An Unexpected Revelation About What Makes the Male Lead Attractive

Lightning suddenly struck in my brain, sparking a connection made between reality and fiction. Without warning, I found an answer in a most unexpected place!

“…oh my gosh, THAT’S IT!” I exclaimed, “THAT’S what women find so attractive about them!”

Do I dramatize? Of course I do! πŸ˜‰ But, in this case, not by much!

It is no secret that men and women alike will ogle, pant after, and fantasize about the people they see on the screen or read about in books. However, there has always been a certain amount of debate concerning what it is, exactly which makes those lead characters, and the people who portray them, so attractive to their target audience. I have wondered about that myself on many an occasion.

Then I came across this video, which is a reaction to this video, which is a response to this article.

To summarize, the article lists nine qualities that it suggests a woman look for in a man as indications that she should keep him and never let him go. The video which reacts to this article offers a very different list, pointing out that there is what women say they want – in an effort to makeΒ themselves look good – and then there’s what actually attracts them. Of course, the two lists are not mutually exclusive, but they certainly are very different.

It is the second list, and the first video I watched where a beautiful woman gave honest, thoughtful feedback and explained exactly why each quality on the second list was so attractive, which made me suddenly realize: if we take that second list and judge the male leads we see in books, movies, etc. by that criteria… then that explains a lot of exactly what makes certain male leads so attractive to the women!

…hey, I’m a story-geek, my brain runs that way. πŸ˜‰

This is, of course, not a hard and fast rule that I am talking about, as women and men are much more complex than that. Women are attracted to different things, they want different things, they feel connections with different men and different male characters. But it is a theory, a general rule of thumb, and like any good theory, it can be tested!

Now, the first list, offered by the article, what it recommended a woman look for, is as follows, and I am, for present purposes, calling it the Beta List:
Smart
Makes You Laugh
Supports Your Career
Makes Effort With Friends and Family
Emotionally Intelligent
He Respects Your Opinions
Willing to Put the Work In
Celebrates Your Achievements
Shares Your Values

Most of those are fairly obvious in what they mean, though I had never heard the term “emotional intelligence” before. Between the article and this video, I figure it to mean, being aware of and able to talk about one’s feelings, to communicate them clearly, and be considerate about the feelings of others, especially one’s romantic partner.

The second list, the one offered of what makes a woman want a man to start with, is as follows, and I will call it the Alpha List:
Hot
Tall
Good in Bed
Wealthy
Preselected
Status
Body Confidence
Older
Independence

Again, most of those are pretty obvious. However, “Independence” refers here not just to being on one’s own, but to having one’s own goals and purpose, perhaps even some ambition, but something where they direct their own life forward towards something that they want to achieve in this life.

Also, I have never heard the term “Preselected” before, but it means having already been picked by another woman, particularly of some higher caliber, who deemed them to be worth their time. After all, if such a woman (or women) has already invested in him, then certainly that man must have something to offer. It’s that sort of thing. For present purposes, as we’re gauging the interest of people in the audience even more than in the story, we may need to bend the rules slightly. Not every male lead has a previous love, but they do have the female lead, which the audience sees, and that canΒ become their preselection.

Oh, and “Older” does not have to be especially significant. They don’t have to be separated by decades or even by years. Just “older than the girl.”

So, we now have the two sets of criteria in the Alpha and Beta lists. Now let’s look at the famous crushes that females of all ages have had! πŸ™‚

Now, as my brain stalled out after the first two or three male leads I came up with, I am indebted to some friends on a Facebook group I frequent for their assistance in drumming up several of the classic male leads with whom many a girl and woman has fallen in lust with. With the help of this wonderful little hive mind, I have compiled a list of several famous male leads from across cinema, television, literature, and real life.

Let’s see how they all measure up, eh? πŸ˜‰

First and foremost, and because I have long since wanted to figure out what it was that made this one so freaking popular with the girls, I present: Edward Cullen of the Twilight franchise.

Let’s look at how he scores on the Beta List first.

Is Edward Cullen smart? Debatable.
Does he make Bella laugh? Hm, I don’t recall much of that, actually.
Does he support Bella’s career, or any equivalent thereof? Nope.
Makes effort with her friends and family? Heck no.
Emotionally intelligent? Not really, which is ironic for a mind-reader. He’s much more controlling than that.
Does he respect Bella’s opinions? See previous answer.
Willing to put the work in? Hah, no!
Does he celebrate Bella’s achievements? Well, she doesn’t really have any, does she?
Shares her values? Hm. Do they ever really go into what they value?

So Edward Cullen strikes out all nine times on the Beta List. But what about the Alpha List?

Hot: Check.
Tall: Check.
Good in Bed: Check (apparently).
Wealthy: Double check!
Preselected: Check. No previous lovers, but interested girls and he couples up with the female lead.
Status: Check, tentatively. He is a formidable member of the formidable Cullen family, which has a good deal of prestige, including diverse, powerful, international allies and ties, albeit strained ties, with the rulers of the vampire world. Not to mention they stand at the forefront of what could be a remarkable transformative movement among the vampire population. (have I mentioned how all of this potential was wasted by Stephanie Meyer?)
Body Confidence: I will say check.
Older: absolutely check. He’s a hundred and some change and gets a teenager to marry him.
Independence: …hmm, he doesn’t really have anything to live for outside his family, his wife, and eventually his daughter. I’ll say this one is unchecked.

So, scoring a zero on the Beta List, but an easy 8 out of 9 on the Alpha List. He is an outstanding proof of this theory, and I finally have an explanation as to why females of all ages go freaking gaga over him despite everything that’s wrong with him.

Much the same can be said of his romantic rival, Jacob Black. …no, wait, let me rescind that. Just at a glance, I’d say Jacob scores several points on the Beta List: he’s fairly smart (albeit in an average way), makes her laugh, respects her opinions, has some emotional intelligence, supports and celebrates her, is willing to put in the work, has a good relationship with her father… yeah, he does pretty well.

He also scores a few points on the Alpha List (appropriate for a wolf): hot, tall, status as a chief’s grandson and an alpha of his own pack, body confidence, all checked. Not older, though, and not so rich, though his family is well enough off. No idea how he is in bed, though, and he is not preselected, though an argument can be made that he is admired by girls in the story and in the audience. Oh, and he doesn’t have the “independence” either. He even “imprints” on Bella’s own daughter. So, not a bad showing, but not nearly as high as Edward.

And which one does Bella choose?

While we’re on the subject of vampires and werewolves, there are two especially famous vampires from the televised universe of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, namely: Angel, as portrayed by David Boreanaz, and Spike, portrayed by James Marsters. They each score sporadically on the Beta List, with Spike, I would say, being smarter, funnier, and more emotionally intelligent, whilst Angel is more supportive, more respectful, makes more of an effort, etc. However, both of them absolutely crush the Alpha points, all of them, with the exception of being wealthy, though they seem to be well enough off to never be wanting for anything, most of the time.

In a similar vein, there’s Adam Hauptman from the Mercy Thompson series, and Charles Cornick from the Alpha and Omega series, both written by Patricia Briggs. And these two alpha-level werewolves… well, apparently, they are the perfect men! They check off every Alpha point, including wealth, and, as far as I can tell, they even check off every Beta point, too! Considering how many other male leads in similar literature seem to only check off the Alpha points and not the Beta points (like Edward Cullen), I find myself surprisingly appreciative of the men Briggs has created. πŸ™‚

And this is only the tip of the iceberg. The pattern is emerging and, while it isn’tΒ universal, it certainly seems to dominate.

Harry Dresden from The Dresden Files: most of the Beta points and all but one (wealthy) of the Alpha points, check!

The Winchesters and Castiel from Supernatural: generally score low on the Beta points, but check off the Alpha points. Heck, they might not really be wealthy, but they always have money, and they have access to resources which a number of rich men put together.

Jareth the Goblin King (David Bowie): most of the Alpha Points – we don’t know about preselection, and given that he’s after a teenage girl, we shall be glad we don’t know anything about his skills in bed, but he can certainly dance and charm – and not many of the Beta points.

Han Solo and Indiana Jones: both score many Alpha points, but only a few Beta points (though Solo scores higher than Jones, I’d say).

Legolas and Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings movies: many Alpha points (they are definitely older and of status and wealth), though there’s not much to go by in judging their Beta points.

Batman and Superman both knock the Alpha points (except Superman not being too rich) out the park, though Superman has more of the Beta points than Batman. And which one do the girls like more, eh?

Lucifer Morningstar: all the Alpha points and, oddly, for being the Devil, checks off quite a few Beta points as well.

And the list just goes on and on, with Beta points being sporadic while Alpha points remain practically a constant.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), and Star-Lord (Chris Pratt): all checks across almost all the Alpha boxes and several Beta boxes as well.

Wolverine (Hugh Jackman): yep.

Doctor Who (David Tenant): yep.

Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill): yep.

Rhett Butler (Clark Gable): yep.

Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson: yep.

Ryan Reynolds: yep.

Liam Neeson: yep.

Keanu Reeves: yep.

Frank Sinatra: yep.

Bruce Willis: yep.

Sean Connery: …need I say more? πŸ˜‰

“By all means, say more.”

With so many examples to choose from, I’d say this theory holds some pretty serious weight. Again, it’s not an absolute, but a general rule of thumb: if the male lead has the Alpha points, they are much more attractive to the ladies of the audience. They don’t need all of them, but a good majority of them will apparently draw a good deal of feminine attention.

So, the question then becomes… how can we use this? How can this piece of knowledge be applied, especially by those of us who want to become professional storytellers?

…well, obviously, when we create the male leads, if we want the girls to be attracted to them, the Alpha points make for a pretty good frame of reference. On the other hand, a lack of Alpha points could make the male lead more of an underdog, especially if part of their character is that they are overlooked by the girls in favor of boys who do have these attributes.

Or maybe one wants to actually explain why a girl likes a certain boy or a man. Yes, a revolutionary concept, I know. But toss in the Alpha points, and boom, instant attraction, something they can fixate on, and then add in other qualities, like intelligence, humor, and other Beta points or entirely different attributes.

Personally, I think the anime industry could do with taking some cues from this! I mean, how many harem leads do we have who are basically blank slates with no real personality? They certainly don’t strike many of the Alpha points, even when they (on rare occasion) somehow have all the Beta points in spades. They aren’t very interesting, but, then again, they aren’t actually the point of the harem show, are they? It’s the girls that are the emphasis there.

Not exactly Alphas, these boys.

In contrast, I notice that the reverse-harem boys tend to easily strike off the Alpha points, most commonly with their copious wealth and status, but they also tend to be driven in some way (independent), tall, handsome (hot), older than the girl, popular with all the girls (preselected), and confident (in their body and otherwise). The only thing lacking is a demonstrated quality in bed, which, all things considered, I think is better left to the imagination, more often than not. With all that established, the Beta points are merely a matter of character development, and, if I may be blunt, aren’t usually that much of a priority.

But, I digress, and I’ve gone on for quite awhile now.

What do y’all think? Think this could explain some things, and thus offer some guidance to future storytellers?

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