A Denver Post March 30, 1999 story tells us of the visit to Denver of CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Leslie Stall. She was in town to participate in the 1999 Unique Lives & Experiences lecture series. She gave a light-hearted talk of her experiences as a reporter, but had one serious note about how the power of television is not just the pictures on the screen, but the imagery those pictures created. In one example, she told of a report she did in the closing days of the 1980 presidential election that was highly critical of Ronald Reagan. In the clip, Reagan was seen "being presidential," by greeting crowds, giving speeches, cutting ribbons, and other "positive" activities. But, in the voiceover that accompanied the clip, Stall was being critical of Reagan because of his inconsistencies in his presidential views conflicting with his California governership.
Only minutes after the report, Stall received a call from Reagan's campaign staff thanking her for the report. "Didn't you hear what I said?" She said, and they replied, "Nobody heard what you said. When the pictures are powerful, and what you say contradicts the pictures, the pictures will drown you out."
Her report was then shown months later to a focus group where the sound was eliminated, the participants overwhelmingly thought it was a Reagan campaign ad. When the sound was added, still over 50% of the group thought it was a "positive" view of Reagan.
What's going on here is what I call the "Alpha Male Profile." This theory, of course, is highly speculative, and must have time and debate allotted to its cause. It is the innate imagery, in the eye of the viewer, of the tall, masculine male -- and in this case, a male of European descent -- that reinforces the mental concept of the person being viewed in positive activities which could be interrupted as an image of the male "leading" followers to protective action that will help to perpetuate their clans, and thus the passage of genes of the village/race/gender. The male of this complex is a plain-talking, rugged individual who can hold his own in an emergency and as seen as protector of the people, and "leader." In many hunter-gatherer societies, "big man" means "leader." Tall men on average earn $600 annually more per inch than their short male counterparts, and in the past 19 of 24 presidential elections, the taller of the two presidential candidates won. (Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works, pp. 495 & 496) I have not found any height studies done on the subject of chief executive officers of America's 500 leading companies, but I'll bet you a half a box of donuts that at least 85% of the executives are over six feet tall. (Good project for one of you graduate students out there!). But, like a good evolutionary psychologist, I know that innate genetic predisposition's are only half the influence upon our concepts, and know that Alpha men in our cultures have been assisted and given a boost by America's favorite engine of cultural change : Hollywood. "Big men" originating from Hollywood and found to be lucky enough to resonate with the audiences include, Ronald Reagan, Cary Grant, Henry Fonda, Clark Gable, Charlton Heston, Robert Mitchell, Burt Lancaster, Jimmy Stewart, Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Gregory Peck, William Holden, Kirk Douglas, and more recently, Harrison Ford and yes, that would include Jesse Ventura. Want to add your own?
Now, I want you to visualize presidential candid Michael Dukakis in the famous video clip in which he is seen riding a tank with a leather wrap-around hat. Get the picture?
Origin: March 1999
Updated: Jan. 2000
Formally titled: Marlboro Man Complex
Copyright, William A. Spriggs and Evolution's Voyage,® 1995 - 2009