[bey-tuh or, esp. British, bee-] Show IPA
1. the second letter of the greek alphabet (β, B).
2. the consonant sound represented by this letter.
3. ( initial capital letter ) Astronomy . a star that is usually the second brightest of a constellation: The second brightest star in Taurus is Beta Tauri. (Dictionary.com)
A beta is a male who, instead of being alpha and manning up, completely bitches out. Can apply to many situations, but often refers to scenarios with women.
Guy 1: Bro, hook me up with that girl's friend
Guy 2: Fuck that. I'm going to double up with both of them. Stop being such a beta.
Let's talk about the beta hero for a quick minute, shall we? Commonly known to always come in second, lesser than others in every way, and/or one tier below the leader (alpha) male. He shows up in pop culture as the Nice Guy, the Best Friend, and the Martyr. The beta hero has a pretty bad rap. He's a wimp.
But he can also be the guy who steps aside so the girl can chase after the bad boy, until she realizes he's no good, and the one who usually picks up the pieces in the end. You'd think this would earn him some respect, but noooo. Beta heroes are who you settle for, when you're done sowing your wild oats. "...a Jedi on the streets, and a Sith in the sheets." (That quote is from The Lumberfox, by Ava Lovelace, which features a delicious beta hero who's so hot you'll think you spontaneously combusted. He somehow manages to hit both alpha and beta notes, juuuust right.)
In both my Twitter feed and in the multiple romance community blog posts I've read, there's a general opinion that he's the guy you marry, not the one you have sweaty, chandelier-swinging sex with. Readers who love these guys are definitely in the minority, or at least they aren't very vocal. The consensus seems to be, betas aren't sexy beasts who make your eyes cross in bliss, they're your best bud.
I challenge this (mis)perception. I don't understand why dependable equals boring, kind means dull, and warm or loving is wimpy. Folks. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, sexier than a man you know will stand by your side and support your choices, but knows when to step aside so you can fight your own battles. Then take you home, draw you a bath, feed you chocolate, and sex you into a coma.
Now, I like alpha heroes too, when they're done well. If they aren't stalkers, abusers, or condescending dicks. A good alpha hero, in my opinion, is a man who fights for the heroine in a bold and active way, making grand gestures and dramatic declarations. That's pretty fun to read. Sadly, however, many authors don't seem to know where to draw that line that steps over into controlling douchebag. Again, this is based on my personal opinion. Not everyone agrees, and that's just fine. We all like different things.
Anyway... where was I? Oh! Right. Beta heroes. Yum.
Pop culture and literature are littered with beta heroes. Sometimes they step in and provide the much needed voice of common sense and conscience, like George Knightley from Jane Austen's novel Emma. Other times, they provide support, love, and tension relief skills (hot sex, y'all) like Walsh, from the TV show Firefly. Sometimes they provide a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen to the heroine's woes, and a strong hand for her to hold until she discovers how amazing he is, like Jack from the movie While You Were Sleeping.
Maybe they wield their betaness to deflect attention, like Peter Parker or Clark Kent. (In truth, the very nature of their duplicity calls into question their status as true betas, however.) Spock, perhaps another questionable example, shows how a beta hero might take second seat to the alpha male (literally) or his kickass girlfriend, and still be a quiet, unstoppable force all on his own.
Beta heroes can be strong, kind, warm, giving, intelligent, comic relief, quiet, shy, geeky, nerdy, insecure (or very secure), and almost always take a backseat to the heroine and her needs. He can get upstaged, shut down, shut out, and walked on, if he's not careful.
The betas I love the most, no matter what format in which they appear, are the ones who know their own worth and don't allow anyone to use or abuse them.
Chase, the hero in Victoria Dahl's novel Lead Me On, is a perfect example of this. He falls for the heroine hard, almost in the first chapter. He lets her use him for sexual relief, he puts up with her constant running from anything that resembles a relationship, and he spends quite a bit of time attempting to take care of her. But finally he realizes he's better than he's being treated. He puts his foot down, forcing the heroine to reevaluate her priorities. And he does it all as a muscled, tattooed, shaved head, tall, sexy demolition expert. Damn, y'all.
Some other beta heroes in novels I love are Sam Grady (Virginia Kantra, Carolina Girl), Colin Bridgerton (Julia Quinn, Romancing Mr. Bridgerton), Cam Rohan (Lisa Kleypas, Mine Till Midnight), Neville Chamberlain (Ruthie Knox, About Last Night), and Declan Fitzgerald (Nora Roberts, Midnight Bayou).
When it comes to movies? Give me Captain America over Ironman any day. I think I would strangle Tony in his sleep after about five days of his sassy mouth, arrogance, and flip attitude. While I love Han Solo, of course I do, Luke Skywalker was the driving force (heh, get it?) behind the fall and defeat of the evil Empire. Will Turner? Much more reliable, sweet, and hygienic than the rakish Captain Jack Sparrow. (Although, come to think of it, Jack's not an alpha either. Interesting.)
Beta heroes turn up everywhere, even in TV. Dean from Supernatural is a super beta. He keeps his brother, and everyone else, on track, safe, and out of jail. Most of the time. Stefan, The Vampire Diaries' brooding, lovelorn forever teenager, is definitely the beta to his brother Damon's alpha. But he's also usually the one trying to find a way to save everyone, while Damon is ranting, raving, and ripping out hearts. In Sherlock, John Watson is the voice of reason, has a great listening ear, and is loyal until the bitter end.
To be perfectly honest, I think beta heroes are misperceived as wimps and second best, when in fact, they rock. They are the rock, that solid guy who loves the heroine with quiet patience, waiting for the right time to prove he's the man she can count on to always be there. The quiet voice from the next pillow who always says "I love you" first. The man who will never, ever forget she loves coffee ice cream, and loathe strawberry.
Hey. If that's not sexy, I don't know what is.
In addition: I asked my Twitter followers for some examples of beta heroes in books they love, and here are those answers:
Callahan O'Shea (Kristan Higgins, Too Good to Be True)
Josh Marchant (Playing By The Rules, Imelda Evans)
Owen McBride (Falling for Owen, Jennifer Ryan)
Van (Sheltered, Charlotte Stein)
Tyler (Even Villains Go To The Movies, Liana Brooks)
John "Preacher" Middleton (Shelter Mountain, Robyn Carr)
Winter Makepeace (Thief of Shadows, Elizabeth Hoyt)
Patrick (Driving Her Wild, Meg Maguire)
Declan Murphy (Stripped, Edie Harris)
Jacob Nolan (Lost, Laura K. Curtis)
Mitch Lawson (Law Man, Kristen Ashley)
Lock (The Mane Squeeze, Shelly Laurenston)
Dan (Make Your Move, Samantha Hunter)
David Kentewess (Riveted, Meljean Brooks)
Disclaimer: I'm friends with some of these authors (but that's not why I put them in this post), I have a degree in the culinary arts, not English/Literature, and as always, I could possibly just be talking out of my rear. Stay shiny!