Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Why Alpha Males are ASSHOLES

During my last revision phase, Mr. FabAgentMan told me to ratchet up the romance. This posed a slight problem for me as I am the most unromantic person in the world. Da Man is more romantic than I am. In fact he'll do strange and wonderfully romantic things for me, like fly me out to a romantic destination without telling me where we are going, or leaving me hidden presents that I might not find until much later just because. And I always say "Aw, how romantic. DON'T DO THAT AGAIN!" I am a killjoy. I have no romance in my soul. What other people find romantic usually makes me vomit in my mouth.

So the edict about ratcheting up the romance made me nervous. But like all things I am unfamiliar with, I decided to attack it via research. Being a good researcher, I went to my local library and borrowed a whole host of romance novels, including historical bodice rippers since my book is historical. When I went to check them out, the librarian, who knows me, raised both eyebrows, smirked and said "Escapist literature?" I said "Don't judge me." Seriously, some of these books have covers that make you want to cringe in embarrassment.

Speaking of bad covers, this website cracked me up with their retitling of bad romance covers. I think my favorite was Lord of the Hissy Fit.

Here's the thing about romance novels. Some I really enjoyed. Some I really despised. But all had one thing in common. Unrealistic alpha males. These men only reside on the pages of a romance novel. They are as real as the Tooth Fairy but every single romance novel I read had one.

So what is the appeal of the alpha male? Well, going by the heroes of the bunch of romance novels I've recently read I'd like to list their seven key characteristics:

1. Handsome - They are always incredibly handsome and incredibly sexy. Women throw themselves at an alpha male like fleas on a dirty dog.

2. Endowments - Neigh. Snort. Yowzers!

3. Lover - See 2 above. They don’t need no stinking Viagra.

4. Successful - They are usually the best at whatever it is they do—usually something dangerous, violent, heroic, or financial. Or a fine combination of all of this- a playboy CEO cowboy volunteer firefighter Black ops Tae kwon do master gourmet chef that gives foot massages.

5. Strength - They are physically very strong because they must either fight a bad guy, climb cliffs with their bare hands, rip open car doors, all while carrying the fainting heroine in their brawny arms. If they are injured, no matter how badly, all they will do is grit their teeth and be stoic. It's like the Black Knight from Monty Python's Holy Grail, saying "it's just a flesh wound."

6. Arrogant - See all of the above traits which is why they are so arrogant.

7. Opinionated – Their opinions are the only ones that really matter because they are the top dog.

These 7 characteristics form the key to understanding the Alpha Male - or ASSHOLE. Not to be confused with Mercedes drivers who are referred to as Asshole, not all caps. But if an Alpha Male also drives a Mercedes, then they can be referred to as an ASSHOLE Asshole, all cap designation always having first priority.

The ASSHOLE designation might lead readers to believe that they are not unrealistic, yet I urge you to look beyond the superficial similarities to many males you might know and focus on why the Romance Alpha Male is unrealistic. For example:

1. Ever notice that Alpha Males in romance novels never fart or belch? They never pull the bedcovers over the heroine's head and trap them in a fart cave? They don't blow doritos tainted belches instead of kisses? They don't leave large drool stains on your pillow?

2. A true romantic Alpha has a high tolerance for pain. They don't whine and moan and act like the biggest baby over a paper cut. They don't sulk when you ignore their bruises. That's why they are not real. Most men act like the world is ending when they get sick. Babies with colic whine less than a man with a bad cold.

3. A real man might work out and flex their muscles in front of the mirror, but if you ask for a piggy back ride they act like you're a 400 lb gorilla trying to break their back. Ok that might just be a personal issue I have...

4. Several of the romance novels I read had romantic scenes that went on and on and on and on for pages and pages. They'd stop and then start up again in the next chapter and the next. Every single night! I was tired just reading about it. The Romantic Alpha Male is like the Energizer Bunny Rabbit, he keeps going and going and going...

5. And going and going and going...

6. Seriously, after 4 and 5, need I say more?

I understand that romance writers are providing escapism by giving their readers a romantic alpha male that makes them swoon and sigh and wish for an ASSHOLE of their very own. But I say lets have some more realism in our romantic leads. If they're handsome, give them a receding hairline. If they're strong, give them a beer belly. If they're smart, make them a little insecure. Anything that makes them less of a caricature, a stereotype of what a woman is supposed to want. Cause when all is said and done, I would rather have my grouchy, whiny, drooling hubby who refuses to give me piggy back rides than the sexiest, dreamiest, romantic alpha male that graces the pages of the best romance book in the world. Because even though he won't give me foot massages and scratches my back like he's scraping barnacles off the hull of a boat, he respects me for being a strong woman who can take care of herself and her family. And that is sexier than anything else in the world.


Charles Gramlich said...

Each gender wants something it can't have in the other it appears. Well, eventually we'll have androids to provide us with all those things.

jjdebenedictis said...

Charles Gramlich: And then humanity will go extinct because we'll stop breeding.

Ello: I have a pet theory that women have to deal with some pesky, outdated lizard-brain programming that makes us go, "mm-hmmmm..." when we see successful genetic material--i.e. a brawny, bold, successful alpha male asshole.

Never mind that sweet, geeky (fart-monster) husbands are what make us happy--our lizard brain is still working on the assumption that: Strong male = Babies that won't die too easily.

And likewise, I suspect men struggle against lizard-brain logic that tells them to chase skirts because: Many ladies = Many babies = DNA successfully launched into the future.

Anonymous said...

this post made me laugh really hard. i was forced to read it aloud to my family. the comments were many and varied. most of them cannot be quoted in polite society.

and apparently the correct term for the act you mention in #1 is a "dutch oven." i am thus informed by my brother, who is more than an expert in these matters.

Lauren said...

Too true. Very funny. Both genders have unrealistic fantasies that are fun to pretend about.

Angie said...

I could deal with a romantic novel dude who's good at everything and never farts if it weren't for the I'm-right-you're-wrong-so-obey-me-dammit attitude.

My mom's a major Christine Feehan fan and got me reading her books. Now I'll grant you the woman can write. She's good at setting up paranormal mythologies and backstories, and her craftsmanship is generally good. But OMG her guys!!

I've read over 20 of her books so far. I've at least grumbled about the guy in every book, and cussed and ranted at most. I finally DNFed Safe Harbor. Jonas is a small town sheriff who used to be an Army Ranger, so he's a Tough Dude. He's known the Drake sisters since they were all little kids, he loves them all, he's like a brother to them (except Hannah) and he's been a prominent supporting character in every book from the start.

He's a major asshole. He's nasty and sarcastic and demanding and a bully. He's particularly aimed his assholery at Hannah, so of course we knew from Book One that the two of them were destined for one another. [eyeroll] They constantly fight, he orders her around and insults her, he gives her panic attacks and makes her cry with his behavior, but of course everyone knows he loves her.

Umm, right. Seriously, how many abusive boyfriends and husbands claim to love the women they're abusing?

They finally got their book, and it's more of the same. Hannah's in danger, but she's a professional and has contracts and obligations, which she fulfills despite Jonas ordering her not to. And of course something awful happens -- wow, Jonas was right! Who'd have guessed?!

And that's what the trademark Feehan Relationship is all about. The man wants to protect the woman, and he's always right. It's impossible that a woman could weigh risks and benefits and obligations and make a valid, rational decision which differs from that of a man. No, no -- clearly if a woman ever disagrees with a man who claims to love her, she's acting like a little girl, she's being childish, a defiant child at that. Because acting like a mature woman means obeying your man in all things. [cough]

Book after book, series after series. At this point I don't think I'm being at all unfair in theorizing that this is the author's idea of what's romantic, and how a romantic relationship should go. She even addresses the ordering-around crap in some of the books, where the guy says right out that he's not into that "politically correct crap" where he lets his woman do something dangerous; it's his job to protect her, to reign her in, to control her crazy whims, to put a stop to her childish tantrums, or however he describes the behavior of this woman whom he claims to love but very clearly has absolutely no respect for. She's the woman, which makes her the child. He's the man, which makes him the adult. It's for him to command (for her own good, of course) and for her to obey.


I've been hoping for a long time that Feehan would get into the 21st century (or even the latter chunk of the 20th) and write a different kind of guy, or create a different kind of romantic relationship. If nothing else, writing the same characters with new nametags, and the same relationship dynamics over and over and over, is bad writing. No luck so far, and I think at this point I'm giving up on her.

Of course, I'm sure Ms. Feehan will, if she ever discovers my defection, cry all the way to the bank with her wheelbarrows of money. But yeah, her guys are assholes; some moreso than others, but the only question is how big an asshole they'll be, not whether. And they're crazy-popular, so it seems this crap is appealing to some large number of female readers. [sigh]

Yet another reason I like m/m -- there are assholes, sure, but they tend to be individual characters rather than trends representing centuries of gender-political baggage. :/


Darcy Drake said...

Thank you! This post gave me a much needed giggle! I loved the list of re-imagined covers. I have to admit, unrealistic Alpha Heroes *and* bad covers both scare me.

Unknown said...

Much respect to you for respecting yourself!

Unknown said...

oh you mean charlie sheen

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