December 28, 2010

What The Beast Taught Me About Alpha Heroes

I realize this is intensely random, but bear with me. I got the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast on Blu Ray for Christmas. With apologies to Sassy Sister Jane, it is my absolute favorite version of the story, and one of my favorite Disney movies evah.

I had a little epiphany while watching it on Christmas though, and I figured I would share it with you.

The Beast is an alpha male. Oh yeah and like whoa. He’s in charge, the ruler of his castle. And he has his moments where, in order to protect himself, his secrets, he lashes out at Belle. He can be downright scary. I think I was seven when the movie hit theaters and I’ll never forget being scared out of my mind when Belle went into the West Wing and he came in shouting “Get out!” and turning over tables and stuff. Yikes. Scared me senseless.

He can be cold. Mean. Ruthless. The meanest bastard this side of Gaston. His sense of justice uncompromising as he takes Belle prisoner in place of her father.

He’s closed off to love, his feelings hidden by his intense aggression.

But…there’s more to him than that. Sure, he can come in all strong and even scary, but under that is where the true man is. One who has been wounded by his own youthful stupidity. One who is afraid to take a chance on love, because he feels unworthy of the woman he’s fallen for.

He’s awkward when asking her to dinner. He gives her a library because he knows she loves books. He saves her from wolves, for heaven’s sake.

Point being, he’s not one-note. When you have an alpha hero who comes across very…well…intense, I guess, it’s important for there to be balance. For there to be cracks in his armor so that the reader can get a sense for his humanity, so that the reader can see him falling for the heroine…and why she would fall for him.

I thought Caitlin Crews did a brilliant job of that with Luc in Pure Princess, Bartered Bride. He was a very intense and hardened type of hero, and yet there’s this moment where he gives the heroine a ring, and he’s nervous to do it…wondering what her reaction will be. It was one of the most romantic moments I’ve ever read, and the power that it possessed was because in all other areas he was a supremely confident, even arrogant man. But the heroine broke through. The heroine reached beneath it, and the reader got to see it.

Alpha does not=bastard. And if you are dealing with a hero who has his moments of…well…you know…then it’s nice to see a balance so that he can be human. He lends more weight to his strength if he has some weakness. It adds more to his character if the supremely confident businessman is undone by his heroine. And not just in the last five pages. It’s the ebb and flow of the story, bringing them closer, undermining it, bringing them a little bit closer, pulling them apart. Making him vulnerable, bringing his walls back up, then demolishing them completely.

But, IMO, showing the readers what’s underneath that facade of absolute strength and power, is the thing that will keep them hooked. It’s the thing that will allow them to fall in love with the hero, and want the heroine to love him too.


16 Responses | TrackBack URL | Comments Feed

  1. I will admit, I went into reading HQ Presents with preconceived notions. Friends had said the men were way too alpha and I’d probably want to hit them. LOL Well, I dunno if it’s just your writing that agrees with me or what (since you’re the only Presents author I’ve read so far) but I so didn’t get that feeling. I liked Max. Didn’t think he was over the top at all. Since I consider myself pretty good at subtext, I didn’t have any trouble reading between the lines and seeing there was more to him than his outer shell. Once I have time to finish this book, I’m going to gobble up His Virgin Acquisition next. πŸ™‚ Because seriously, if your Presents are representative of the line, I think I’m gonna be a happy reader. πŸ™‚

    Great post as always! (Should I end every comment with “you rock, girly!”? LOL)

  2. I had to google that book of Caitlin’s. I knew I’dread it. I agree that there were a lot of things in that book that should have not worked for me. And yet, it never crossed that line that had me thinking ‘oh, honey, you could do better.’ And I think it’s because Caitlin does show his vulnerable side. So even if he’s being a bit of an idiot at the moment, I still want him to get the girl.

  3. I loooove Beauty and the Beast. I actually think kids’ movies are a great inspiration for heroes and plot ideas. And not only because I have a two year old. Something that appeals to kids tends to reach for our emotions and work on universal themes.
    One of my favorite heroes is Shrek. He’s a bit of a wounded alpha too πŸ˜‰

  4. Cari, aww, bless your heart. Well, Max was a bit of a gentle alpha, I have to confess. You may want to punch Marco a couple of times. Just full disclosure. But he’s a hero I love, he’s my first after all. (Oh my!) I also ‘get’ him. Of course I do, I made him up!

    Julia, Luc was an UBER alpha, but it was those moments of vulnerability that made you love him. I also loved when he realized he’d never given a thought to whether or not his employees liked him…and maybe he should care. All because of Gabby.

    Jill, I actually wrote a MS based on a scene that inspired me while my 4yo was watching Little Mermaid. πŸ™‚

  5. It’s MY favorite too! I love that he gives her a library πŸ™‚

  6. I agree with you. In fact, I had this epiphany a little earlier than you (just a couple weeks though). When I read Jennie Lucas’ book Sensible Housekeeper, Scandalously Pregnant, it totally reminded me of Beauty and the Beast!

    I almost didn’t read it because a lot of people on M&B said how jerky hero was, but I’m super glad I did because it is great.

  7. Maurine, Jennie has the great ability to take that uber alpha and give him real, human qualities. I think my favorite of hers is her book that finalled in the RITA, The Christmas Love-Child. He had such a wonderful, compelling backstory and I truly believed in his transformation.

    Hooray for Disney epiphanies all around!

  8. That was a great book and Sensible Housekeeper, Scandalously Pregnant and it’s companion book The Virgin’s Choice (The Bride Thief in U.S.) are even better.

    And Caitlin Crew blew me away with her debut.

  9. I love Beauty and the Beast, you’ve made me want to dig it out for my kids to watch tomorrow. I’m sure we’ve got a VHS copy in this house somewhere!!

    A strong, alpha hero brought to his knees by his love for the heroine is always sweeter because he has so very far to fall πŸ™‚

    An an aside note, I’ve kissed a couple of beasts but they never turned into a handsome prince. I guess there’s a lesson in there for me πŸ˜‰

  10. Maisey, I’ll forgive you for preferring the Disney version! There are some very dark strange versions out there on film- the Cocteau one will give anyone nightmares.

    The beast really is a wonderful Alpha archetype- and the best thing is that though he is undoubtably a beast, he shows signs of being redeemable, signs of really caring and considering the heroine, although he is still a danger to her too. Heroes must have that hint of vulnerability, the proverbial chink in their armour.

    If he’s an Alphole all the way through and does nothing but treat the heroine badly, I’m not going to find the declaration of love on the second last page convincing. Declarations of love without real actions and behaviour change to back them up, proving the beast has been redeemed, are what keeps too many women in bad, abusive relationships in the real world. In my romance reading, I gotta have that proof of redemption.

    I love the new look site too, sad to say I haven’t been to visit since you redecorated- it looks fab!

  11. Maisey, the Disney version is my favourite too! He’s just about the only beast I like πŸ™‚

    I generally tend to think of the beast-like Alpha exterior as the annoying wrapper that you toss aside to get to the good bit… the thin and crispy chocolate shell that contains the best part… the gooey chocolate centre. The chocolate I love, the wrapper just goes in the garbage!

  12. Joanne, you deserve a ready-made prince, my dear. A woman should only have to kiss so many frogs…

    Jane, well, well said. I can’t even add to it, because that’s just how I see it.

    Chelsea, and that’s why you write Blaze. πŸ˜‰ Doesn’t take long for the heroines to unwrap their men…

  13. I love B&B too! Have you ever wished he stayed a Beast? Rawr!

  14. Hi Maisey! Wow, love the site, I’ve been dreadfully absent and didn’t see the makeover. #impressed!

    I loooooooooooove the Disney version of this movie, always have. It’s one I wouldn’t mind on DVD either. I love the Beast’s voice too. Perfect. And, I digress slightly to mention Lumiere, who is such a fun and fantastic character.

    Great post! I’ll make it a NY resolution to come back more often!

  15. Beast…rawr indeed, Keira, rawr indeed.

    Jessica, I’ve missed you! I only just made it over so don’t feel too bad!! Oh yeah…he had good voice. πŸ™‚

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