Thursday, April 13, 2006

Alpha Males & Real Life

I recently had a fun discussion on an email group about the appeal of alpha males in fiction. We talked mostly about Mr. Darcy and Mr. Rochester, with a dash of Heathcliff thrown in. I am a huge fan of alpha males - I don't think I've ever written any other kind of hero. (As an aside, I've always found Heathcliff too cruel to see him as truly heroic).

But after having this discussion, it struck me that while alpha males are great in fiction - so much potential for explosive emotions and non-pc acts which drive the heroine nuts - they might not be so great in real life. Okay, maybe I can imagine living with Mr. Darcy *g* but he's an exception. What do you think? Would you want an alpha male in real life? (And if you have one, feel free to share what it's like!)

And since I love talking on this subject, who are your favorite alphas heroes in fiction? Why do you love them? If you're one of those rare people who doesn't like alphas, why?! I haven't had a male comment on this blog for a while but I know some of you are lurking - what's your take on alpha heroes?


JLB said...

Greetings! I found you through your comment at the PBW blog.

I’m not certain that alpha males are my cup of tea... one of the biggest things that attracts me to my life partner is that he prefers equality in our relationship as much as I do. At the same time, he is strong, confident, and willful, so perhaps there's still a sprinkling of alpha in him afterall. :)

While I can’t think of particular alpha males in literature who have appealed to me, I do want to recommend this woman’s blog, which I believe may have posts and discussions of interest to you, especially if you enjoy the Darcy and Heathcliff topics:



Nalini Singh said...

Thanks for the link JLB. That's an interesting post she has going there about Rebecca.

Re your comment about alphas - don't you think part of the true appeal of alphas is that they can take on strong women, so there is that equality after all eg. With Lizzie and Mr. Darcy. She's certainly an alpha female.

JLB said...

That's a great point Nalini! I didn't think about it that way. :)

Cynthia E. Bagley said...

I have been around alpha males most of my working life and especially when I was in the military. I knew SEALS and Rangers.

What I found is that if you are an Alpha female, you have no problems. If you are a Beta female, problems. Because of our "society", there is a lessening of Alphas in our society. :-)

There are only a few occupations for people who are Alphas in real life. Personally, I enjoy men... who are men... They are fun to watch.

frankengirl said...

Hi, Nalini!

JLB steered me this way. This topic is something we return to frequently on my blog because we have several Bronte fans among us who are always ready to defend Rochester and Heathcliff!

In fiction – if “alpha males” are drawn as mere caricatures of brutes with no complexities, layers, etc., then they do not hold my interest, but yes, I’m attracted to Rochester as well as Maxim de Winter of Rebecca, whom we are currently pondering.

One of the attributes these two alpha males share is a burden of remorse, even self-loathing. Thus, for me, it is the contrast of the hardened exterior with the trembling interior of the man that is fascinating.

They “act” alpha male, but love “conquers” them. Rochester is ultimately humbled and so is Maxim. If it weren’t for their transformations, I don’t think they would be acceptable – to me, at least! - :)

Emma Sinclair said...

I dunno. I love Mr. Darcy and I guess Mr. Rochester, too (Heathcliff doesn't really do it for me either).

But I watched Brokeback Mountain last night and there was a brooding Alpha in that movie and without that "love changes him" aspect of an alpha, I just found him really anoying and wathed to smack him upside the head.

I don't know if I could handle an alpha in real life. I don't think there are too many insanely alpha romantic hero types in the real world, which is probably a good thing.

Milady Insanity said...

Not sure that they are my cup of tea in real life, but I do write about alphas, because of the setting and blah de blah de blah.

IMHO, writers like alpha characters. They stand out. And there's action because they Do Stuff.

Nalini Singh said...

Exactly Cynthia - they are so fun to watch! *g*

Your point about there being a lessening of alphas in our society is an interesting one. Maybe it's not that there are less but that they have less opportunities to really stretch out their alpha wings? As you said, there are few occupations for true alphas.

Nalini Singh said...

Hey Frankengirl! Thanks for dropping by and thanks to JLB for the recom!

It's funny, your comment meshes exactly with what I said during my original conversations on this topic - that my favorite alphas are the ones who go all mushy for the heroine, no matter how tough they might be at the start, or how badly they behave toward everyone else.

I love how you put it - the hardened exterior and the trembling exterior. That's so absolutely true. It's no fun if they're an alpha but they don't get conquered at the end.

As an aside, has anyone read Dark Lover? I haven't as yet but I've heard several comments that say the hero in that is so compelling because of exactly that reason - he's a total badass but crumbles for the heroine.

Nalini Singh said...

Emma - I haven't seen Brokeback yet but I really really want to. I'll have to look out for that brooding alpha.

I don't think there are too many insanely alpha romantic hero types in the real world, which is probably a good thing.

I dunno, wouldn't the world be a more interesting place with more of them? *g* But I guess for an alpha to be alpha, there must be the 'normal' herd.

Nalini Singh said...

Milady - yes, they DO stuff! They're often the ones who drive the action (even if it's because of way over the top Neanderthal behavior!).

Milady Insanity said...

I've read Dark Lover.

And Nalini, it's sacrilege that a para writer hasn't read that book! LOL, j/k.

It's true about Wrath crumbling for Beth. That was what made him the hero everybody wanted for herself.

Bronwyn Jameson said...

Interesting discussion, Nalini. It's left me pondering the brooding alpha because I'm not sure brooding is a characteristic of the true alpha (the leader of men.) As Milady said, they do stuff, they act rather than brood, in an effort to fix and make things right in their world. Sometimes I think the brooder is more of a lost soul. I dunno. As I said, I'm pondering...

Nalini Singh said...

Lol Milady! I feel compelled to read it just because I hate not knowing what everyone's talking about!

Bron - maybe it's easier to write the alpha when he's distant and apparently brooding. It makes him less touchable, less vulnerable???

Milady Insanity said...

But if he's not vulnerable somewhere, what are you going to write about?

It's like, if the lead character is perfect, leads a charmed and wonderful life, what conflict is there to write about? Unless something Awful and Dreadful and Horrifying happens. ;)

Nalini Singh said...

Oh yeah, he's totally got to have a vulnerability a.k.a. the heroine!