I grew up reading stories and watching animations and observed something interesting. Certain characters with the same traits repeatedly appeared in many storylines. These characters included Hercules from Greek mythology, Krishna in Indian mythology, Superman and Batman, and many more.
All these famous characters have distinct common traits. They were self-assured, confident, fair, kind, unbiased and, most importantly, stood against the majority to ensure justice.
Enter the world of what we now refer to as the Sigma Male.
The world has always known such personalities, often considered ‘sheepdogs,’ who protect the rest of us from the ‘wolves’.
They keep balance in the world. They don’t usually conform to any particular popular notion, philosophy or system.
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Like special forces, they don’t act most of the time but are highly specialized and effective in what they do.
They are sort of boundaries of the society.
I think they believe that the two sides will always try to seek out conflict but ignore the collateral damage to the innocents. They are the protectors of those innocents.
Such characters hold great fascination for screenwriters. These lone warriors have their moral code, personal challenges and demons, and a steely purpose, making them attractive protagonists.
In today’s time, these distinctive, attractive ‘leading male’ characters are known as ‘Sigma Males’ (and, yes, there are Sigma Females too). They are distinct from the more well-known types – “Alpha” and “Beta” Males.
Due to the charismatic nature of such personality types, many definitions (not all correct) have emerged about Sigma Males.
For example, some ‘red-flag’ behaviour seen in abusive men has been attributed to being an essential trait of Sigma Male, which is a shame.
So, to explore this personality type further and watch them in ‘action’, I thought I would talk about some of the best examples on popular TV shows. You can then observe and decide how you interpret this popular enigmatic television hero.
1. Inspector George Gently
🔎 Key Sigma Trait – “Believe in your principles, and the rest will fall into place.”
How does a Sigma Male work alongside men with fragile masculinity? This show depicts such a relationship beautifully.
In the 1960s, George Gently works as DCI in a UK police department, surrounded by men who look down on women, who bend the rules to meet their needs, who can’t see their own “sexism”, “racism”, and “misogyny”, who rush to “judge” people, who label people without knowing them and have a lot of prejudices.
George Gently is a Sigma Male who has found a way to deal with the world while helping other “potential” Sigma males (and even taming the “alpha” males).
He speaks for those who don’t have a voice and tends to see beyond the façade of people. He also accepts the follies of other men.
George Gently is not just courageous but also a kind person. And this sets apart a Sigma male from others.
In my opinion, George Gently is the perfect symbol of the Sigma male.
Another character in the show, John Bacchus, is also worth watching. He reflects the frustrated men who can’t see beyond prejudices but occasionally still dare to admit when they are wrong.
Bacchus is a man so damaged that he believes in every stereotype. He’s quick to judge people and apportion blame and guilt (not ideal for a police inspector). At least he doesn’t deny the truth when evidence is presented.
He is an example of how some men can see and understand where they have been wrong in the past and can learn to become better in future.
These guys dare to call themselves out and change their behaviour. And they have the strength to consider new perspectives and let go of their ego.
His character is a sign that a man can change if he has good mentors (Let’s just say Bacchus might have been arrested himself if it wasn’t for George Gently!). And that’s the hope we all look for.
- Where to Watch- https://www.justwatch.com/in/tv-show/inspector-george-gently
🔎 Key Sigma Trait – Channelling Anger to Execute Effectively and Avoid Damaging the Innocent
Raylan Givens, the lead in Justified, is an archetypal character. One written by screenwriters and authors throughout the ages.
A brooding, handsome man who often works alone, he has a strict moral code and gets the job done, especially the jobs no one else can.
This character seems to be highly inspired by Clint Eastwood’s “The Man with No Name” in his early wild-west movies.
Raylan wears a cowboy hat, is a quick draw and has the “calmness of a rip tide”.
Working alone, he knows how to take down the worst predators in society. He also knows how to handle men with fragile masculinity.
He doesn’t look down on women. And most importantly, he doesn’t take out his traumatic work on his daughter and wife or blame them when his relationship fails.
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A common theme with many Sigma male characters in TV shows, especially in police and crime dramas, is that they choose their careers over their families.
In the end, these characters have to stay true to themselves and their calling. Some may see this as selfish, but perhaps asking a man to stop his purpose in life is also selfish from a certain angle.
It’s never an easy choice. But the Sigma knows he’ll only return to the job anyway – he has to.
- Where to Watch- https://www.justwatch.com/in/tv-show/justified
🔎 Key Sigma Trait – Integrity often leaves a man all alone.
Detectives are favourite characters for writers to employ when portraying Sigma males. I think it is because they see the worst in society, handle difficult questions, and are usually surrounded by the meatiest moral dilemmas. Broken justice systems and their callous indifference to society and victims ensure these characters always have an internal battle to juggle to explore, too.
Bosch is a show that I would suggest for you to watch to observe a typical Sigma. He doesn’t talk too much, is quick to make decisions and has a solid perspective of things – especially people’s behaviour and their so-called “reasons” for criminal activity.
Most importantly, he is ready to accept he is wrong sometimes and amend his ways.
This show reflects how Sigma males in law enforcement have trouble living in society. Knowing what they know and seeing what they see, they keep secrets of the worst in human depravity. The stuff that ordinary citizens never even know is going on around them.
It takes a toll on their health, both physical and mental, strains their relationships, and leaves scars (read trauma) that haunt them, even after their retirement. This pain is common among Sigma television male characters. They are generally like a wounded warrior, an injured Tiger.
One of my mentors, who was in the justice system, often talks about the frustration he faced seeing injustice and the helplessness of victims and the challenges one faces doing things ‘by the book’, without compromising your integrity.
Bosch is a reflection of the “sheepdogs” referred to earlier. They keep the wolves at bay so the herd remains protected.
- Where to Watch- https://www.justwatch.com/in/tv-show/bosch
4. House M.D.
🔎 Key Sigma Trait – Truth teller
House M.D. is the representation of the above statement. Even though many of his qualities could be considered quite toxic (sometimes abusive, sexist and chauvinistic), the character calls out the hypocrisy of others.
He exposes the narcissism of philanthropists, the internal misogyny of women, the fragile ego of entitled men and the tendency of humans to lie to avoid taking responsibility.
Having said that, his character is a great study of accomplished and intelligent men, who have been traumatized but still have to do their job. As we have seen with the earlier character reviews, Sigma male characters often end up alone and prefer to be alone. It’s hard for them to compromise their integrity and codes and assimilate among other people.
One negative trait of a Sigma is that they are sometimes too judgemental of everyone while avoiding their hypocrisy. At the same time, they are quite good at what they do, and that makes them quite valuable.
House borders on arrogance, but he’s ultra-self-assured. Okay, it’s a (very) fine line, but the guy knows his stuff. And he doesn’t have time to wait for others to ‘get it’ in the medical emergency and crisis scenarios he encounters.
The Sigma males often do the jobs most people would run a mile from.
House also shows a less-talked-about trait of Sigma Male – their high empathy towards the perceived weakest person.
In this show, House can spot and empathize with a sexual assault victim when no one else can. He can understand the pain of parents who have lost their newborn, and even with the current husband of his ex-wife.
However, this character is highly manipulative which is why I included this show in this list.
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This particular trait is a big red flag for anyone. The manipulative nature can scar you. It can make you question your reality and even cause you to doubt everything you believe in. And that’s why it is not a Sigma male characteristic (sometimes incorrectly labelled as an ‘essential’ one).
The gaslighting behaviour, masked as an attempt to ‘enlighten’ others, is a poor attempt at “truth-telling” to win rather than to help.
And it also highlights that even kind and helpful people can be as manipulative as House, and they have their reasons for that. This show helps the viewer to witness the “Reasoning” behind such behaviour of “Sigma” and “Alpha” males.
House M.D. might make you question the intention of every do-gooder and those with a saviour complex.
In many ways, this show demonstrates what is NOT a Sigma Male characteristic, more than what IS.
- Where to Watch- https://www.justwatch.com/in/tv-show/house
🔎 Sigma Trait – Consistent with actions.
Some men have done their excellent work and made a dent in the universe through their sheer brilliance and tenacity. They then retire and live a peaceful life.
However, time and circumstances make them return to the battleground to re-establish the balance, protect the perceived weak and defeat the bully.
To make David win against Goliath.
This Sigma male storyline is often depicted throughout mythology and in today’s movies and television. From mythological Hercules to Maximus in Gladiator, these born leaders and mentors sometimes return to do what they here to do.
Goliath is a show that follows Billy Bob Thornton’s character as a lawyer.
He accepts the world as it is.
He knows how power and money work. He understands the nuances of the justice system. And he knows how to fight a legal case, inside and outside the court, against the unreasonable.
Many who have gone to a court and spent some time dealing with the system know how unfair it can be, and yet you have to go through it because it’s ‘the system’.
Sometimes, you need people who know the strengths and weaknesses of the justice system to deliver ‘real’ justice.
What I like about this show is how the protagonist, a damaged and hurt Sigma male, keeps his anger and knowledge of the ugliness of the world in check.
It is not so much what he does – it is what he is not doing.
He is capable of causing hurt and destruction, but he chooses not to and plays the ‘fair’ game to beat Goliath.
Even though he is capable of the “no-rule, no-boundary” approach to bullies, he chooses to do it by the rules (with a bit of hacking the system).
He works in the grey areas of law and order, however, not breaking the rules, per se, but sailing close to the wind.
And this is what Sigma males are often associated with – they follow the rules but only until the rules start to no longer make sense.
They have their moral compass, and they answer to their conscience.
It is hard to create your values when the entire world collectively blames the “bad influences”- the single mother, the drug addict, the reformed convict, the prostitute etc.
They are capable of seeing humanity in “dirt and demons” and observing the depravity in the “pious” and “successful” people.
- Where to Watch- https://www.justwatch.com/in/tv-show/goliath
Harsh is the founder of menPsyche. He enjoys using his extensive research and writing skills to communicate ideas and concepts, with the aim to improve people’s lives.
Harsh trained as a Communication Engineer and published a MSc (Research) thesis, as well as worked in a variety of marketing and consultancy roles.