Rise of the Gamma Hero

Lets take a quick look at one; Back to the Future’s George McFly.

When we first met him he is as low on the socio-sexual totem pole as you can get without shooting up a post office. Awkward, geeky and still being belittled by his high school bully after thirty years. His wife loathes him and his children openly mock him, (Why not? Everyone else does).

Then we get to see him in the past.

The astonishing thing is that when Marty meets him in 1955 he’s actually shocked that his Dad was a loser back then too. I don’t know why he would believe anything else? Or why he’d be surprised that his old man was a filthy pervert, peeping on his surprisingly hot future wife.

Yet, with one punch George McFly’s entire life was turned around.

The girl he was hopelessly crushing (and peeping) on fell instantly in love with him.* He was simply oozing with assuredness, focus, and was suddenly socially adept. Decking an Alpha Male suddenly made him bone-deep confident. It was as if George had been something powerful all along but the world just couldn’t see it.

Thirty years later, he’s a number 1 New York Times best-selling author, his wife keeps herself trim, sober and in shape for him. Plus he can afford to spoil his jackass of a son with the kid’s dream truck.

No sixteen year old deserves this truck.
Especially Marty McFly

The lesson was clear, humiliate an Alpha and the world is yours.

In reality, Biff Tannen would not have been turned into a castrated Reek, snivelingly obeying the whims of the former object of his torment.

Biff was a thug, who had been turned into a thug by his father, between that man’s trips to San Quentin. Biff learned how to take a full power punch to the face before he turned eight. He would have gotten up off the parking lot, shook his head, figured correctly that he’d taken a lucky shot, and ripped George McFly to pieces.* **

George could be argued as being the true protagonist of Back to the Future since he is the only one with a story-arc. Marty was really just an observer of events, his presence changed things but the truth is the only thing he did was get his father to reveal his inner greatness during a visit to the past. It was George that defeated the Bad Guy.

How in hell did the likes of George McFly become a hero?

It was a slippery slope.

The Gamma Male has always been among us. But it was usually curable if caught early enough. In the days of arranged marriages, their needs were taken care of by their new wives at about fifteen or sixteen.

But then assortative mating displaced arranged marriages and Gammas had to flail desperately for themselves in a marketplace where they didn’t have a lot to sell. However, they weren’t too badly off yet because society stepped in to help.

Watch this video before proceeding further.

The basics on this short should be required learning before a boy is even permitted to speak to a girl

From my Mom’s generation on back to the earliest mists of time, women NEEDED husbands. It was a matter of dire economic necessity. Any man would do past a certain birthday. Hell, a woman would be happy enough to snatch up a Friends of Dorothy and look the other way once a month when he went off to the all-night “lodge meeting:” with his buddies.

Consequently, the Kays of the world grabbed the Nicks when it became clear that the Jeffs were out the question.

And then the Kays would set about making improvement projects out of them. Honestly, it wasn’t that hard to move him up the ladder from Total Loser to Every-day Joe. You will note that Kay was already nudging Nick firmly in the right direction before they had even held hands.

It was a system that was as old as the human race and worked like clockwork from one generation to the next.

And then disaster struck.

Then as now, businesses wanted workers as cheaply as they could get them. It has always been a win/win for businesses. It provides an immediate lower bottom line and drives down salaries across the board.

First, it was the Irish. Then the formerly enslaved followed by the Italians and Eastern Europeans. But then the labor market shifted and businesses needed well-educated workers. Physical strength wasn’t really needed for the underpaid jobs that would put men out work.

And the economic urgency that forced women to endure the unendurable, and take a Gamma off the market vanished.

The Women’s Lib movement made things worse for Gammas. The lie of “Baby you can have it all,” was blasted at Boomer and Gen-X girls. The message of, you’ll find more satisfaction in the business world than in having a home and children, was constantly being droned at them. Their physical desires could be dealt with by the guy they actually wanted to be dealing with them. Mind you the Alpha in question would be gone by the morning but so long as you were in your twenties and not looking too far into the future that was just fine for the new generation of Lorraines and Kays. Especially in a world that now prominently featured, “The Pill.”

The problem for the Nicks of the world was that they no longer had any women pushing them up the ladder. Worse, once they finally did run into one whose biological alarm clock had gone off like the trumpet of Gabriel, it was too late to save them. An eighteen-year-old Gamma can move up in the world pretty easily if he has a wife that is pushing him to become more socially adept. A virgin Gamma in his late twenties is too set in his ways. Particularly if the wife has drunk too deeply of the Kool-Aid and is basically encouraging him to remain a Gamma in the name feminism. Let’s be clear, married Gammas do not wear the pants in the family.

Having this miserable situation forced upon them, Gamma Males began to look for emotional validation. They started writing books and movies that cast themselves as the hero.

The tropes developed quickly. Alphas were the bullying enemy that would be humiliated by the end the of movie. The unattainable girl would have her heart opened to him, once the Gamma Hero had poured out his feelings for her, in an excruciating diatribe about the intensity of his true love for a girl he didn’t really know in the least.

That last bit was the saddest part. It was one of the worst lies Hollywood ever broadcast. I have had more than one guy ask me, “shouldn’t I just tell her how I feel?”

My answer was always the same, “NO! For god’s sake no! It will be an extinction-level event. It doesn’t work like it does in the movies.”

But she is the ONE.”

“There are four BILLION women on the planet and you just happened to meet the only one?!?

It was never any help. The poor bastards were always convinced that it was destiny rather than a creepy obsession with a girl he didn’t really know, and it would all be turned around if he just gave, “the speech.” After all, that was how it worked in the movies.

This trope was invented by Gammas for Gammas and it was incredibly self-centered. It treated the object of their affection as a true object. It demonstrated self-centeredness that was incapable of even trying to see what women really wanted in a man.***

It was all projection. This is a view where the Gamma genuinely sees a woman as a version of himself with tits. Stick a pin in this one we’re coming back to it.

The tropes were established enough to make a B-list Boner-Frat comedy by the mid- Eighties. I’d go into everything wrong with Revenge of the Nerds but Robot Chicken beat me to it.

They were the classic Gamma Heroes. Humiliate the good looking and socially adept leader and win the beautiful girl by demonstrating the intensity of your feelings for her, (it’s not rape, if she’s drunk and thinks you’re somebody else, she’ll love you for it!)

These kinds of Gamma Heroes had a fundamental problem. All men have a built-in desire to challenge the Alpha to some degree or another. Once the challenge fails and the man decides to follow the Alpha, all good. The Gamma can never bring himself to challenge the Alpha in the first place. The Gamma’s desire to challenge the Alpha generally manifests itself in displays of intellectual braggadocio and/or contempt for the things the Alpha values (usually “Sportsball”). Basically trying to compete in an area, where he feels certain the Alpha can’t. The problem is that no one is impressed by a pose of being “above it all” when the guy clearly can’t get above it all. For this first generation of Gamma Heroes to work, the audience had to fundamentally accept that it was the Gamma’s value system that was the really important one and truthfully this never works outside of a Boner-Comedy.

The conundrum was that if a Gamma Male could challenge and win against an Alpha Male on his own ground then he was no longer a Gamma at all. And they simply can NOT picture themselves doing that.

Then in the nineties, a new kind of Gamma Hero emerged. And it was (on the surface at least), an odd one for a man to settle on for his avatar. I first ran into them in S.M. Stirling’s books. The guy could spin a compelling yarn but he was completely obsessed with strong lesbian warrior-women.

These new pixie-ninjas were classic Mary-Sues. Clearly self-insert avatars for the writer. Everyone on the screen and in the books loved and admired them. Able to defeat the strongest of Alpha Males with ease yet not at all interested in them sexually. Feminism had ordered Leftie men to like this kind of woman as well, so that was a plus.

The Gamma Male now had a hero that could defeat the Alpha on his own terms. And vitally, that hero didn’t become an Alpha Male in the process.

The disconnect being, somewhere deep down inside, they couldn’t buy a strong woman warrior falling for a Gamma Male either. They would often try but it was too sharp a juxtaposition for their fantasy image to survive.

So the strong warrior woman, (sooner or later) went lesbian.

That thing with Hercules was just phase I was going through.

I had wondered at length how the same guys who did everything so right with Avatar the Last Airbender got everything so wrong with the Legend of Korra. It was the same set of writers but they created a disaster with Korra. I finally worked that one out. In Avatar they were writing about an adolescent boy. And that is indeed and truly the one thing Gamma Males know all about.

In their hearts they are twelve year old boys forever.

*Hat tip to John Cheese for this observation.

** While I’m at it, Lorraine McFly was revealed as being a bit of slut for bad boys in a world that had anti-abortion laws but no birth control pill. She was undoubtedly already” in trouble” the night of the Under the Sea dance. Having been given the brush off by the Alpha that had done the deed “Sorry, Babe but genetic testing ain’t a thing yet, so it’s your word against mine.” It was 1955 and she was in desperate need of a baby-Daddy. Marty would have been nice but George would have to do in pinch. And while I’m on this tangent. I would have kicked my wife out of the house if my son turned out to be an exact look-alike for my super-cool best friend from high school. I’m just saying the obvious here.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is lorr.jpg
Thank god Marty had two older siblings
I mean at least THAT is off the table.

*** Hint: women are not attracted to weirdos that are stating their frantic obsession with them out the blue.

13 thoughts on “Rise of the Gamma Hero

  1. Those movies left a sour taste, back in the day, way before the SSH got formally stated and set out publicly. Disliked them all, but couldn’t put my finger on why. Good post.

    To steal a line from “The Life of Brian”, send all those writers to gladiator school. I want the battling wild beasts in the arena, in a week!


  2. I’ll be a bit of a contrarian here. George actually goes through improving from being a gamma. It’s Marty though that pushes him along. Sure it’s in an abbreviated form because it’s a movie. And yes, most likely Biff would have proceeded to beat George into a smear on the pavement. However, look at his arc:

    – perv watching from a tree
    – no guts to even talk to Lorraine
    – finally talks, with sappy poetry, to her only to be stood up by Marty the action star
    – shows up only to find Biff instead of Marty and doesn’t run away
    – first punch is a lame one that does nothing
    – punches out Biff
    – gains confidence and some realization of not being a gamma

    Yes, the movie overdoes some pieces of it. George though doesn’t sulk off and plot his revenge on Biff for the rest of his life. He doesn’t win Lorraine by being nice, with poetry, or getting hit by a car. He wins by violence.

    I’ll agree that crap like Revenge of the Nerds is not the way to go.


    1. Chris, agreed. George gets the girl because he stops being a Gamma and acts like a man. It all happens too quickly and easily, but he does it. Then when Marty gets home we see that George must have liked it and not regressed. Revenge of the Nerds said you don’t need to improve and meet society’s standards, don’t need to face your nemesis man-to-man and risk a beating, just use trickery to win and make people like your weird, off-putting self. Gammas naturally preferred to repeat that narrative. I guess you can see the seeds of today’s Gamma heroes in George McFly, but they hadn’t abandoned the old story of becoming a man with your fists yet.


    2. George never bad-mouths Biff, even in the original timeline. He probably had numerous opportunities to get Biff fired, or expelled from school back in 1955–which would be the Gamma thing to do.

      George doesn’t have “one-itus” over Lorraine. In the cafeteria scene, when Marty is trying to talk George into asking Lorraine out, George simply says, “I think she’d rather go out with Biff.” He doesn’t notify Principal Strickland that Lorraine was being assaulted by Biff–that is, run to an authority figure to tattle, as a Gamma would have.

      Curiously, Biff does seem to have “one-itus” over Lorraine; obsessing over her for years. He is front-line management, not C.E.O. or upper level management or even middle management in the original timeline. In part 2, he becomes a situational Alpha because he has the sports almanac, but he just doesnt seem to have the intelligence to be a true Alpha.

      George, at the end, doesn’t yell for help or try to get the notice of the nearby crowd of people to stop Biff. He acts very much like a Delta, standing his ground, but expecting that he was about to get his clock cleaned. He just lucked out that Biff had a glass jaw (which curiously did not exist the couple of times that Marty punched Biff).

      I suppose that the script writers intended for Biff to represent the Alpha villain, and George to represent the Gamma hero, but they screwed it up, somehow.


  3. The Last Airbender completely gamma-ed its landing. The entire narrative, not to mention the systems of magic, pointed at Zuko ending up with Katara, and Aang with Toph (after his balls dropped and she had some grass on the field, of course). Water moderates Fire; Earth grounds Air.

    Sokka ends up with a harem.


      1. I always knew there was something wrong with the relationships in that show. E;R’s Korrasami review has the producers showing an animated clip at a convention that gleefully torments the Zutara shippers in an almost petty fashion. I admit I clocked out around Season Three when i saw that the writers were using the ships to jerk the audience around.


  4. Is Biff really an Alpha?

    He doesn’t seem to attract women–I am thinking of Gaston, from “Beauty and the Beast”, whom everyone likes, and who has attractive women sighing over him. No one seems to like Biff, except maybe his friends. Perhaps the script writers meant to write the character as an Alpha, but didn’t know how to do it properly–or, just wrote him to be as villainous as possible.

    George, on the other hand, looks more like a Delta (or even an Omega) than a Gamma. He is completely friendless. Principal Strickland describes George as a “slacker”; I would imagine that were George a Gamma, he would be well thought of by the faculty, because he would have good grades and would’ve been a suck-up. He endures Biff’s bullying, but doesnt harbor murderous resentment, from what I can see. He likes Lorraine, but only pursues her because of Marty’s prompting. In the original timeline, she falls for him out of pity, maybe?

    Marty is the Gamma. He has wit and talent and bravado, (telling the principal to his face “History is gonna change” without any clear plan for effecting any change). He is impulsive and pulls stunts–like tripping Biff at the diner–that he quickly discovers are bad ideas. He doesnt fight unless he has no alternative, and uses sucker punches, followed by running away, when he faces Biff. He has an attractive girlfriend–who knows why she likes him; she just does–so his goal is social acceptance: being recognized for his talent. He is afraid of rejection, though, so he won’t take even mild risks, like sending a sample tape of his playing to the record company, because he might look stupid. His only real friend is an eccentric inventor who happened to invent a time machine.


  5. Never thought I’d find another person who picked up on Stirling’s weird thing for defiling young attractive blondes with lesbianism.


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