Newsweek Celebrates 'Ecosavant' Al Gore As The Hot New Sensitive 'Beta Male'
News magazines love to float above the real news and focus on nebulous trends, and perhaps none are more nebulous than the sudden popularity of the "beta male," as represented by Al Gore. The "cultural dispatch" by writer Jennie Yabroff celebrates Gore as "the proto beta male" who’s "having the last laugh as a movie star, an ecosavant, a best-selling author, and a potential dark-horse presidential candidate."
Yabroff’s article in the June 4 edition was headlined "Betas Rule: What do Jim from 'The Office,' Shrek and Al Gore have in common? They're beta males—losers who are winning. Look out, alpha dogs." While the grasping, ambitious "alphas" are out, Gore and Bill Clinton are singled out as the hottest political embodiments of sensitively surrendering men, as if they have no ambitions at all:
Then there's Al Gore. During the 2000 election, the press seized on the conceit that Gore was too eager to please, too deferential, too indecisive. Today Gore is still the proto beta male—the on-again-off-again beard, the belly, the deference to Tipper – but he's also having the last laugh as a movie star, an ecosavant, a best-selling author and a potential dark-horse presidential contender. You could even argue that his former boss is following his lead. Bill Clinton is remaking himself as a soft-spoken, waistline-watching humanitarian who's happy to cede the spotlight to his wife, Hillary. If she wins, he'll make history – as the country's first First Gentleman. You can't get much more beta than that.
It’s doubtful that Bill Clinton would appreciate Yabroff putting him in the category of "mojo-free man," but that’s just what she does:
It makes sense that our culture is embracing the mojo-free man right now. As America comes to terms with our diminished omnipotence in the wake of 9/11, the Iraq War and President Bush's international unpopularity, we're growing weary of Teflon-coated John Wayne stereotypes of masculinity. Donald Rumsfeld, Ken Lay, Mel Gibson, Don Imus – all chest-beating, leader-of-the-pack men, and look what happened to them. The alpha dog doesn't hunt anymore. The new role model is a beta male.
The oddity in all of this analysis is that liberals like the Newsweek staff never believed in American "omnipotence" and haven’t liked the "John Wayne stereotypes of masculinity" going way back to the beta-male Sixties. This is just a celebration that liberalism as the hot new zeitgeist, dressed up as a "cultural dispatch." Yabroff even strikes a feminist note, so feminist that those supposedly hot beta males end up being dissed:
Still, alphas aren't totally over. Women still have to prove their alphaness – look at Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice and Nancy Pelosi – even though the guys have given it a bad name. Former Seventeen magazine editor Atoosa Rubenstein is planning a Web site for "alpha kitties" like herself, whom she defines as "girls who are powerful and not afraid to be girly," not unlike Alison in [the new movie] "Knocked Up." It makes sense that as we grow tired and distrustful of the all-powerful male figures, we still crave models of strength and competence. After all, someone needs to tell those feckless betas to tuck in their shirts.
It’s a little odd to see Bill as the "beta male" and Hillary as the "alpha kitty" when you consider that he cheated on her inside the White House and she played herself up as "gasping for breath" at the discovery. But the "Office" watchers at MRC are shaking their heads at the Al Gore comparisons that Newsweek makes:
The Emmy-winning "The Office" presents a microcosm of this cultural shift. The show's star is the preening, hilariously un-self-aware boss Michael (Steve Carell), who is constantly shadowed by his sycophantic No. 2, Dwight (Rainn Wilson). Both of them are hopelessly deluded wanna-be alphas....The soul of "The Office," and its stealth heartthrob, is actually easygoing, soft-spoken Jim (John Krasinski), who, in true beta fashion, turned down a promotion to management in the season finale.
How is Al Gore the man who "turned down a promotion to management" and not the man who is "preening," or a "sycophantic No. 2"? This "Dwight" quote graces the August page of this year’s "Office" calendar: "Superior genes....and superior brain-power. Through concentration I can raise and lower my cholesterol at will." That sounds a lot more like Al Gore than the soulful "stealth heartthrob."