Dwight Schrute and the Uncanny Valley Between Beta and Alpha 

“How would I describe myself? Three words. Hard-working, Alpha male, Jackhammer, Merciless, Insatiable.”

What if I told you that I worked with a guy who owned his own farm, had a vast amount of hunting knowledge and experience, practiced martial arts, was adept at weapon usage, abides by a deep code of honor and integrity, speaks with an inherent confidence, and is a killer salesman?

Seems pretty admirable, right?

On paper these qualities command social respect yet on NBC’s “The Office,” Dwight Schrute serves as the butt of jokes for both the characters on the show and the television audience watching at home.

Dwight is routinely a target of ridicule due to these aforementioned qualities met with his lack of an attractive masculine appearance and his severely inept social skill-set. Had he made these transgressions while recognizing and abiding by the social limitations of the beta-male his presence would not be met with such intense scorn.

The show provides an example of a beta-male who knows his place, in accountant Kevin, while suffering from the same deficiencies as Dwight. Unlike Dwight, Kevin does not attempt to enact an unauthorized sense of confidence; Kevin understands the role he is cast in as beta-male and feels complacent in it. By not over reaching from his beta-male role Kevin isn’t subject to ridicule or harassment, although he is also not granted dignity nor respect.

Dwight does not seek social validation for a sense of extrinsic permission in order to act as an Alpha male- his sense of confidence stems from the sum of his abilities. These abilities are rendered socially worthless to those around him due to his lacking the more immediate signifiers, ergo the necessary components, of the Alpha-male.

In a world where congruency is everything, Dwight resides somewhere in the middle between Alpha and Beta, and the middle is a dead zone.

There is a concept in programming called “The Uncanny Valley” regarding the push toward making an artificial model of a human passably realistic. Although programmers can come very close, they find that without the absolute congruency of perfection the almost-perfect CG model makes people more uncomfortable than a cartoonish unrealistic model. To put this in perspective, a man would be more aroused by the cartoonish Jessica Rabbit than by a modern-day CG model of a sexy woman, which is theoretically more realistic in comparison but would only serve to revolt him.

There is a similar Uncanny Valley between beta and Alpha, an uncomfortable middle point where the half-Alpha, or near-Alpha, will be perceived as an Alpha-impostor and receive intense rejection despite whatever Alpha traits he may have on his resume. In this regard a passive beta will have an easier time fitting into any social framework over what is perceived as an Alpha-impostor.

Despite speaking with confidence, if a man doesn’t speak with social acuity his confidence will only inspire resentment and mockery. If he speaks with confidence without possessing a masculine appearance, his congruency will be endlessly tested.    

Essentially, a man must either fully embody every single Alpha trait or be content to remain a beta doofus; in the middle he’ll get treated like dog shit.

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  2. rogerrrrrr · May 10, 2015

    Nice post. In the west, you MUST “look masculine” (body mass, square jaw) before you are allowed to act masculine. Joe Rogan can say it, but a skinny guy can’t.

  3. dsgntd_plyr · May 10, 2015

    The Ron Swanson character on “Parks and Rec,” is very similar to Dwight. But he looks manlier, so people respect him.

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  5. Natalia Valentino . · December 5

    Yikes, who hurt you?

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