Thursday, June 7, 2012

Alphas, Betas, Gammas and Antis – A Hero for Everyone

You know those heroes you love? The ones that make you stand up and cheer or make your heart do giddy back flips? Why do we love them? What is it that makes us connect and root for them? I won’t attempt to give a lengthy answer (everyone would answer differently anyway), but I will divide these heroes up into 4 main subgroups so we can see what works.

I’m including the women here too, by the way. Heroines - though some prefer to call them heroes as well. Whichever term you prefer, the fact remains that the hero is no longer a cookie cutter image of the male town sheriff with a white hat and a handsome steed. Particularly in paranormal, sci-fi, and fantasy fiction, our heroes are all over the spectrum.

I won’t drone on in long hand about the characteristics of each, but instead sum them up in short lists. (Remember, I love lists! And parenthesis.)

The Alpha Hero:
Often physically heroic

Erik and Alcide from the Sookie Stackhouse Series/True Blood
Iceman, Maverick, and Charlie (Kelly McGillis) from Top Gun
Buffy (from BtVS)

The Beta Hero:
Easy going
The “nice guy/gal”
Often intellectually heroic

Bill Pullman in While You Were Sleeping
Sandra Bullock in While You Were Sleeping
Goose from Top Gun
Willow and Xander (early seasons of BtVS)

More recently there’s been an emergence of a third hero type: The Gamma Hero. In short, it’s a mix of both Alpha and Beta, with the best characteristics of both. This mix has been around forever, but now it has a name. Think Jeff Goldblum’s character in Jurassic Park. Orlando Bloom in Pirates of the Caribbean. Jack Ryan from the Tom Clancy novels and movies (The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, etc.). Often using their wits and taking a back seat to the person in the limelight, they will step up to action if that’s what it takes. There can be a big gray area on who’s a Gamma, but the judgment call really lies in the eye of the beholder.

Finally, there’s a type of hero that falls outside of all three. He/She may have characteristics of any of the above, yet they will always remain outside the lines. The Anti Hero. (A personal fave!)

The Anti Hero:
Has traits contrary to the traditional hero, but still has heroic qualities
Sometimes does bad things that aren’t “evil”
Doesn’t fight for justice, but is motivated by personal desires/set of rules
Isn’t always friendly or caring to those except an inner circle (if even then)
Is loyal to few people (if any)
Doesn’t want limelight or attention
Often ends up doing something heroic as secondary to his/her primary goal

Severus Snape
The Punisher
Spike (from BtVS)
Lisbeth Salander (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)

Which do you prefer? Why? Do you love the Alpha because of the promise of strength and justice? Do you favor the Beta’s wit and easy going ways? Are you drawn to the Anti-Hero’s blurred lines of right and wrong, justice and punishment? Or do you like to mix it up?

Share your hero favorites with us. There’s a little something for everyone!

Heather McGovern


  1. For reading, I prefer the alpha or anti, but for marrying, give me a beta!

  2. How about Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean? Would you say he's a beta or an anti? (I'm thinking anti, but I wonder what you think.)

  3. Call me a woman, but my first response is "it's a mood thing." lol Sometimes I want the alpha, but having a beta has its definite plus side as well. The Gamma can come in and sweep me off my feet, but as for the anti-hero, he's more appreciated in the end than wanted, in my book. Too much baggage/mood to compete with.
    It's funny though, the first thing that popped into my head after reading your post was a book by Christopher Moore called A Dirty Job. In this, the "hero" is point blank classified as a straight Beta. It's amusing to read the description if you ever get the chance.

  4. You forgot Elric. The Anti-hero. *swoon* That's my kinda guy... (Except for, you know, the fact that almost every woman he loves dies.... ;))