Beta & Gamma: The Outcast Beta: Russell in “Up!”

Beta & Gamma Characters and Hybrids: Alternatives to Alphas Part 4: The Outcast Beta – Russell in “Up!”

Outcast BetaWhat about a well-meaning beta character who is so seriously flawed that he almost seems beyond hope? Consider Russell (The Outcast Beta) from the recent animated film Up! Much has been made of the story of Carl and Ellie in the first ten minutes of the film (if you don’t get a lump in your throat, check your pulse, you may be dead) and of the complexity of character of the widowed Carl. However, Russell, the “wilderness explorer” [boy scout like character] who hopes to use him to earn a caring for the elderly merit badge, has central value to the story.

Russell is from a broken home, with an absentee father.

Indeed, a primary motivation for Russell’s trying so hard to excel as a scout is that it’s one of the few ways he thinks he can “earn” his father’s attention and approval. For all his time with the scouts, he’s never been camping, even with any of the other scouts (possibly a sign, along with his extremely forward, almost abrasive approach with Carl, of a lack of social skills and his general non-acceptance by others). Russell’s a true beta-male. However, first impressions notwithstanding, he turns out to be quite a resourceful.. In a sense, Russell lets his cluelessness work for him. He often thinks outside the proverbial box because he doesn’t know where the box is located to begin with.

When Carl is knocked unconscious in the early stages of the house’s flight, Russell, utilizes a GPS system and single handedly guides the flying house safely from New York City to its intended destination in the Amazon. When the house can’t land properly, it’s Russell who, with ropes and a garden hose, devises a system to haul the house along with them as they travel on foot. When they’re attacked by some trained dogs who fly airplanes, its Russell who thinks to distract the dogs with an imaginary squirrel. When Carl abandons a helpless bird that’s relied on him for protection, Russell commandeers several balloons used to hold the house aloft and, propelled by a leaf blower, goes off to rescue the bird on his own, shaming Carl into chasing after him and joining the rescue.

Russell doesn’t save the day single-handed by any means. However, like Suzy and Thornhill, he demonstrates that, in times of crisis, a beta character can be far more intriguing than an alpha in proving his or her core attributes while defeating a far more powerful opponent. Try creating that kind of tension with an alpha, male or female. If, in Russell’s case, it took more hands than his alone to save the day, it only goes to show how, when a team of betas get together they can be more than an equal to any alpha character.

The following two tabs change content below.

G. H. McCallum

G. H. McCallum is author of the Reggie Stone series, the first of which, Walking Backwards for Christmas: A Tale of Woe from Soggyhall, was released on 12 December 2014; look for the second, The Bluebottle Boys, in late spring of 2016. He blogs principally on the 1960s, Victoriana and magic realism.