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The following article contains and discusses content that may be distressing to some readers.
Reason for Warning: This article discusses controversial topics like toxic masculinity, misogyny, homophobia, incel ideology, and the glorification of real-life criminals.

Sigma is a character trope that emerged in the late 2010s and reimagines the traditional "alpha/beta" male dichotomy with a hierarchically superior category. Sigma Males are often portrayed as "lone wolfs", independent, powerful, solitary, mysterious, self-sufficient, and always up for self-improvement.

Most traits of the Sigma aesthetic are largely drawn from a very specific set of movies and shows, like American Psycho, Better Call Saul, Joker, The Batman, The Wolf of Wall Street, and many other works. Because of this, an indirect but really heavy influence on the Sigma movement is the Yuppie subculture, which referred to young urban professionals in the 80s, especially in the largest cities of the United States (although most people who describe themselves as "Sigma" are unaware of this).

By the early 2020s, it evolved into an actual internet movement and a meme, glorifying several public figures like Andrew Tate, Christian Bale and Elon Musk. However, this movement has been subject to criticism for its controversial aspects, including its ties to the Incel subculture, the glamorization of serial killers, the promotion of misogyny and toxic masculinity, its unrealistic expectations of men based upon works of fiction, and its association with right-wing political ideologies.

History[]

The movement is centered around the concept of a "sigma male", which is a term used to describe a successful man who is highly independent and self-reliant, often portrayed as a "lone wolf". The term is part of a social hierarchy of masculinity, which includes letters of the Greek alphabet like "alpha", "beta", "gamma", "delta" and "omega", making up the other categories.

The term "sigma" used in this context was first recorded in 2010, particularly in a blog written by Vox Day, a controversial author known for his alt-right and white supremacist biases. The second record of the term is The Sigma Male: What Women Really Want, a book published by John T. Alexander in 2014. The term began to expand to YouTube in 2018, when content creators focusing on toxic masculinity began to create video tutorials on "how to be a sigma male" or "how to tell if you're a sigma".

It recently gained popularity in the early 2020s alongside the rise of Gym Culture on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram, where the aesthetic is often associated with Drift Phonk music. One of the key aspects is physical fitness, and many people striving to be "Sigma Males" attempt to achieve a muscular and toned physique through frequent exercise and strict diets, as they associate that with "success" and "masculinity".

Andrew Tate is the most well-known figure of the "Sigma" movement, and his videos reached infamy for promoting hyper-masculinity and financial success. He posts content showcasing his wealth, like his luxury cars (especially Bugattis) and portraying himself as economically successful. He was criticized because the TikTok algorithm selectively showed his videos to children as young as under the age of thirteen, and some of his videos had misogynistic or propagandistic remarks.

The Sigma aesthetic is commonly parodied and satirized, even by those who actively participate in the communities surrounding it. Characters like Mr. Bean and Paul Blart from Paul Blart: Mall Cop are often called "sigma" or "chad" due to their ridiculous behaviors, which is often referred to as the "sigma grindset"; this is in part due to the fact that Sigma Males are sometimes stereotyped as behaving erratically, oblivious to the insanities they revel in due to their sense of masculinity, and their egotistical personality.

By late 2023, the term Sigma had evolved into a satirical husk of its former nature (particularly through "Gen Alpha Brainrot" memes). One notable example of the Sigma phenomenon being mocked includes "Sticking out your Gyatt for the Rizzler"; the song was popularized on TikTok and includes references to Gen Alpha children overusing the word "sigma" online with the intention to sound mature. Another popular catchphrase popularized in 2024 is "erm... what the sigma?".

Visuals[]

The Sigma aesthetic is characterized by a realistic and monochromatic style that features sleek and focused imagery. It emphasizes clean lines, sharp angles, bold lighting. Black, white, and gray are the primary colors used in this aesthetic, with occasional pops of color like deep red or burgundy. This aesthetic often features images of people, most of the time alone in relatively neutral backgrounds. It also incorporates elements of corporate fashion-like suits.

Philosophy[]

Sigma males are known for valuing being highly independent, self-reliant, and driven by their desire for personal growth and self-improvement. These values manifest in the movement through the emphasis on physical fitness and a muscular physique, as well as a focus on individualism and the pursuit of one's passions and goals.

One of the driving factors behind the creation of the Sigma movement is a desire to reject mainstream society's expectations and norms, particularly those surrounding traditional masculinity. Sigma males see themselves as outsiders who do not conform to society's expectations, and they value their independence and self-sufficiency above all else.

The movement's emphasis on stoicism reflects the belief that one should not be controlled by their emotions but should instead strive for emotional self-control and resilience. This value aligns with the movement's emphasis on personal growth and self-improvement, as well as its rejection of mainstream societal norms.

The return to tradition value within Sigma culture reflects the belief that modern society has lost touch with traditional values, leading to a lack of purpose and meaning in people's lives. The movement seeks to reconnect with these values and to reject the perceived shallowness and materialism of modern society. The movement also places a strong emphasis on loyalty in relationships. This often means seeking long-term, committed relationships rather than casual dating or hook-ups. The movement encourages individuals to approach dating with intention and purpose, and to prioritize finding a partner who shares their values and goals for the future. In contrast to the emphasis on instant gratification found in some modern dating culture, the movement promotes patience and commitment in romantic relationships.

Criticism[]

The Sigma movement is mainly criticized for its unrealistic and unachievable portrayal of masculinity, as these gender roles often rely on works of fiction and not real life. Fictional characters like the Joker and Patrick Bateman from American Psycho are often cited as inspiration for sigmas, mainly because of their charisma and disregard for social norms, but at the same time they are villains and sociopathic individuals and should not be used as role models outside of fiction. American Psycho in particular is a satirical movie, something which many people participating in this aesthetic have missed, and Patrick Bateman's actions are not meant to be taken seriously or imitated in real life. Toxic masculinity can also be noted in this stereotype with their focus on being a "lone wolf" and isolating yourself in favor of self-improvement or financial success.

The concept of a Sigma is also deeply connected to the Incel ideology. Both groups are more prone to becoming politically radicalized, and "looksmaxxing" is a term shared by both communities that originated in Incel forums and later came to be associated with Sigmas as well. It refers to attempting to enhance your physical appareance and beauty to the maximum through various pseudo-scientific methods, like "mewing", placing spoons under the eyes, diets, excessive exercise, and even surgery and so much more. This shows that both sigmas and incels have unrealistic expectations of masculinity and self-concept, valuing their appareance but completely ignoring their social behavior or maintaining a positive reputation. Another common trait between both communities is the prevalence of misogyny, as both are more likely to objectify women or believe they are "inferior" to men. Sigmas in particular also tend to romanticize the idea of manipulating women.

Sigma propaganda videos are also known to be homophobic, since they tend to portray people who identify as LGBTQ+ identities as "stupid", "weak", "effeminate" or "trying to push their opinions on others". One example would include LionRuler, who got terminated on YouTube for violating the platform's terms of service.

The admiration of serial killers is another problematic aspect of Sigmas. Some people within this aesthetic romanticize and idolize notorious killers like Ted Bundy, Richard Ramirez and the Columbine Shooters, sometimes even making aesthetic edits of their pictures. This type of admiration for criminals, professionally known as hybristophilia, is often based on a fascination with the killer's intelligence and charisma. However, they tend to ignore the fact that these people have commited actual crimes and trivialize the experiences of their victims and any other people affected by those incidents.

Music[]

This aesthetic is often accompained with musical genres like Drift Phonk and Hardstyle due to the the association between them and gym culture. Electronic music with a "dark" vibe is also really prevalent.

Songs[]

Media[]

Film[]

  • American Psycho (2000)
  • Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
  • Drive (2011)
  • Fight Club (1999)
  • Joker (2019)
  • Nightcrawler (2014)
  • Rocky/Creed Film Series (1976-Present)
  • Southpaw (2015)
  • Taxi Driver (1976)
  • The Batman (2022)
  • The Dark Knight (2008)
  • The Godfather Film Series (1972-1990)
  • The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
  • Whiplash (2014)

Television[]

  • Better Call Saul (2015-2022)
  • Breaking Bad (2008-2013)
  • The Boys (2019-Present)
  • The Walking Dead (2010-2022)

Video Games[]

  • Grand Theft Auto IV (2008)
  • Hotline Miami Series (2012-2015)
  • Payback² (2012)
  • Red Dead Redemption 2 (2018)

Influential Figures[]

  • Andrew Tate
  • Bryan Cranston (especially as Walter White)
  • Christian Bale (especially as Patrick Bateman)
  • Cillian Murphy (especially as Tommy Shelby)
  • Elon Musk
  • Joe Rogan
  • Jordan Peterson
  • Ryan Gosling
  • Zyzz

Gallery[]

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