me Tonight

I've had my own pet theories, one or two of which you will find buried in the comments to the linked posts. But I now have a better and more basic insight than my former folk psychology.

When I normally write fiction, the heroes and heroines are typically ideal versions of what I find most attractive. I like to have characters who are in fact amazing, brilliant, beautiful, and strong, but those qualities are often not immediately seen by the world at large, and even more often they are not seen by the person themselves. They aren't weak or lack self-esteem. They just don't realize quite how smart or wonderful they are. I love genuine humility paired with genuine achievement. This fantasy of hidden wonders even extends to my ideas of a dream home. I often imagine a little house next to a hill, which looks like a normal small 2 or 3 bedroom simple home. However, the house in reality extends into the hill, underground, wherever, and includes swimming pools, 4 story libraries, helicopter pads, etc. In other words, I like to dream of the same silly gigantic things that others do, but I like the idea of no one knowing about it. I hate "flaunt". You can place whatever psychological interpretation you want on this, but notice this is almost always the opposite of the alpha hero, who is a leader of men and knows it (and sometimes is conflicted about it, but he knows he is worthy of it (ok, i'm simplifying but I have to get to my point eventually)).

So that's my normal hero / heroine. For the fun of it, I've started a new story where the dialog is inspired by Raymond Chandler type novels, a la The Maltese Falcon, just because it's funny to write that stuff. And my typical heroine doesn't talk like that, so I've ended up creating an alpha heroine as the protagonist. She thinks highly of herself - her attractiveness, her brain, everything pretty much. She busts into a room and takes charge and knows she should. Oh, she's not mean. But she certainly is arrogant. And, I've discovered that this time I don't mind.

Shouldn't I?

Apparently, it's as simple as being someone who's attracted to women, and not men. Since in my head, this heroine is wonderfully sexy, I can consciously stick in character flaws like arrogance and they don't bother me at all. It's kind of fun. It's fun to write someone who struts around and takes what she wants and expects others to fall for her with barely a nod. These are traits I would never accept from an alpha male. After all, there, I'm not attracted to him, so I have to like the guy for being a great guy on other merits.

So that's my insight. Alpha males populate romance fiction because straight women find men attractive and don't experience the heroes the same way a straight guy does. Genius, I know.


bunnygirl said...

Hi, Paca!

The topic of the alpha male came up recently on another blog I read:

It's definitely a genre thing. I don't find traditional alphas attractive either in fiction or IRL, but I can understand the appeal.

In my Bella Diana novel, Will Channing is a sort of alpha-in-training. That's why he doesn't get the girl. I like to create women who are strong enough in their own right to not find always-right alphas very appealing.

Besides, my Diana is surrounded by alpha types and can beat them at their own game. The man who rocks her world can make big things happen without having to be an arrogant, gun-toting bully. She finds intellectuals fascinating. :-)

pacatrue said...

Thanks for the link, bunny. Welcome back and sorry I was soo late on the thing...

I like men and women who are incredibly competent. Being strong, handsome, and brilliant are all OK by me. I just also like humility and subtlety. But, again as you say, I get the appeal.

December/Stacia said...

Rofl, Paca! You've solved a mystery!

December/Stacia said...

Oh, btw, don't think I didn't notice that while you mentioned having read my book, you didn't say anything lovely and complimentary about it. *pout*

pacatrue said...

While the old Paca would fall for your pout, December, and worry that I've offended you and apologize, the new Paca is a bit of the alpha now. So instead of an explanation, I will smile at the corner of my mouth, twist my neck so that it cracks, and then flex a muscle or two. Then the alpha would say something like, "Well, I cannot give compliments to every pretty little novel that lands on my desk."

Ooh, aren't I so alpha?

I think I'm gonna go, I don't know, wrestle an alligator or something. Wait, no, I already did that this morning. Ah well. I guess it's back to astronaut training - and I ain't no whimpy scientist on board; I'm the freaking pilot, dammit. Scientist pilot would be OK. Scientist pilot captain. Yeah, that's me.

Beta Paca pokes his head up. "But I really did like your novel. Sorry! Squeak!"

December/Stacia said...

Lol! I love the neck-cracking especially.

Did I tell you about the time I pissed off an alligator wrestler? I asked him if the alligators--who hadn't moved, really, during his entire demonstration--got used to him.
I only meant that since he fed them, were they capable of making that connection, or maybe was it more dangerous for him because they knew he was going to grab their noses, but he got really offended.

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