While looking over reviews of a book I had recently finished, I noticed some of the positive reviews gushing about how they loved alpha males and this particular book had a great alpha male.
No, I thought, my face screwing up in extreme puzzlement, it doesn’t. In fact, the guy is a wimp, a pseudo-alpha.
That was when I realized my definition is different from what others may have. So, for future reference, here is what I believe, so far anyway, constitutes an alpha male:
* Confidence. Nothing ever completely ruffles an alpha. They have a plan and a back-up for that plan and a back-up for the back-up and even if all that falls apart, they know they have the skills necessary to wing it and still come out on top. Or at least alive enough to plan their revenge.
* Appreciation. True alphas appreciate intelligent women who can, if things get dicey, save themselves. Idiots only get by if they’re good at flattery, and they don’t last long.
* Self-control. Alphas feel and often feel deeply. They may even get a bit dramatic at times. However, their actions/plans are not governed by their emotions. If the best course of action involves putting aside their feelings for the sake of a greater good (or evil) that’s what an alpha will do. An alpha who goes through something traumatic has some leeway in this, but too much time spent in the throes of emotion can send him on the path to Betaville.
* Control over others. There’s numerous ways to lead, but no matter which way an alpha uses, he is the leader of his group.
Dragos in Dragon Bound is a good, traditional example of this. His men respect him and obey him almost without question. He’s proven he can make their lives better if they follow him. They also know he could kill them, even the strongest of them, in a matter of minutes if they crossed him, but because he treats them with respect as well, fear is less of a factor in their obedience than sincere admiration for his skills and leadership abilities.
Tamaki Suoh from Ouran High School Host Club is an alpha from the other side of the spectrum. If you’ve read the series, I know you’re laughing at the thought because he tends to go overboard emotionally, but I really do mean this. Tamaki is an alpha with occasional self-control issues. Kyoya (his second) is also an alpha (of the more traditional kind) but, as shown in more than one place in the manga, Tamaki is the one ultimately in charge because he knows people. And because he knows them and uses that knowledge in a way that gives others a reason to follow him, the other members of the Host Club go along with all sorts of crazy schemes. Even Kyoya is bested by Tamaki the Fool at one point and in a way that wins Tamaki his admiration for the rest of their lives.
Here’s what an alpha is NOT:
* A guy who gives an order no one will obey, including the woman who claims to trust his judgment. Romance novels love to do this to the hero and it transforms a decent alpha into a cringe-worthy beta every time. (If you’re reading a story and the “alpha” keeps yelling something along the lines of “This time you’ll do as I say,” or whining about how independent the heroine is, you’re not reading about an alpha.) Even worse is when he gives an order and the heroine circumvents it because “it’s silly”. When things go bad, she looks stupid and the reader (me) begins wondering why he doesn’t go find another chick to be with.
* A guy who does nothing. Only betas sit and wait for someone to tell them what to do. In line with that…
* A guy who lets others tell him what to do. Some stories try to show the guy is “sensitive” by making the heroine take over the guy’s life and either command or manipulate him into doing what they feel is best. I’ve seen this work, but it takes a writer who knows what they’re doing with characters who make it believable, and I haven’t seen a situation yet where the heroine controlled more than routine things in the alpha’s life. When it comes to things that are clearly in his field of experience, she should recognize that and let him shine. Interfering makes her look stupid and him weak.
* A stupid guy. Alphas are smart. Wicked smart. The kind of smart that makes you gasp in wonder when you see their intelligence in action.
* A guy who acts like a selfish jerk (i.e. only cares about himself and/or is oblivious to the needs of those around him). Alphas understand that true power, the kind that gives you fanatical followers who would trade their life for yours, is given, never forced. Alphas may be arrogant, but they realize that arrogance has limits when it comes to holding on to an empire.
This is why I love alphas. The best part of it is, every guy can take on these traits if they want. And women should encourage it, not knock it down because of our own insecurities.
[gets down off soapbox]
What’s your definition of an alpha male?