Yesterday, I talked about the bane of beta males and alpha males. Together, they are an overplayed, overdone, and over-emphasized stain on popular culture. Between sitcoms like “The Big Bang Theory,” underdog movies like “The Karate Kid,” and pretty much the premise of every teen movie made since 1980s, we’ve had our fill of alpha males and beta males.
We get it. Alpha males represent everything we hate about masculinity (even if they have more sex and embody all the traits we want in our leaders and CEOs). Beta males represent every lovable underdog who deserves to get the girl in the end (even if that gives every man and women false expectations and inevitable disappointment). It’s been done. We know how that story ends. So let’s tell a new story. To tell that story though, I have to revisit our old friend Deadpool.
I’ve written about him before. It seems appropriate to write about him again because the Deadpool movie just cleaned up nicely at the Teen Choice Awards. He breaks the mold of so many traditional stereotypes. He’s not an alpha male. He’s not a beta male. Granted, his crazier than a sack of crack-addicted ferrets, but the success of his movie may very well show that there’s a place for a new type of male in popular culture.
In the same way the recent Ghostbusters movie offered something different for female characters, Deadpool tweaks the concept of a well-rounded male character and, in some cases, shoots it in the ass. He’s confident, competent, and more than a little arrogant, which is kind of like an alpha male. He’s also affectionate, sensitive, and emotional, which is kind of like a beta male. In many respects, he’s a balanced male character that both men and women alike can respect
Again, it’s worth pointing out that Deadpool, as an established comic book character, is one of the craziest motherfuckers in comics. So what’s it say about the status of male characters when he’s the one who embodies the traits of a balanced male character?
Perhaps it’s fitting. Our tastes in male characters is kind of crazy when you think about it. We’re conditioned to despise alpha male characters, but we constantly elect them to positions of power and admire them when they’re athletes. It’s downright schizophrenic when you think about it and Deadpool actually has voices in his head. There’s just something wonderfully poetic about that.
Crazy or not, the shocking success of Deadpool, which made $782 million on a $58 million budget, will likely prompt a re-examining of our crazy sentiments in male characters. History shows that when there’s money to be made, those who profit from popular culture are going to exploit the hell out of it.
There may already be signs. Since the Deadpool movie, another movie came out that utilized a character who doesn’t fit into the alpha male/beta male dynamic. That movie didn’t do nearly as well as Deadpool, but it did offer a unique entertainment experience that helped make it successful in its own right. I’m talking about the movie, “Central Intelligence.”
A little Hart and a big Johnson? It sounds like the kind of humor that came right out of the Deadpool movie, but it works beautifully here. The trailer, however, only hints at the new Deadpool-like twist on male characters. Specifically, the character of Bob, played by the Rock, embodies many similar traits as Deadpool does in his movie, albeit with only 5 percent of the crazy.
Bob is a big, tough, muscle-bound badass who works for the CIA. In most movies, he’d be the kind of alpha male we’d end up rooting against. Instead, he’s not just a good guy who is a unique foil for Kevin Hart’s loud-mouthed, overwhelmed, and overly-frustrated character. He’s oddly well-rounded, showing that he can be tough, sensitive, understanding, and badass. He’s not defined by jealousy or loss or any other shallow excuse most alpha males use for being assholes. He’s a character who is lovable by both men and women alike.
In the end, isn’t that the best manifestation of masculinity? A male character that men and women alike can love? There does seem to be a market for this. Rotten Tomatoes gave “Central Intelligence” a 68 percent score, which is certified fresh. It also made $200 million on a $50 million budget. That’s not a bad return for a non-superhero movie. Could this be a sign of things to come?
If so, it’s a trend I hope will benefit my own male characters. I’ve tried to be balanced with them in my work to date. I intend to keep trying with my next project. I hope that effort shows in “The Big Game,” if it gets picked up by a publisher. I’m still waiting for a response, but if it’s taking this long, I hope that means they’re being more thorough. Time will tell, but I like to think that the future is bright for male characters.