Let’s Talk About Alpha Assholes And How Miss Sloane Is The Ultimate Alpha Asshole
Let’s Talk About is a series of blog posts where Writer Gal gives her (unsolicited) take on pop culture – aka books, TV series, and movies – that she shamelessly binge watches in the name of ‘research.’ SPOILERS GALORE!!!
In December 2017, I wrote an entire book watching John Madden’s Miss Sloane in parts.
I’d seen Miss Sloane before and was blown away by the music (thank you Max Richter) and the fact that this movie was written for a woman. A woman who controlled everything and everyone from the first scene to the very last.
The bare bones of the story are thus – Washington’s most famous and most powerful lobbyist takes on the gun lobby (fun fact, the second-richest lobby in the United States of America closely followed by Tobacco and Pharma) and, in the process, gets decimated for daring to do so. The story is told in non-linear narrative form and I actually contemplated writing it down for the pure pleasure framing it would give me.
As a romance writer and a feminist, this movie should have been abhorrent to me. In a pivotal scene (fuck, all scenes are, TBH), Madeline Elizabeth Sloane says super casually, “Gender doesn’t interest me.” She doesn’t consider herself to be pro-women or a feminist and is very upfront about it.
Yet, this movie spoke to me. To the heart of me. To the brain I possess that never stops asking why.
I sincerely believe that watching this movie turned Crossing Lines, the second book in GEEKS OF CALTECH, into the strongest, most coherent, best possible version of a love story I could write in 2017 and beyond.
Miss Sloane is a study in a feminine portrayal of a character that has hitherto been the bastion of males. She is an Alpha Asshole.
The Alpha Asshole
She is contemptuous of traditional heteronormative roles and relationships eschewing them for the simple transaction of hiring a male prostitute for sex. Food is just a need that needs to be fulfilled. “It’s like going to the toilet.” Nothing more. Nothing less.
She is shamelessly egotistical and uses handshakes to drive home a point as much as she uses her manically sharp laughter. Her lipstick is red, blood red, and she applies it with the same precision as a general pinning medals on his chest. And with the same casual dismissiveness – the symbolism of the act is more important than the act itself.
Sloane uses people, ruthlessly and with full knowledge of exactly what she is doing and why she is doing it.
She is the personification of the unreliable narrator – by being completely and convincingly reliable.
Sloane doesn’t form friendships and when she is defending herself at a Senate Ethics Committee hearing, you see exactly what she wants you to see. A granite wall.
When she breaks down, over a puerile quip about the Asian Republic of Indonesia, the viewer witnesses the decline of a woman who has so far held it together through nerves, balls of steels and pharmaceutical dependency. She yells. She screams. She is articulate in both. And she is aware, every single second, of what she is doing.
The breakdown of a powerful, arrogant figure, be it in politics, sports, entertainment, is always met with a kind of voyeurism that is not surpassed in human history. People love watching people fail. This generalization is probably as pedantic and judgmental as ‘History is written by the winners’ but it is factual. International espionage has been largely successful because it was set up to ensure governments, industrial and defense military complexes failed.
Failure. Is. Interesting.
Failure allows people to rise above every single prejudice and perception that society has conferred upon them and be more. Or less. That makes it interesting.
It’s exactly why Miss Sloane works.
Breaking Down The Powerful
The breakdown of a woman who takes on the NRA single-handedly and spearheads a lobbying campaign that is one step ahead of their opponents is a thing of absolute, precise beauty.
It shows itself in the way she throws everything, including her beloved Blackberry off a conference room table and takes sobbing, trembling breaths that take a long time to control. It manifests in the way she leaks tears (leaks not cries) while kissing the escort she’s hired for human interaction for the night and then realizes she’s made herself too vulnerable.
Her breakdown is never more magnificent as when she wears her dark red lipstick one last time and brings down the ceiling of Capitol Hill and the Senate Ethics Committee crashing down on her head.
Miss Sloane is a perfectly told story. It revolves around a central character who is beautiful, dark, avenging, vengeful, perfect, broken, brittle, powerful, smart, and sly. All the characteristics that make her an Alpha Asshole.
She wants, she takes, and damn the consequences. People are resources, nothing is above the cause. Not even her own career. Never mind the lives of someone she considers friend.
But the first and most important reasons that Miss Sloane is an Alpha Asshole is because she wants to win. Win at any and all costs. Win by beating down the opponent and use any methods to beat them. Win because losing means…
We never really come to know what losing means to Madeline Elizabeth Sloane because she doesn’t lose.
When I write a book, as I do now, as I hope to do in 2057, these are the lessons I hope I will remember from Miss Sloane, John Madden’s breathtaking direction and Richard Perrera’s screenplay. Yes. A man wrote it. The irony is precious.
- Narrative fallacies make a story unbearably interesting.
- As do punchy dialog and an unlikeable central character with very little in the way of backstory. PRESENT is as important as past. Perhaps more.
- Action matters. Tears leak out of your eyes versus You cry. How you present action matters.
- Winning is everything – but the way you define winning and what it means to you is what makes the story work.
- Female characters who hold all the power are inevitably made to pay for it. Maybe more so than a man. Telling their story is required.
- Writing Jessica Chastain as my Main Female Character would only improve everything I ever write. (She is not Dr. Naina Shah or Shiven Pal from Crossing Lines, though, so no comparison can be made.)
I am Aarti V Raman and I am a romance writer and a feminist. I do not endorse Alpha Assholes. But, goddamn, they make for amazing character studies.
And one day, if am really fortunate, I’d like to attempt a Miss Sloane.
Till next time,
Feature Image: CityWeekly