- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 10, 2007

For a mere $10,000, the handy dandy BecomeAlpha executive training company will turn anyone into an alpha male. Its workshops include “Evolution, Genetics and the Meaning of Life” and “Working With the Nature of Reality.” A whole new id is practically guaranteed.

“It’s hard-core boot camp for those tired of complacency and mediocrity and willing to actually do something about it other than complain,” explained Darryl Pierce, spokesman for the California-based group.

“The politically correct ‘everybody’s a winner’ mentality has clouded the fact that the alpha types will always rise to the top and be the most successful. It’s a cold, hard reality that many don’t want to accept, but it’s true,” Mr. Pierce said before throwing a spear, pounding his chest and eating a 16-ounce steak.

“The guys in this company teach people how to embrace alpha-male traits to help them reach significantly higher levels of business success, profitability, renown and personal happiness,” he added.

Perhaps the proverbial alpha male is present on other planes of human existence.

Surely it was an Alfalfa male on the old “Our Gang” comedies of yore. It had to be an elfa male in “The Lord of the Rings” and an alpha hydroxy male among dermatologists. The Alpha Centauri male might climb the ranks at the nearest observatory, while Alfie male, Alka male and maybe Alpo male have distinct possibilities. And why not alpaca male for men who favor scratchy suits?

Yes, well.

Mr. Pierce points out that 75 percent of the nation’s top executives and half of all middle managers have been characterized as classic alpha males by no less than Harvard University’s School of Business. He guarantees that BecomeAlpha does not require its candidates to get in touch with their inner anything, “love the inner you” or “be a team player.”

All of this might be of interest to Al Gore, recently deemed the dean of the “proto beta males” by Newsweek magazine. Ah, the beta male, that nonthreatening also-ran who neither trumpets in the forest nor monopolizes the remote control. Newsweek writer Jennie Yabroff contends that the beta male is the man of the hour because everybody is sick of alpha males. The nation is rooting for Shrek, not Mel Gibson, apparently.

“Our culture is embracing the mojo-free man right now,” Miss Yabroff noted last month. “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 the Teflon-coated John Wayne stereotypes of masculinity.”

Except maybe in Anbar province

Meanwhile, ace political pollster John Zogby might not agree with the trend. He recently asked 993 likely voters to rank the most desirable traits for the next president. The findings appear to place the next commander in chief somewhere between the BecomeAlpha school for ripsnorting executives and Arthurian legend.

The leading trait — “Is a competent manager” — was cited by 82 percent of the respondents, followed by “Can bring the American people together,” “Can command the military” and “Has personal morality.” Other traits include the ability to promote the American image abroad, a fair mind toward the opposition, Christian values and diplomacy.

The ideal president in 2008 sounds remarkably John Wayne-y.

“Americans now value leadership and unity more than ideology,” Mr. Zogby observed.

Others also might contest the idea that Mr. Gore is lead beta boy. Earlier this year, New Republic senior editor Ryan Lizza pointed out that a new breed of “alpha male Democrats” had emerged in the political marketplace as a counter to Nancy Pelosi’s brand of mommy party. Democratic strategist John Lapp crowned the new talent “Macho Dems,” — drawn from the ranks, he said, of “CIA agents, FBI agents, NFL quarterbacks, sheriffs, Iraq war vets. These are red-blooded Americans who are tough.”

Hmm.

And while Newsweek may be convinced that the beta male has supplanted his gutsier counterparts in the hearts and minds of the nation, Hollywood is not. John Wayne is not on the wane. The rush is on to find the next Wayne, in fact.

“The whole sensitive-man phenomenon is appealing, but we’re looking to get back to a more masculine movie star,” casting director Joanna Colbert told the Los Angeles Times last week. The paper itself declared that Tinseltown is in a rush to find “hunky leading men.”

In March, a University of Missouri study revealed a new side to the old-fashioned he-man: The more masculine a man, the faster he heals.

“For years, experts have said that the strong, silent male is not one to ask for help when he’s hurt, and therefore [is] at a disadvantage when it comes to getting better. But new research says this might not be completely accurate,” the study says. “This masculine identity often associated with men in the armed forces and other high-risk occupations may actually encourage and quicken a man’s recovery from serious injuries.”

Jennifer Harper covers media, politics and Teflon-coated John Wayne stereotypes for The Washington Times’ national desk. Reach her at jharper@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.

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