Friday, August 19, 2011


The concept of a Gamma hero is not new. It’s been around for about twenty years since Deb Stover defined the hero archetype, but you may not know what it means.

I like the explanation Jo Davis gives. “The Alpha male is tough, opinionated, stubborn, and sometimes downright rude or mean. But don’t judge him too harshly because there’s always a deep-seated reason he’s this way, and he’s a good man, through and through. Betas are affectionate, loyal, happy, and basically non-violent.” The nice guy you want your daughter to marry.

“The Gamma male is the perfect blend of the best traits of Alpha and Beta males. This type is funny, loving, and insightful. He’ll take his lady for walks in the park or whisk her to Paris. He may have a wonderful sensitive side, but he also has a hair-trigger when it comes to protecting the ones he loves.”

If you’re still confused, Wolverine or any of the heroes from J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series are great Alphas. Most of the characters that Tom Hanks plays are good examples of Betas. Many have claimed that Han Solo from Star Wars is the perfect example of a Gamma, but I disagree.

Suzanne Brockmann uses Han Solo as an example of Alphas we love. She describes a scene in The Empire Strikes Back to illustrate why we love Han Solo, but I think it skillfully depicts what makes him an Alpha.

It’s the intense scene between Han Solo and Leia -- when Darth Vader is about to test Lando's carbon-freezing unit on Han. Proud, stubborn Princess Leia is in a near panic that within moments the scoundrel, intergalatic smuggler, rebel hero and her dear friend, Han Solo, could die. As Han is pushed toward his fate, he lunges for Leia, and she for him, and they kiss passionately before they are torn apart -- perhaps forever.

Leia, as strong as she is, is still a woman. "I love you," she tells him.

Han stands there, perhaps about to die, a hard, strong alpha male to the end with his head held high, and says, "I know."

It doesn’t get more Alpha than that. So who is the ultimate Gamma?

Captain America. The first Avenger.

I didn’t have high hopes for this movie (although deservedly higher than Thor and much higher than the Green Lantern, which I’m waiting for on video). Perfect heroes can be annoying and hard to love with all their…well, perfection. But I thoroughly enjoyed it.

By showing us the physically weak Steve Rogers first and his unflappable determination to serve the greater good despite his limitations, we are immediately won over by the sympathetic character. Far from a coward, he is an underdog with the heart, guts, and brains of a superhero. When he becomes Captain America, we’re already rooting for him to save the world and get the girl.

As he grows into his new role, we ache for him to have a chance to realize his potential. But it’s not given. He seizes it, succeeds, earns the respect he deserves and we love him even more. Through all of the sleek action, which didn’t feel repetitive, and death-defying heroics he never loses his compassion, develops an inflated ego, or is afraid to let his tenderness show.

The final scene of the movie nearly broke my heart. (Spoiler Alert) *All I could think was, awwww…Captain America is still a virgin.*
I thought for certain Iron Man would be my favorite Avenger. Besides the fact that I ADORE Robert Downey, Jr., he’s the kind of Alpha I can’t get enough of. But now I’m torn.

The film had some faults. See my complaints in the comments section if you're interested.

If you like underdogs, seeing a bully get what he deserves, action, and a hero anyone can believe in, then go see Captain America.

So which type of hero do you prefer, Alpha or Gamma?


  1. Two complaints about the film. When the Red Skull took off his mask and broke away from Hitler so that Hydra (the evil organization that failed to accomplish anything) could rule the world, the villain felt like a campy caricature. Also, I wish Jon Favreau (director of Iron Man) had been at the directing helm. Joe Johnston did a capable job, but the talent of Favreau could have shaped the film into something spectacular.

    Don't forget to hang around for the teaser clip of the highly anticipated Avengers movie after the credits. It was killer. Actually gave me chills. However, neither Favreau nor Matthew Vaughn (director of the phenomenal X-Men First Class) is directing it, so I can only pray it’s satisfying.

  2. At first glance an Alpha male is pretty hot. My hero in my fantasy novel is an Alpha. Wise girls should search for Gamma thought, but bad boys tend to be attractive. I'm glad you liked Captain America. I'd really like to go watch it. Have a great day! :)

  3. I tried to stop myself before reading past "Spoiler Alert" at the end. Oh. my traitorous eyes....

    I think I love the Gamma hero. I have said before that the Alpha is my favorite, but I think I was wrong. ;)

  4. I've got my Gamma, so I'm happy. (;

    While Alphas are fun to watch in the movies and shows and to read in books, dating one would be awful, in my opinion. I would like affection please! Gammas have just enough bad in them to be exciting and thrilling while still retaining emotion and romanticism.

  5. Oooh, tough question! In real life, I go for Gammas, but it's fun to fantasize about those Alphas occasionally. ;)

  6. I think most of heroes are gamma or beta. I can't write an Alpha to save my life. I'm too strong a woman and that type of man just make my head hurt.

    LOVED Captain America! But, I'm a lifelong comic book geek. My favorite part of the CA movie? - casting Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark. He played the part so well that you could absolutely see how Tony Stark becomes who he will become. His performance was never campy but he has the essence of RDJr's character down to the wire.

  7. While I was reading the description of Alpha male, I was like: OMG, it's like they're describing my personality! LOL. I'm definitely not a hero, but I consider myself an Alpha male. :)

    Very interesting post, Isis!

    As for superheroes this year, I thought Thor was an above average superhero flick, and Captain America was, well, okay. Although Chris Evans has the body of a God, I think deep inside he's a sissy. :)

  8. Huh, interesting. I think a Gamma is what we all want, Betas are what are what we need but Alphas....well, typically it's what we write so it must be every woman's fantasy (?) this is REALLY thought provoking! thanks for writing it. The lure of the Bad Boy is pretty strong....

  9. Laila ~ A wise woman should definitely marry a Gamma. I lucked out in that dept. Enjoy the flick.

    Brinda ~ Sorry about the spoiler. Or should I apologize for your traitorous eyes :)?

    Marlena ~ Alphas are fantastic as a fantasy. Gammas and Betas are so much better in reality.

  10. Linda G ~ I couldn't agree with you more!

    Robin ~ Check out The Devil's Double. It stars Dominic Cooper. His performance is wonderful. He made a great Stark!

  11. George (Nebular) ~ LOL! I had no idea you were so funny.

    I was disappointed with Thor. The beginning was disjointed and didn't flow. I like Natalie Portman, but her character was a tad annoying. And I didn't buy the burgeoning love between them at all. Also, Thor's great transformation of character (helping a cute girl get her scientific book back and assisting with cooking a meal or two) seemed artificial to me. Don't even get me started on how wimpy Loki came across.

  12. what do you call my kinda 'hero'?

    nondescript, in the background, nothing to write home about: in a crisis, steps up, does what's needed w/o looking for 'glory', then fades into the background again... kinda/sorta clark kentish, now i think of it....

  13. Captain America is a great movie! He still leans towards Beta, but you're right, mostly gamma. Guess that's what I would be as well.

  14. Liz ~ You are absolutely right about the irresistible lure of the bad boy.

    Laughingwolf ~ Part of that description is Clark Kent, but it's superman (his real persona) that actually saves the day. And superman is far from nondescript. Gosh he makes blue tights look good.

    Alex ~ Gotta love those Gamma guys, but Betas serve a purpose.

  15. Ha! "I know." It really doesn’t get more Alpha than that.

    Perfect heroes can be annoying and hard to love with all their…well, perfection. (Ain't that the truth.) But you really make me want to watch Captain America... and I hadn't planned on doing that.

    Gotta love men... after all they make up about 50% of the population. I have a son and grew up with six brothers... sort of. I've worked traditionally male jobs, so it's a good thing I like men so much. But alphas, betas, and gammas all have their place in my stories. BUT it's usually the alpha that gets the girl. And it's the alphas that steal my heart.

  16. Interesting. How would you turn those descripions around for a strong female?

  17. Great post! I'm pro Gamma Male, definitely! I like my hero to be all man of course, but I like him to also have enough heart and whit to be above average.

    Captain America is my favorite Avenger now too - but in a tie with Thor! :)

  18. Doralynn ~ It's so easy to love a well written Alpha. Too easy :).

    LD ~ I think those same descriptions apply to females (with some tweaking). Leia was definitely an Alpha female who dished out the barbs just as easily as she gave them. And although she said, "I love you", first, it was Han who first admitted to having feelings. I think most heroines are either gamma or beta.

    Amy ~ Happy I brought you over to team CA. Gamma males rock!

  19. Depends what day it is as to what man I like - although I've always got time for Wolverine!

  20. Yum, Wolverine... I definitely prefer the gamma! Wolverine has always been one of my favorite heroes, flaws and all.

  21. This movie is on my list to see. I like a hero that fits the story.

    Happy Weekend!

  22. I have always been in love with Han Solo...and maybe even more in love with Indiana Jones...Oh, Harrison when he was young...He was my ultimate Alpha/Gamma/Beta. Indy and Marion...perfect romantis duo.

    Downey, Jr. is pretty great, too...especially now that he's reformed...what a sense of humor. Loved Iron Man.

  23. Sarah ~ Isn't he hot?!!

    Heather ~ Gammas are safer, but I'm willing to risk a little danger for Wolverine.
    (Dear husband ignore that last remark.)

    Carol ~ Have a great weekend.

    Kelley ~ Harrison Ford is one of those guys that men and women both love. I'm so happy RDJ cleaned up as well. Iron Man would not have suffered without him.

  24. Gamma all the way for me. Bad boys... pah. :)

  25. Hi Isis,

    I had not heard of gamma heroes- hmmm, but thinking about it my latest hero is a gamma. cool!
    I am hoping to see Captain America this weekend. Saw Green Lantern and loved it, but I'm a huge Ryan Reynolds fan.

  26. Ok so here's a hero question - Can an Alpha evolve into a Gamma? Can the love of a good woman allow him to, say, mature into a fully developed Gamma or once an Alpha always an Alpha?

  27. Talli ~ I think women are happier in the long run with a gamma over an alpha.

    Nancy ~ I like Ryan Reynolds, but it's like he's the same person in every movie instead of becoming a character.

    Mart ~ Glad you liked it.

    C.M. ~ I think if any women goes into a relationship thinking she can convert an alpha into a gamma with her love that she is setting herself up for failure. However, I do believe that an Alpha can evolve into a Gamma if he wants to.

  28. Gotta love a true Alpha, with a soft side for one woman only. :)

  29. An alpha is appealing, but he'd be hard to live with. In real life, or in realistic fiction, I'd go for a gamma.

  30. I hadn't heard of the Gamma male before, but I think that's how I would describe the male protagonist in my current novel.

    Still haven't seen Captain America. I feel like I'm missing out. :(

  31. I'm sorry, you lost me after you mentioned Han Solo. I was in Han lala land after that.

  32. Oh, great analysis. I haven't seen the movie and probably won't until video, but your description of the types is fabulous. I am strongly anti-alpha (very possibly because I'm an alpha myself) but I am not really a 'nice guy' girl either. I tend to like the anti-hero, but this gamma description is exactly the kind of male lead I can root for.

  33. I love this post! One of my favorite Alphas is Jericho Barrons from Karen Marie Moning's Fever series. There's something about the challenge of making him a Gamma :) I love the superhero movies also.

  34. How about this, the Alpha is the one you date, but the Gamma is the one you marry.

  35. I have 3 boys (including my husband) and on some days they give off gamma rays. But they do fluctuate between all three personalities in different settings. Thanks for following me andI look forward to seeing more of you! Julie

  36. Ciara ~ That's usually the type we get in a lot of romances, but sometimes it takes awhile for the heroine to get to the gooey center.

    Janie ~ I agree that it shouldn't be a breeze to live with an Alpha, even in fiction. That's why I love stories that shows what happens to the couple after the HEA.

    L.G. ~ What are you waiting for? Go see it!

    Lydia ~ Ahh, Han Solo. Know what you mean.

    Hart ~ Glad you liked the post and found a hero you can root for.

    L.J. ~ I just started the Fever series. Love it. Wish I knew more about Jericho.

    MsMariah ~ I think that's an excellent point and game plan most women should try. Just don't get hooked on the Alpha :).

  37. Interesting! And I'm always a sicker for an alpha male. I love that domineering side, even tho I'm married to more of a beta... which is prolly better for me all around.
    I agree, Han is definitely an alpha! :)

  38. That scene from StarWars is forever burned into my memory. My teenage sister and I were part of a great audience, all of us totally engrossed in the movie. Han said the line,"I know." My quiet, respectful baby sis half rose from her seat and proclaimed, "You son-of-a-bitch!" Many heads snapped toward us and somewhere in the darkened theatre a female voice called, "You tell 'im, Sister!"

  39. PK ~ I couldn't believe how many people thought he was a gamma. He's alpha all the way.

    DM ~ LOL! One of those moments I wish I could've seen or heard for myself :).

  40. alphas are usually more interesting to me.

  41. Kathy aka Khaki Crouch :-)I don't see a message why it isn't letting me post with my name but here's my comment:

    Isis I think of JD Robb's Roarke as the perfect Gamma example. He's Alpha but he's the one to whisk Eve away for a weekend when he can. He nurtures her when she pushes beyond her limits.
    Kathy aka Khaki Crouch :-)I don't see a message why it isn't letting me post with my name but here's my comment anyway.

  42. Very interesting! This movie is on my list to see.

  43. As far as I'm concerned, it's a leadership style and team play (including relationship play) which defines an alpha/gamma/beta, not how hard they kick butt.

    The problem I run into is that the 'alpha' designation so often is coupled with a**hole. And, in fact, alphas don't have to be. Decent alphas (and I don't consider macho imitations to be alphas) move to take action because at their heart, they're highly responsible guys. They're used to people leaning on them, and as such, it becomes something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. You *can* tug the bit out from between their teeth and rein them in, though. Thor? Definitely alpha. Raised to be a king, raised to lead, raised to take responsibility.

    CA? I agree, definitely gamma. He's tough and stubborn (a little guy like that refusing to back down from a fight? Definitely strong *and* brave, if also stubborn.) Yet he's flexible; he can lead the team when he's the best man for the job, but he can work within the team as well. In some situations, he might not be as assertive as an alpha (re: romantic history) but he generally has good reasons for it (re: physical condition and past reception by women.) A very versatile kind of guy.

    [My husband's a definite gamma, by the way - admittedly, on the alpha border, but still gamma. My dad's alpha, but let me tell you, alphas can and do acquiesce for the right woman; he did it for my mom. And, come to think of it, for me, when needed. :)]

    Betas don't lead unless there's no other option. That doesn't mean they can, just that their responsibility focus is on the welfare of the group. Unlike alphas, however, who do best alone or in charge, or gammas, who can flex from alone to teamwork, betas really do best as a part of the team. And that's a good thing, too.

    Just my two cents!


  44. J. Littlejohn ~ Alphas are definitely dynamic and can hold a reader's attention. And they usually light the screen up with fireworks. Hard to resist.

    Kathy ~ Nice to see you here. I haven't read that particular series, but I've heard great things about. Will have to check it out.

    Ellie ~ The movie was very entertaining.

    Sylar ~ Happy you enjoyed it and thanks for the follow :).

    Elizabeth ~ Thanks for sharing your two cents. I agree with everything you said and alphas don't have to be a**holes. I think Wolverine is a good example. I appreciate you sharing!

  45. Sorry to be so late, Isis. What an interesting post. My hubby is definitely an alpha, a take charge guy, and there's no one I would like better at my side in a crisis.

  46. I adored CAPTAIN AMERICA! Speaking of more alphas, I saw COWBOYS & ALIENS this weekend--it's full of alphas. I've never heard the term Gamma Hero before and now I'm intrigued. There seems to be a fine line between the two? I don't know which one I prefer in a book or a movie but I'll know it when I see it. And if it happens to be Daniel Craig, all the better. :-)

  47. Love this blog post! A really interesting read! Followed!

  48. Sandy ~ Thanks for stopping by. Must be interesting being married to an alpha :).

    Liz ~ I love Daniel Craig also. Have you seen Layer Cake?

    Jason ~ Thanks for the compliment and for the follow :)! Nice to meet you.

  49. Holy Cow! I just discovered this Gamma hero concept and wanted a clearer definition so thanks! I'd vote for anything by Laura Kinsale, Jocelyn from the Kushiel series and what about Jean Claude from laurell k hamilton? any thoughts? he's no beta, but seems a bit too manipulative and contemplative to be an alpha.

    Or Anne Bishop? Daemon Sadi. I loved him. Sigh.

  50. Caroline ~ Definitely Jocelyn from Kushiel. Loved that series.