Society is promoting an entirely new type of leader: the wimp
Today's television hero doesn't have big muscles, wear a cowboy hat or fly. He smirks. NBC's popular series The Office reflects this trend quintessentially: promotion of the beta male. Jim Halpert, unofficial "hero" of the program, does little more than raise an eyebrow at the camera as he lives a day-in, day-out life of quiet passivity. His most aggressive action is the occasional practical joke. At last year's season finale, he turned down a managerial position. A man of action he's not.
According to program writer Justin Spitzer, Jim is the antithesis of the alpha male. His counterpart, office boss Michael Scott -- devoid of self-awareness, tact or any real leadership capabilities -- is the only suggestion of another type of male.
There's no question the script sets up him and Office darling Pam as the couple to watch. Will the benign beta male get the girl? You want him to. He's promoted as humorous, lovable and unobtrusive. Sitcoms, dramas, comedies, movies and advertising are blasting one idea when it comes to men: less is more. As in less masculinity is more acceptable. Don't worry about achieving; lower your aspirations, or don't have any aspirations at all. And whatever you do, don't speak loudly or take control.
Not only do beta males contently settle for second place, they point the finger and say their feelings are hurt in an effort to justify themselves. "Alpha males make bumblers like me feel woefully inadequate," writes UK Sunday Times writer and self-proclaimed content beta male Tom Hodgkinson.
Why the turnabout from just a few decades ago?
Newsweek writer Jennie Yabroff writes,
"As America comes to terms with our diminished omnipotence in the wake of 9/11, the Iraq war and President Bush's international unpopularity, we're growing weary of the Teflon-coated John Wayne stereotypes of masculinity."
Society wants an excuse not to care. Who wants to promote hard work, leadership or taking a stand? Men are just as content to follow as to lead. We like the message of Napoleon Dynamite, Spiderman, Shrek and "The Office," because it tells us softly, "It's okay to be mediocre."
Alpha men make up 75% of nation's top executives. Why? These men possess a fighting resolve; they're willing to take charge. But who are true alpha males? They are not chauvinists. They are not stoic men bottling up and showing no emotion.
History provides role models such as Rough Rider leader Theodore Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and honest President Abraham Lincoln: men with ambition, guts, drive and notable character. These men provided not only the men around them but also men and women of the future examples of masculinity worth following.
America used to pride itself on alpha males such as these men. As Kate Ludeman and Eddie Erlandson state in their book, Alpha Male Syndrome,
"Human history is the story of alphas, those indispensable powerhouses who take charge, conquer new worlds, and move heaven and earth to make things happen."
True alpha males achieve. They daringly change the way people think and the way things are done. Alpha males willing stick their neck out for results, for progress. They formed this nation. Now even some of the nation's former leaders are resorting to the beta male epidemic, a mind numbing coach potato approach to life. The current trend is reject the go-getter and be content to remain seated and watch the world roll by, as long as you're cute about it.
America was built by alphas: aggressive, authoritative, ambitious men who took control, spoke out and even (gasp!) fought for what was right.
If history had put Jim Halpert up to commanding the men and the love of the Continental Army, or if the Declaration of Independence/British death warrant was waiting for the signature of one "Peter Parker," I think we would find ourselves in a much different nation.
If we're willing to settle for beta male role models, are we also willing to accept a beta society and risk losing leaders?