May 15, 2013 by Kira Lyn Blue
It’s okay, you can admit it. I know you do. Well, I do. I love Alpha males whether we’re talking werewolves, shifters, vampires, or even just plain old normal humans.
However, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend lately in what qualifies as an Alpha male love interest in shifter fiction.
First, let’s define the Alpha Male lead. For simplicity, we’ll use the basic character traits of the alpha male as defined by Todd Stone in Novelist’s Boot Camp.
The Alpha Male Defined:
- He needs to appear and feel competent.
- He is goal-oriented and results-driven.
- He believes strength is the ability to take it in silence.
- He values loyalty to a comrade or team, but also places a high value on independence, individualism, and self-reliance.
- He values logic over intuition, reason over emotion, and action over discussion.
- He has a strong sex drive.
Now compare these points against the Alpha male leads you’ve read in shifter fiction, especially romances. Notice anything?
Please direct your attention to Item #4: The Alpha male values loyalty and places high value on independence and self-reliance.
So why do so many recent shifter novels have so-called Alpha male leads who are complete domineering jackasses who mop the floor with submissive women who put up with all the horrible behavior they dish out?
These types of characters are NOT Alphas. They may be dominant, but that does not make them Alpha males. Any man who feels the need to control, abuse, and bully people is harboring monstrous insecurities which preclude him from being an Alpha.
Do not give me some bullshit excuse about this being part of his nature because he’s a Werewolf. I’m not buying it and I don’t want a “hero” who treats women this way. More importantly, I don’t want a “heroine” who puts up with it.
I now direct you to a post by a fellow WordPress blogger, The Truth of Wolves, Or: The Alpha Problem. Shattersnipe’s well-written post exposes the myth behind the role of dominance and submission within wolf packs on which so many shifter cosmologies are based. While I don’t really have a problem with fiction being based on faulty science, many writers are taking this concept too far and giving us some truly terrible relationships. As Shattersnipe puts it:
“…the Alpha Problem: endless tracts of sexism, misogyny, female exceptionalism, rigid social hierarchies maintained through a combination of violence and biological determinism, inescapable mating bonds, and a carte blanche excuse for male characters to behave like cavemen (and for female characters to accept it) on the slender justification that, as alphas, it’s both in their nature and what’s expected of them.”
This, fellow blogizens, is not Alpha behavior and I refuse to accept it in a male protagonist even if he is a werewolf.
Yes, I get that we’re talking about monsters here. The beast is a strong metaphor for the dark side that lives within each of us. I get that. And I do LOVE books where the leads learn to get past the monster inside and find acceptance and true love. Accepting someone in spite of their flaws is a beautiful thing. However, it is NOT beautiful for anyone to be in an unbalanced relationship where their partner is controlling and verbally, if not physically, abusive.
Now, it’s an entirely different story if the woman’s love can help him mend his ways and gain control of his beast. That is interesting character development.
Unfortunately, fewer and fewer books seem to bother with this level of development. They take the shortcut and skip straight to the sex without bothering to have either the male or female really deal with any of their issues, and the couple ends up in a truly unhealthy relationship based on lust and co-dependency rather than love and acceptance.
A true Alpha male would never accept a woman who behaved like a doormat and allowed herself to be treated like property. The same goes for an Alpha female.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this because the cosmology I’m writing does have werewolves in it. I am not inherently opposed to the rigid hierarchy and dominance/submission aspects that have become almost synonymous with shifters in fiction, only the types of romances this has been breeding lately and the abuse of the term Alpha.
(I am thoroughly opposed to the one true mate concept, but that’s another post.)
I don’t think the Paranormal and Urban Fantasy genres are the only ones suffering from this trend of co-dependent relationships. The popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey can attest to that. I am disturbed by what this says about our culture in general and I know I’m not alone.
I had planned to include a list of shifter books that I think do Alphas right, but this post is already pretty long. So we’ll save that for tomorrow. In the meantime…