Saturday, November 15, 2008

Day 3 - In Praise of the Beta Male

I wasn't too sure what to post for my Day 3. But I've decided to sing the praises of the beta (or not so alpha) male. Not that I don't like alpha males :), but I sometimes feel beta (or not so alpha) males are overlooked or dismissed as wimps. Maybe that's why there are fewer of them about. So this is a little positive reinforcement for all the great beta (onsa) males out there.

I think it's very easy to bandy terms like alpha and beta about without being completely clear what I mean and they are a generalization, after all the most interesting heroes have alpha and beta aspects. But for the purposes of this post, and for anyone who's confused, here's a Stargate analogy. Col. Jack O'Neil is alpha, Dr. Daniel Jackson is beta. (Back to Daniel Jackson at the end of this post.)

I think my first beta male was Yank Yankowski from Hot Shot by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. The quietly spoken nerd who still ends up with a girl. That was a long time ago, and I still have a soft spot for the geeky hero who wins through in the end.

But the beta hero doesn't have to be a nerd. Beta doesn't really mean wimp. A beta could have been an alpha in the past or have the potential to be an alpha in the future. And maybe that's why I find them so intriguing to read about. With an alpha male you know what you're getting whether they're strong and silent or angry and in your face. They may have a deeply hidden secret shame that only the heroine can release them from, but so have nine out of ten other alpha heroes.

The beta hero can arise through strange circumstances, in the book Body Electric by Susan Squires the 'hero' is an artificial intelligence downloaded into a brain dead hospital patient. Kind of ironic as the creator of the AI assumed her creation was female. But as the hero learns what it is to be human and asserts his independence he becomes more than the sum of his parts. He does things that maybe if he were an alpha male he wouldn't be allowed to get away with. In a way he has the luxury of being able to make those kind of 'mistakes'.

My most recent beta hero was Josiah from the book Dagger-Star by Elizabeth Vaughn. Boy were the amazon reviewers up in arms over him. I liked the role reversal of the hero and heroine's characters, that she was more in charge and he was slightly more passive. But he wasn't a wimp. He was the Lord of a land which had been annihilated during a battle. The situation may have tested him but he wasn't completely broken. Rather than go and fight a futile battle he couldn't win, he stays and tries to bring life back to his ravaged land. When called to aid the struggle he does but on his own terms.

Maybe the reason there are fewer beta heroes, is that they are harder to write and be believable? Anyone else out there have a favourite beta hero or am I in a minority.

And just before I go, here's a little clip to show beta heroes can kick ass just as good as the alpha hero does (well maybe not quite as good, but he gets the job done in the end).


Sayuri said...

I have to admit to having a spoft spot for Betas.

Sometimes all the testostrony posturing of Alphas gets on my nerves and you just want a quiet sensitive guy who says the right things when you need to hear them.

Fav beta hero.. Danny Tucker fom Heiress To Hire...and Ford from Tribute.

Can I just say I amnoe going to get a hold of that Susan Squires book about the artificail intelligence. It sounds AWESOME!

Nicola O. said...

OK, that vid is just messed up, LOL.

Carolyn Crane said...

Hey, good for you! Fabulous post. I love a good beta hero. Wait, I guess I can't think of any except Adrien English. Maybe I should read Hot Spot.

Renee said...

Some of my favorite betas:
Seth from Richelle Meads' Succubus series

Lord John Grey from Diana Gabaldon's Outlander and Lord John series'

Isolfr from Elizabeth Bear's and Sarah Monette's A Companion to Wolves

Alban from CE Murphy's Negotiator Trilogy.

And Adrien. Sigh. I'm reading The Hell You Say right now, and he's awesome.

I love a man who is self-confident enough to let his significant other shine!

LesleyW said...

Sayuri - Glad I'm not alone in my love of a beta male. :) Hope you like Body Electric. :)

Nicola - LOL, that's one of my favourite fight scenes ever!

Carolyn Jean - Adrien English is an excellent suggestion and makes me want to go and grab my AE books.

Renee - Another vote for Adrien and I keep meaning to get hold of the Lord John Grey books but haven't done it yet. Must really give them a try as I liked him in the Outlander series.

jessewave said...

Just about all of Ally Blue's protags are beta males and I LOVE them.

Although I love Adrien I have to admit that my favourite in this series is Jake (not a beta by any means), but I love him because I find him vulnerable despite the tough guy persona. Great post!

LesleyW said...

Wave - you're right about Jake. It seems every time he does anything completely alpha and 'I'm right because I am'. That he'll then have a moment of vulnerability that makes you forgive him.

Renee said...

Sayuri: I read Erin McCarthy's Flat Out Sexy this week, and loved it. I may just have to check out Heiress for Hire

Lesley: Definitely give Lord John a try. The more I think about it, he reminds me of Adrien. Sort of a gentleness of spirit that covers some real strength.

Jessewave: I've been meaning to try Ally Blue's books since she was a guest on DIK. Any suggestions on which book to start with?

Carolyn Jean: Finished The Hell You Say late last night and had to run straight to Loose Id and get Pirate King. :-)

DonnaB said...

I never got into Stargate the TV show. I guess I laughed too hard at the movie. I did meet Richard Dean Anderson, though. He's kind of an a&&, but even better looking in person.

I think a lot of Betas have the potential to be Alphas, but not the need or the desire to take on that role.

Look at the "sentinels" from Nalini Singh's books -- Darian, Clay, Vaughn and the others. Anyone of them could take over an Alpha position, but they're not driven to do so.

As far as a Beta in a male/female relationship, in the absence of an Alpha male, I prefer equality rather than an Alpha female. But that's just me.

My personal favorite Beta is Duncan from my own books -- there's a surprise! He clearly has the potential to be alpha but prefers the number two role.

Jenre said...

I like beta heroes and it's a shame that they aren't used more often. It's so nice to have a man use his wit and intellect to get what he wants without having to resort to caveman mode.

One of my favourite beta heroes (other than Adrien, of course) is Jack Langdon from 'The Devil's Delilah' by Loretta Chase. The heroine underestimates him thoughout the whole book because he is thoughtful and bookish until the end when he proves that he is just as much a man as any alpha hero.

JenB said...

I looove Beta heroes. I'd love to find a comprehensive list of romances with beta heroes. Yum! Great post. :)

Ayesha said...

I love Wesley Wyndham-Price from the Angel series. He is intellectual and a bit nerdy (love a guy in glasses!) but can be kick-a$$ and downright evil when he has to.

LesleyW said...

Donna - I like Duncan. :) I keep hoping you're gonna hook him up with someone. :)

Jenre - I agree I'd like to see more beta heroes. I think maybe they're harder to sell/trickier to write?

JenB - we've definitely had a few suggestions worth pursuing here. But a list would be great. I wonder if one exists already?

Ayesha - WWP is so a beta hero. In fact if I hadn't chosen Daniel Jackson as my example I would probably have chosen WWP with Angel as the Alpha. I think he was my favourite character of the last season of Angel - such a sad story arc though.

Shaymless Aymless said...

I so love Claudia Black! She play such interesting characters. When Ben Browder joined the cast of SG1 it was so like Farscape all over again. I think just about everyone of the major characters was a guest at one point or another on Farscape.

Beta males... *sigh* I really liked Aaron from the Black Jewels Trilogy.

In Dagger-Star I was much bothered by the goats!

Shannon said...

Oh, I love the clip. He was always my favorite on the show.

I need to read some more betas. I have always been such an alpha fan, I feel like I have overlooked many great heros.

LesleyW said...

Aymless - Yes I'm not too sure about the significance of the immortal goats? And I also love CB. :)

Shannon - Dr Jackson was my favourite character, so had to pick him as my beta male example. :)

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