I truly believe that in order to be a good writer of romance you also have to be a reader of romance. It doesn’t necessarily mean that one copies the styles of other writers, but by reading a lot of romance novels, you, as a writer, are training yourself to see themes, tropes and other traits that run through many romance novels. Once you understand these traits, you as the writer have a framework in which to work your literary magic.
This brings me to the characterization of the hero. In many, many romance novels that I have read, and I am certainly not going to mention any names or titles, it seems, to be at least, that the hero is often, well, how shall I put it delicately, ah, a bit of “Pushy Paul”. Why do I call him that? Well, it seems that through most of the story he’s kind of a jerk. He yells, sulks, bosses people (especially the heroine) around and is often primitive in their behavior. However, through all this the heroine somehow finds him attractive. Mind you, he may be good looking, but that attitude, please, he can keep it. Some of these so called Alpha Males are more caricature than character. When handled improperly, he can be overbearing, monstrous and controlling. May I also add over-jealous and possessive bordering on the criminal?
Alpha males don’t always have to be loud, boorish and cavemannish to be an alpha male. Instead, it is confidence (not to be confused with obnoxious arrogance), intelligence and protectiveness towards home, family and of course the heroine. In my book (not literally) sound and fury signifies nothing.
Right now, I have a work in progress in which I am attempting to write an Alpha Male. In many of my past scribbles, I’ve noticed that many of my heroes (whom I love dearly and treat with the utmost respect) have been more on the beta side, which I’ll write about soon enough when I can catch a few more moments.
Now that I’ve had my little say on my little blog about Alpha males, let’s take a look at some Alpha males, or those roles that I think are Alpha males, in popular culture. Remember, alpha is in the eye of the beholder, and I’d be interested to see how others perceive these same characters.
Stanley Kowalski – A Streetcar Named Desire – This character is almost a caricature, but Marlon Brando manages to have us sympathize with Stanley and see how Kim Hunter as Stella could love such a man. We can also see how poor Blanche could be attracted to him.
Rhett Butler – Gone With the Wind – Here an alpha male is paired with an alpha female that refuses to bend to his charms and even , ahem, sexual prowess. Well, she does, but doesn’t want to let him know it and plays with his feelings until it is too late. There was real love between Rhett and Scarlett, and he let her know often enough (remember the scene right before he goes off to fight?), but she was so stuck on Ashley (whom I guess was attractive enough but reminded me of a wet noodle—not appealing at all.)
Tyler Durden – Fight Club – Even the title gives it away. Brad Pitt fills the role of leader well. Poor Beta (or maybe omega?) Edward Norton didn’t have a chance.
Tony Soprano – The Sopranos – Totally alpha male. And we always got to see his “softer” side.
Malcolm Little (X) – Denzel Washington – Malcolm X – Great, great movie. Great, great actor. Screen presence, charisma. He WAS Malcolm X. I’m still angry he didn’t get the Oscar win for this film and instead won it for the piece of trash Training Day. But we’ll save that for another day.
“Dirty” Harry Callahan-Clint Eastwood – Dirty Harry Movies (I don’t think I need to name them all, though I could). Strong, silent type who relied on his friends Smith and Wesson to do the talking for him. I remember a brief scene from Magnum Force (a movie that also starred Hutch from Starsky and Hutch and Spencer from Spencer for Hire). A woman sees Harry in the hall and says “What’s a girl got to do to go to bed with you?” He pauses for a second then says, “Try knocking on the door.” How classic is that?
Also Clint Eastwood in his spaghetti western – High Plains Drifter, Hang ‘em High, For a Few Dollars More….
John McClane – Die Hards – Bruce Willis infused his cop character (who was a tiny bit pathetic in the book, yes, there’s a book) with such gusto and bravado that we couldn’t help but root for him. I was especially impressed when, after he lost his shoes, walked across broken glass.
Sean Connery – No, not the James Bond movies, although those are clearly built for the alpha male character James Bond. I’m talking about The Untouchables. Kevin Costner as Eliot Ness had nothing on Officer Jim Malone. “What are you prepared to do?” Sean Connery stole that movie – when he was on screen, your eyes were on him, not first billed Kevin Costner for sure.
Blade – Wesley Snipes. ‘Nuff said, right?
Jason Statham-The Transporter –– It’s not like we need to know the character’s name, but I think it was Frank. Yeah, Frank.
There you go. Those are my thoughts on Alpha Males and a little list of my faves. As you can see, my Alphas won’t be stomping around, ordering people about in a loud voice, bullying people into doing what they want. As Teddy Roosevelt said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Yes. He said that.