copyright 2013 by Gary L. Pullman
Traditionally, monsters in horror movies have been coded as masculine; indeed, many are male. Once upon a time, among men, there were alpha males, on one hand, and, on the other, everyone else.
Sociologists are fond of pointing out that men tend to organize themselves into hierarchies with an alpha male as top dog, whereas women tend to organize themselves into a more communal, or familial, decentralized group wherein power is not passed down but is, rather, shared. Sometimes, situations are best handled by the top-dog, top-down approach; other times, situations are better handled by the partnership approach.
However, recently, types of masculinity have been re-conceived, with more categories allowing for greater and more meaningful representation of the several, varied types of masculinity. Now, in addition to the alpha male, there are not only beta males (the alpha male's lieutenants), but also
- delta males (the everyman)
- gamma males (no, the Incredible Hulk is not included; gammas are flattering sycophants)
- lambda males (gay guys)
- sigma males (lone wolves, who would be alphas had early trauma not caused them to channel their masculinity toward the survival of the fittest—themselves)
- omega males (immature, irresponsible losers), and
- zeta males (men who insist upon the right to determine their own identities as males, whatever such an identity may prove to be).
Such types are exemplified by such characters as pretty much any ever played by John Wayne, by Star Trek's Captain James T. Kirk, and by Superman (alpha males); by superhero sidekicks, such as Batman's Robin the Boy Wonder, Flash's Kid Flash, Captain America's Bucky Barnes, or Green Arrow's Speedy (beta males); by Peter Parker and by Clark Kent (as opposed to Spider-man and Superman, respectively) (delta males); by Toad (of Magneto's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants) and by Othello's Iago (gamma males); by Lamar Latrell (lambda male); by Dirty Harry, by the Deathwish series' Paul Kersey, by the X-Men's Wolverine, and by Cool Hand Luke's Lucas Jackson (omega males); and by The Crying Game's Dil, by Porky's Tim Cavanaugh, and, to a large degree, by The Crying Game's Fergus (zeta males).
Since, as we have observed, monsters in horror movies have been coded as masculine and many, indeed, are male, these fantastic creatures can be classified in the same terms, as alpha, beta, delta, gamma, lambda, sigma, omega, and zeta:
Alpha monsters are the dominant (and, often, domineering) leaders of their kind. The Sayer of the Law (The Island of Dr. Moreau), Skull Island's King Kong, and Big Daddy, the zombie leader in Land of the Dead, qualify as examples of the alpha monster. The alpha monster's lieutenants, or sidekicks, are beta monsters, whose ranks include television's Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Spike, the former protege to Angel, and, indeed, Angel himself, when he was a lieutenant for the Master. Amilyn, the toady to the vampire lord Lothos in the original Buffy movie, and Igor, the sycophantic assistant to Victor Frankenstein, are delta monsters. Homosexual monsters are few and far between, but, according to some accounts, Psycho's Norman Bates may fill the bill, as may Count Dracula and, in a transgender sort of way, Sleepaway camp's Angela Baker. (One might add most of the characters played by Vincent Price, too, perhaps.) There are many sigma monsters, because monsters, as outcasts, typically live and work alone; some examples are Beowulf's Grendel, The Creature of the Black Lagoon's Gill-man, the Predator (in The Predator), and the Yeti (in The Abominable Snowman). Monsters who insist upon defining their own manhood—or, rather, their own monstrosity—include, in a sense, the shape-shifting It of Stephen King's novel of the same name and Dr. Otto Octavius (“Doctor Octopus), the sometime-villain in Spider-man 2.
Clearly, not all monsters are alike, any more than all men are alike. The significance of these differences in monstrosity can suggest a variety of possibilities, but addressing them must, alas, wait for another time which is yet to come. . . .