The Rise of the Omega Male
Here is a current trend among men today… the Omega Male. Reposting this blog from this site
It’s a bit paradoxical to have to talk about the “rise” of a type of guy who has a hard time getting out of bed every day. It’d probably be more accurate to talk about the “spread” of the prevalence of the Omega male, a guy who is good for a laugh, but is pretty disinterested in almost any standard type of achievement, or even responsibility, for that matter.
There has been significant attention in the media recently about changing roles between men and women, most notably in The Atlantic, Slate, and The New York Times. (Interestingly, all written by women.) One of the major themes in this trend is the rise of two things: 1) The Omega Male and 2) women who don’t need them.
The entire article in The Atlantic is worth a read, but a few paragraphs are especially insightful:
- As the traditional order has been upended, signs of the profound disruption have popped up in odd places. Japan is in a national panic over the rise of the “herbivores,” the cohort of young men who are rejecting the hard-drinking salaryman life of their fathers and are instead gardening, organizing dessert parties, acting cartoonishly feminine, and declining to have sex. The generational young-women counterparts are known in Japan as the “carnivores,” or sometimes the “hunters.”
- American pop culture keeps producing endless variations on the omega male, who ranks even below the beta in the wolf pack. This often-unemployed, romantically challenged loser can show up as a perpetual adolescent (in Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up or The 40-Year-Old Virgin), or a charmless misanthrope (in Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg), or a happy couch potato (in a Bud Light commercial). He can be sweet, bitter, nostalgic, or cynical, but he cannot figure out how to be a man. “We call each other ‘man,’” says Ben Stiller’s character in Greenberg, “but it’s a joke. It’s like imitating other people.”
- At the same time, a new kind of alpha female has appeared, stirring up anxiety and, occasionally, fear. The cougar trope started out as a joke about desperate older women. Now it’s gone mainstream, even in Hollywood, home to the 50-something producer with a starlet on his arm. Susan Sarandon and Demi Moore have boy toys, and Aaron Johnson, the 19-year-old star of Kick-Ass, is a proud boy toy for a woman 24 years his senior. The New York Times columnist Gail Collins recently wrote that the cougar phenomenon is beginning to look like it’s not about desperate women at all but about “desperate young American men who are latching on to an older woman who’s a good earner.
Here’s the thing: you might be this guy. You might know one, or ten, of these guys. The Omega Male is not a rare phenomenon, and it’s important to learn something about him and not just laugh at/with him.
This is clearly a loaded subject, that’s being evidenced on a slew of levels:
- Sociological: The well-documented prolonging of adolescence into emerging adulthood.
- Philosophical: According to the New York Times article, questions of self-understanding.
- Pop-Cultural: As the references in each article to movie and TV characters illustrate, the media that helped to create this phenomenon is selling it back to us and perpetuating it. (Think of selling the rich ladies back their lard in the form of soap in Fight Club.)
- Economic: Are cultures without America’s vast economic luxury facing the same cultural issues? Are Belize, Rwanda, or Ecuador struggling with the same confusions?
The end result of all of it is wide-spread confusion over the roles of men and women, love and sex, relationship and friendship.
The Omega Male and the Church
What none of these articles have touched on is how this has invaded and effected the church. Like any other social entity, the church tends to overemphasize certain things to the detriment of others. Beneath the din of culture war issues like abortion and gay marriage, we have to ask if the church has been faithful in teaching young people about proper roles for men and women. In the large segments of the church that clumsily “embraced the arts” in the last seven years, did they spend as much time teaching those same artists what the Bible teaches about what a man is, what a woman is, and how they should interact in friendships and relationships?
The Omega Male and the gender role confusion associated with them are only recently being popularly analyzed and diagnosed, but by the time issues reach a popular level they are already ubiquitous. This would make it a good time for the church to ask how it can teach Omega Males to be men, to contend for the faith (Jude 3), to treat women as sisters (1 Tim. 5:2), and to work hard like a farmer, sharing in suffering, competing by the rules like an athlete (2 Tim. 2:1-6)—none of which are activities the Omega is not naturally inclined to do but can if he inclines himself to Christ.
Deacon Nick Bogardus is Mars Hill’s PR/Media Relations director. Last week, he wrote about what he didn’t learn about manhood from reading an issue of Esquire Magazine.