Tuesday, October 20, 2015


It has often been remarked that the real losers of the sexual revolution are the so-called “beta males.” After all, prior to the time when the marital covenant became so thoroughly denigrated and devalued as it is now, “betas” actually wielded a kind of clout. 

Back when young women were still encouraged by the culture to marry decent men, instead of being pushed to pursue Eat Pray Love-esque escapades with sexy strangers, the better to “find themselves” and so earn their ticket of supposed feminine “authenticity,” it actually paid for guys to be good, solid providers with sweet natures and decent temperaments. 

During such times, men of this sort were quite sought-after commodities, in fact. Prospective wives could, after all, do a lot worse than to pledge troth to a solid, respectable man, even if truth be told he was no Gable or Grant in the looks department, didn’t ooze irresistible tough-guy charisma like Bogart, and didn’t possess the world-conquering ambition of Hitler or Stalin. Even if your "beta" hubby was a bit of a dullard, he at least took care of you, provided for you, and saw to the health and well-being of your children; these matters certainly weren’t small potatoes, and weren’t viewed as such. A good man, everyone agreed, was good to find. 
Now, with fornication common, marriage rendered malleably meaningless and conformable to any and all newfangled configurations, and bristling misandry rampant in the culture, “betas” have it much tougher. Being a solid, respectable man is no longer enough; women, fed on vacuous mantras of self-esteem and entitlement from an early age, now demand “that spark” from their prospective mates; their less virtuous hypergamic tendencies are indulged, rather than discouraged, by the “you go, girl” Ophrah-fied, slut-celebrating Cosmo-culture of flagrant degeneracy in which we now find ourselves. As a result, the sort of guys who used to get snatched up greedily by the ladies who dwelt in the old dispensation now get kicked to the curb with numbing regularity by the whores who rule the new one. 

Yet for all that, the rejects and left-behinds of this wretched age of darkness cannot entirely detach themselves completely from the dream of somehow breaking through the thick crust of crap and finding the glory and fulfillment of romantic success. Love beckons, even as it baffles. 

Beauty, of course, commonly sings a siren song, and while most men are so entranced that they rush onward towards their own destruction, more thoughtful types linger at the precipice, brooding over their dilemma. Perhaps they even compose songs of their own, to counter the siren-swell and preserve a piece of their dignity in the process. 

Tal Bachman’s 1999 hit She’s So High (see the video, below) is deeper, darker and more tragic than it sounds upon casual listening. Still, with its exquisite hooks, delightful melancholic bittersweetness, and shimmering power-pop intelligence, the tune is possessed of a kind of instant amiability. If She's So High were a person, you’d enjoy meeting him, though you would not envy his dreadfully humiliating predicament.

The speaker in the song is a decidedly “nice guy.” He isn’t “nice” in the pejorative sense that the word is often invoked these days, both by scornful feminists and mocking PUA-types and advocates of “game.” He is, it is true, an ordinary guy smitten with a beautiful girl, but he doesn’t behave like a cringing, passive-aggressive “beta orbiter,” nor, pace Elliot Rodger, does he view himself as one who is uniquely “entitled” to win her hand, all the while awash in bitter resentment over the fact that chicks always seem to prefer assholes over fabulous guys like him. 

No...this guy isn’t angry at all, and not a potential spree killer; he’s just a bright, shy, gentle dreamer. And if his perpetual self-flagellation and pervasive pedestalization of his lady-love is borderline-annoying, he makes up for it by a series of winning turns of phrase which suggest an underlying wry sense of humor concerning his romantic plight. 

Of the girl herself, he gushes with endearing exactitude concerning her manifold virtues:
She’s blood, flesh, and bone
No tucks or silicone
She’s smell, touch, sight, taste, and sound. 

Later, he counts the ways in which his golden girl is in a patently different class than him:

First class and fancy-free
She’s high society
She’s got the best of everything.

If we pay attention, we can detect the subtle but crucial difference between the narrator of this song and those other, superficially similar ardent swains pouring forth lover’s laments concerning their own doomed infatuations. The references to the girl in She’s So High are entirely in third person, “she” and “her”; there is no use of the second person, “you.” In effect, the speaker is always talking about the girl, but never to her. What, after all, would be the point of addressing her directly? He has no plans to woo her and no ambition to win her, because he’s thoroughly convinced that it would beimpossible to do so. Yet still he yearns for her. The heart, one must confess, is never practical.

Most men who proclaim the beauty of woman in song run the risk of sounding like low, insufferable cheeseballs, laying on unctuous flattery with a shameless absence of scruple or restraint. Bruno Mars’s feculent Just the Way You Are, John Legend’s nauseating All of Me and James Blunt (AKA, Mr. “Please-somebody-punch-this-fucking-faggot-in-the-jaw”)’s You’re Beautiful are three especially egregious contemporary examples. 

The speakers in these songs brazenly employ a presumptuous second person style of address and blatantly attempt to impress the women they praise so effusively with a hideous display of puffed-up gallantry and put-on sensitivity. Bachman’s protagonist, however, has no such designs. His pitch isn’t directed at the girl in question; rather, he speaks to us, his audience, we who have been called upon to bear witness to his story of rejection and heartbreak. “She’s so high above me… Like Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, and Aphrodite,” he sighs, recalling various beautiful and noteworthy women of history, all of whom are of a higher stature than himself: “What could a guy like me ever really offer?/ She’s perfect as she can be; why should I ever bother?” 


She's So High ends in an oddly ambiguous manner. For in the final verse, we’re told that the object of the speaker’s affection actually approaches him, a gesture that takes him quite aback:
She comes to speak with me
I freeze immediately
Because what she says sounds so unreal…

But what does she say, exactly? Something banal, like asking for the time of day or a throwaway line about the weather? Or does she say something potentially significant, suggesting a possible bond between herself and the speaker? Whatever the case, our would-be suitor feels himself unsuited for the task, and painfully aware of his inadequacy:
Somehow I can't believe that anything should happen
I know where I belong, and nothing’s gonna happen.


What makes this denouement so interesting is that it at once tantalizes the listener with the prospect of hope even as the speaker himself emphatically inveighs against hope. In this sense, the song serves as both a reinforcement of the beta male’s quite correct perception of being shit-outta-luck, given social conditions, while at the same time tickling his fancy that things could be different. Maybe, just maybe, the girl of his dreams does see something in him! Hope, damnable, horrible hope, just keeps stubbornly springing back to life, grasping him in its steely talons, paralyzing his determination to escape, forcing him to linger over a self-evidently hopeless cause, all because "What if??"

Thus the lovesick fool continues to pine pathetically, dreaming of what he knows can never happen. Yet at the same time, the listener is tricked into wondering if maybe he’s not as undesirable as he proclaims himself to be. This is exactly what the listener wants to hear, of course, because the truth, as Marlow observes in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, is “too dark, too dark altogether.” In reality, the hapless “nice guy” continues to be tormented by the same illusion that sustains him. His intractable sense of hope is what keeps him in a state of foolishly feverish ecstasy, and we, the listener, are swept up in the whirlwind of his ardor, because we too want to believe in what we know can’t be true.

(originally published at Alternative Right, September 2014)

(see also "Jessie's Girl: The Angst of an Alpha") 

Andy Nowicki, co-editor of Alternative Right, is the author of eight books, including Under the NihilThe Columbine PilgrimConsidering Suicide, andBeauty and the Least. He occasionally updates his blog when the spirit moves him to do so.

No comments:

Post a Comment