Over the next few blog posts I’m going to share with you guys an essay I wrote on the Beta Male. Much of the material was pulled from a Dirty Job, but it actually makes a little more sense in this context. Those of you who heard me speak on the Dirty Job tour, will recognize some of the concepts. The Beta-Male Manifesto By Christopher Moore
From the first time we see the silver-back Elmo pounding his chest on Sesame Street, to the time that some silver-haired creep swipes our green Jell-O at the geriatric center luncheon, we are confronted with the commanding creature known in nature as the Alpha Male. And while we all accept that the limelight will always fall on the politicians, professional athletes, CEOs, and other Alpha males for whom leadership seems to come as naturally as handcuffs and perp walks, it is another breed of male, a lower-key, less-dominant variety, that actually directs human existence. The world may be lead by Alpha Males, but the machinery of the world turns on the bearings of the Beta Male
The Beta Male in the Natural World
A good example of the Alpha-Beta difference in the animal kingdom occurs among elephant seals. The elephant seal, a Toyota-sized species of pinneped, is so named for the male animal’s prominent, trunk-like proboscis, which immediately brings to mind the Darwinian aphorism for male display, “The bigger the nose, the bigger the hose.” During mating season, all of the elephant seal females beach themselves, and luxuriate in the sun, looking bored and making charming belching noises meant to attract males. (A similar mode of behavior can be observed among human females on the beaches of Cancun and Ft. Lauderdale during spring break.) Males confront each other at the shoreline, and through a series of battles with other males, that are more show than actual combat, a “beach master” is chosen – usually the largest and most fit of the competitors. This Alpha male will proceed to mate with all the females of the group, while the vanquished Beta males wait at the surf line for females returning from mating (often embarrassed because they are wearing the same outfits they had on when they left the water yesterday) and will try to mate with her on the rebound, sometimes bellowing as a way of disguising himself as an alpha male. In fact, Betas are so desperate to escape their Beta Male identity, that biologists have observed them gamboling in the surf in Groucho glasses dangling Porsche keys. Thus, the Beta-male gene will survive in the elephant seal population, proving that he who gets it most, is not always as successful as he who gets it last. Human Betas, who often stay virgins until well into their twenties, could be said to be using a similar strategy, although it probably has more to do with access to alcohol and general lowering of standards among human females as they get older.
While in many mammals, it is the bigger, stronger, more flamboyant Alpha male gene that determines the direction of the species, in human beings, unique in their development of language and culture, the Beta male is the reigning the king of beasts, so to speak.
(For the purpose of the article we’ll ignore species like killer whales, elephants and lions, where the Alpha animal and leader of the group is female. The “big teeth” of the Alpha female is cooperation, which has the effect of making all male strategies seem silly. These examples just confuse the issue and cause undue uppityness among human females.)
Imagination: The Big Teeth of the Beta Male
While Alpha males are often gifted with superior physical attributes — size, strength, speed, and good looks — selected over the eons by the strongest surviving and, essentially, getting all the girls, the Beta Male gene has survived not by meeting and overcoming adversity, but by anticipating and avoiding it. That is, when the alpha males were out charging after mastodons, the beta males could imagine in advance that attacking what was essentially an angry, wooly bulldozer with a pointy stick, might be a losing proposition, so he hung back at camp to console the grieving widows whose Alpha-male mates had been stomped into mastodon moss. When alpha males set out to conquer neighboring tribes, to count coup and take heads, beta males could see in advance that in the event of a victory, the influx of female slaves was going to leave a surplus of mateless women cast out for younger trophy models, with nothing to do but salt down the heads and file the uncounted coups, and many would need find solace in the arms of any beta male smart enough to survive.
There’s a good chance that in the caveman community, that the Beta Male never got the hot, smart, Darryl Hannah cave woman, but there’s an even better chance that he got everyone else. The beta male is seldom the strongest or the fastest, but because he can anticipate danger, he far outnumbers his alpha male competitors. Rather than strength, size, or charisma, the Beta Male adapted to adversity by developing a massive imagination.
The problem for the Beta in modern society, is that his imagination has become superfluous – a vestigial encumbrance. Like the saber-toothed tiger’s fangs, or the Alpha male’s testosterone, there’s just more beta male imagination than can be put to good use. Consequently, in the modern world, many beta males become hypochondriacs, neurotics, paranoids, or develop an addiction to, comic books, video games, or porn. For while the beta male imagination evolved to help him avoid danger, as a side effect it also allows him fantasy-only access to power, money, and leggy, model-type females who, in reality, wouldn’t kick him in the kidneys to get a bug off their shoe. The rich fantasy life of the Beta male may often spill over into reality, manifesting in a near-genius levels of self-delusion. In fact, many Beta Males, contrary to any empirical evidence, actually believe that they are Alpha Males, and have been endowed by their creator with advanced stealth charisma, which, although awesome in concept, is totally undetectable by women who are not constructed from carbon fiber. Every time a super model divorces her rock star husband, the Beta Male secretly rejoices (or more accurately, feels great waves of unjustified hope,) and every time a beautiful movie star marries, the Beta Male experiences a sense of lost opportunity. The entire city of Las Vegas – plastic opulence, treasure for the taking, vulgar towers, and cocktail waitresses with improbable breasts—is built on the self-delusion of the Beta Male.
Continued in Part 2