13 May 2010

Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place

Listening to: Two Door Cinema Club, "What You Know" and "Something Good Can Work." These boys from Northern Ireland rocked it out for us last week. After waiting hours for them to get on-stage at 330 Ritch, they zipped through every song on their album in about thirty minutes, few few stops and just pure intensity. Phew. They sounded absolutely fantastic in person and the lead singer's voice seems fake but is very real. If that makes any sense. Their debut studio album, "Tourist History," is nearly all standout hits. Seriously, listen to it all.

Okay, I've been thinking about this for awhile now, so feel free to nod your head vigorously and agree absolutely. My theory is that any particular sustained social group with alpha males has to contain two of them. This is in contrast to a group with alpha females, of which only one can exist at any time. If you don't know what an alpha anyone is, you should probably skip this post. Let's start with a few examples to whet the appetite before I go into why I think this dual sun system exists.

The classic double alpha male relationship is 90210, with Brandon and Dylan. I can't believe I have to say this but obviously I mean, the original Beverly Hills 90210. If you were born in the 90's, wipe that confused look off your face. The other super obvious two alpha male pairing is Saved by the Bell's Zack and Slater. All of them are popular, good looking, and equally capable of attracting friends and romantic interests. They are also generally friends with each other. Of course, these duos can't be the same type of alpha male. Brandon is the clean cut classically cute guy, while Dylan is the bad boy through and through. And while some might argue that Zack is the sole alpha male in the universe of Saved by the Bell, I contend that the show was skewed through Zach's perspective. Slater, with his muscle bound charm, was definitely a co-alpha male. There can't be two of the same alpha males in the kingdom; they have to be complementary or at least a little different.

Think about all the other TV series and sitcoms where this trope is true. Melrose Place had Billy and Jake. Gossip Girl with Chuck Bass and Nate Archibald. The O.C.'s Ryan and Seth. Barney and Ted of How I Met Your Mother. Dawson and Pacey (both more beta-alpha males). And the newest contribution to the cause, Finn and Puck from Glee. There's a ton more of course, but I've only watched so much television in my life. I'm sure you can do better.

One thing that might alert you to the presence of twin alpha males: girls are attracted to both but for entirely different reasons. This season of MTV's Challenge features the rivalry between Kenny and Wes, who have a complicated history that involves a shared ex-girlfriend. On this new season, a Fresh Meat contestant lusts openly for both. She can't decide if she likes the beautiful Kenny or the charismatic Wes better. While they are vying for control of the house (they are not friends), they are also trying to out-do each other for the attention of the females. Classic double alpha males, and in a totally realistic setting!

So now why does this double alpha male thing happen? Let's first explore why in a typical social group only one alpha female girl can dominate. Actually we don't need to explore anything. I know it's a huge generalization but it's true, two alpha females will butt heads. Alpha females don't get along well with each other and in the cases where they do (Galinda and Elphaba) there's still a distinct one-two hierarchy. For the most part, having two alpha females means there's a splintering coming into their own separate circles.

The difference between the alpha males is that they can thrive in competition against each other. It's almost preferable to have someone to challenge and measure themselves against. Zach and Slater are both equally capable of leading their own packs around -- in this case, just poor old Screech -- but they need to measure and antagonize each other in order to achieve higher. Losing a few battles doesn't bother them as much as it motivates. And as for the other guys, the ones who aren't the alpha males, there's a distinct advantage to having two head honchos.

See, there can be groups with just one alpha male -- Brody of Laguna Beach -- but that isn't a social group as much as a pecking order. Having just one alpha male means everyone else is a follower; this scenario usually happens when one guy is a big star. If you're Lebron James or Vince from Entourage, you don't have an alpha male partner. But in real social circles, other guys just don't like this setup. Who the hell wants to hang out under the thumb of the same guy all the time? When I subjugate myself, I'd prefer to have a choice dammit.

It's not fun when the same guy is always the smartest, the best looking, the coolest, the richest, the whatever-ist. Having two alpha males means that at least occasionally there's a different winner. That's enough to give other guys the hope that if they rise in status and defeat one of the pre-existing alphas, they can rise to the top. And even if no challengers to the throne ever emerge, at least the two star system ensures some balance in the order of things.

So that's my theory: Most of the time, if there's an alpha male in the group, there has to be another. What do you think? Totally off track or right on? And if I'm right, is it because the public has consumed too much 90210 and Saved by the Bell and we're just emulated what we see on television, or were the show's producers geniuses for tapping into a fundamental social force?

I know there are doubters of this theory already, so feel free to speak up. Until then, I'm gonna stick with it and look around at social groups to see if this actually applies as much as I think it does. I feel like this is theoretically sound but hey, I've been known to be wrong from time to time. Occasionally.