I deserve to be whipped for writing about this, as it’s fairly reeks of 2014, but I’ve seen it pop up on Twitter, and recently. Most of the time this is discussed in typical internet gibberish, but within it is an attempt to analyze human behavior, so there’s something worth commenting on.
If you’re not in the know, the Social-Sexual Hierarchy is a meme of the neo-masculinity Red Pill crowd, a set of categories of male behavior. In a nutshell, Alphas are leaders/kings, Betas are followers/guards of Alphas, Deltas are are normies/foot soldiers, Gammas are nerds/misfits, and Omegas are monsters and perverts. Per the Nerd Inflation Rule of the Internet, people have been adding categories to this since it started. The most common extra category is the Sigma, the lone wolf who could be an Alpha if he cared (accusations this this is just Deltas/Gammas power fantasies are common).
With regard to the SSH, there are two basic guidelines:
- This is a heuristic for analyzing male behavior in groups, and useful to that degree.
- Anyone who talks about their place on it is lower than they think they are.
These are not fixed categories of being, but behaviors within groups, correlated to one’s ability to attract mates. The higher up you are, the more women you get, the more easily. It’s not a game you can win; it’s a set of observations. Keep this in mind or you’re at risk of your brain becoming meme-vomit (“sigma grindset”, “soycuck beta” and the like).
Now the tweet that inspired this, which I cannot post here as it’s protected, postulates the following:
- Luke Skywalker is a Beta
- Han Solo is an Alpha
- Darth Vader is a Sigma
Nothing would be dorkier than dumping all over this, and I’m not interested in doing that. In the first place, Star Wars doesn’t have sane character continuities and never did, so things won’t fit. So reading this initial tweet, one can be perfectly fine saying “yeah, that’ll work. Whatever”. But pausing to think about it, I don’t see it that way. This is how I see it:
Luke Skywalker is a Delta. In fact, I’m gonna say that most movie heroes of the last 40 years have been Deltas, and action movies are largely made for Deltas. They’re power-fantasies for normal guys who do the work of keeping society functioning and have days where they wish they had more. They won’t act on this, because they’re not prepared to risk what they have, which is not negligible. Deltas have jobs, cars, domiciles, and for the most part, families. They care about these things and don’t want to lose them. But there are days, man…
And Force Power aside, Luke fits that to a T. Yeah, he wants some adventure, but if those droids hadn’t come into his life, he’d either be a cadet at the Imperial Academy or grinding moisture out of the desert on Tatooine. Maybe he’d do like his step-grandad Clieg Lars and buy a slave, set her free and marry her. Maybe he’d be piloting a Tie Fighter or a Speeder Bike, taking life and losing it. But he wasn’t going to become a Hero until someone told him he had to be.
And sure, when that moment comes, he has the wit and the courage to do something about it, which is what makes him Delta. If Luke were a Beta, he’d imprint on Han Solo like a baby duck and Leia would have been executed on the Death Star. But early on, Luke doesn’t even like Han. He thinks he’s a scumbag and full of crap, because Luke cares and Han doesn’t. It’s only after, through the brotherhood of battle, that they become friends, with a big brother/little brother relationship, each fulfilling a need in the other.
Deltas don’t swear loyalty to Kings; they sign on to institutions and movements. They care about Right and Wrong, in the universal sense, because they’re part of the crowd. Luke knows nothing about the Empire or the Rebellion, but he knows that executing a Princess is evil, and he’s gonna do something about it if no one else will, and expect nothing in return but recognition. Deltas want a place in the sun, nothing more.
This explains why Luke isn’t able to organize a functioning new Jedi Order, why he can’t keep his nephew from flipping to the Dark Side, why he broods in silence to atone for his failure. Luke isn’t a leader; he’s a follower. That’s why they were ready to sacrifice him on Hoth. If Luke were an Alpha, the whole damn rebel army would have spent the night freezing in the hunt for their Lost King. Instead, only Han Solo cares, because Luke matters to him more than anyone else (well, almost anyone else). Anonymous Deck Officer has rules, and sorry, Captain Solo, but we can’t sacrifice the material for one man.
Luke just isn’t that special. Rogue Squadron is full of Lukes: competent, brave, able to tangle with Tie Fighters and kill and die and the story goes on. Luke has a skill/mystical edge over most of these, and destiny revolves around him, but he doesn’t seek it. He carries it.
Luke Skywalker is a Delta.
Han Solo is a Sigma. This isn’t a hard case to make, as “pirate with a heart of gold” is the sum total of Han Solo. I say that Harrison Ford is low-rent Clint Eastwood for a reason. Han is basically The Man With No Name from Fistful of Dollars shunted to a supporting role – including the doubling-back to save a friend. Han is a lone wolf who looks out for number one, he knows what he’s doing, and most of the time has the chops to back up his swagger.
The reason that people argue about the SSH is to point out that female attention goes to guys who exhibit masculine traits, whether women want it to or not. Leia likes Han even less than Luke does when they first meet, yet he’s got a spark to him and Luke doesn’t (ignore the brother/sister angle for the moment; Lucas didn’t even decide on that until Return of the Jedi). One could make a fair case that Han’s absolute refusal to give Leia any of the deference her position entitles her to (endlessly snarking on her title) touches her someplace she had largely forgotten existed, as Leia too is a True Believer of the Cause. She knows she shouldn’t; she can’t help herself. Wouldn’t be the first time such a thing occurred.
Finally, Sigmas are not Leaders, or at least not Open Leaders. Sigmas occupy the dark space on org charts. Sigmas are Special Projects. They don’t lead the fleet in the attack on the Death Star, they assemble a strike force to take down the shield generator. They move quiet, with a great deal of operational independence, and you don’t ask them how they get things done. They’ll take their medals if you’re offering one, but they will wink at you when you give it to them. Recognition doesn’t matter; winning and getting paid does.
Han Solo is a Sigma.
Darth Vader is an Omega. One of the pleasures of meme-ing on the SSH is the joy of the rhetorical joke, aka “shit-posting”. And yeah, Vader has a look, vader has power, I get it. But he’s a Monster, a satanic perversion of an actual man, a walking prison of impotent rage. Sure, he can kill. So can a psycho with orange hair who brings guns into a movie theater. That doesn’t make him not a loser.
Omegas, goes the story, are the product of abuse, and there’s nothing about the Sith that isn’t abusive. Power and Passion are precisely their thing. Darth Sidious/Palpatine manipulates and destroys Anakin Skywalker in order to feast upon his power. Anakin Skywalker falls for this because he is a Gamma. Anakin is Mama’s Special Boy, seething with resentment because not everyone Recognizes what a certified Super Genius he is. So he burns his friends and betrays the Republic out of a desperate need to not have Anything Bad Happen Ever Again. Anakin Skwalker is pathetic, despite his gifts, just as Luke is a Foot Soldier, despite his gifts. The difference is that Luke subscribes to a higher morality than the self, and Anakin doesn’t. So Anakin gets crushed into a monster, a demon cyborg, a sexless sadist. No one who gets his organs of generation roasted off in a lava pit has a place on the SSH, and Omegas are the Untouchables of it. That’s where Vader belongs, crying “NOOOOOOOOOOO” forever until he can be inspired to think for himself, and then die, unmourned by all but the one person whose life he managed to spare.
Objection: If Anakin’s a Gamma, how come he gets with Padme? Because the movie had to happen. Anakin’s behavior in the prequels in no way corresponds to the romance between him and Padme, because again, George Lucas doesn’t care about things making sense. He’s a visual storyteller, not a narrative one, which is why Star Wars gets increasingly ridiculous with every iteration. It’s not Disney’s fault (entirely), the universe is not built to do what fans want it to.
In any case, Vader only looks cool, and makes a good foil for the hero, lots of good fun (“apology accepted, Captain Needa”) but if we’re gonna be serious about our categories, he’s a loser, always was. Kylo Ren has more natural charisma, just as one would expect, being half a Solo.
This raises the question, are there any Alphas in Star Wars?
Why yes, yes there are:
Anyhow, that’s how I see it. Your mileage may vary.