Lion of the Blogosphere

Game in St. Elmo’s Fire, part 1 (the alphas)

Previous posts in this series:

St. Elmo’s Fire: the cast

Someone like Roissy would be better at this, but I think I picked up enough of the “game” terminology to write this analysis. The language of “game” is extremely useful for understanding this movie, and explains why the movie was so hard to understand in the 1980s, because “game” language didn’t exist back then. “Game” is a child of the internet which didn’t exist in the 1980s.

In the typical romantic comedy, the male suitor successfully wins the female by using beta-male tactics, thus creating a whole genre of entertainment based on a methodology that’s bad advice for most men. St. Elmo’s Fire, way ahead of its time, presents a more realistic “red-pill” viewpoint.

Among the four males in the movie, there are two alphas, Rob Lowe and Judd Nelson, and two betas, Andrew McCarthy and Emilio Estevez.


It’s notable that Judd Nelson is the one who dunks Rob Lowe’s head in the toilet in this early scene. An alpha can do that to another alpha, but a beta could never do that to an alpha.

Digressing for a moment, I find this scene disgusting rather than funny as it was intended to be. But the scene also allows us to make an 80s observation: This maneuver wouldn’t have worked today with environmentally-conscious low-gallon-per-flush toilets. Back in the 1980s, toilet bowls were filled up with a lot more water.

Rob Lowe and Judd Nelson represent two different types of alphas. Rob Lowe is the bad-boy musician. There’s not much more I need to say about that. Game experts like Roissy have written reams about women’s sexual attraction to the bad-boy alpha.


In the scene above, Rob Lowe is working his bad-boy alpha magic on this cute girl with wonderful 80s hair at St. Elmo’s Bar.

(She also appears to be wearing a Swatch, and although they are still around today their peak popularity was in the 80s when they were first introduced to the market. And there’s also a Lowenbrau beer bottle, a brand that has disappeared from the United States but was heavily marketed back in the 1980s. 1984 Lowenbrau commercial. After much internet research, I’ve identified the other two bottles as San Miguel Dark Beer, a brand from the Philippines that I’ve never heard of before. The inclusion of that brand may have to do with the fact that it’s popular with sailors from the Pacific region, and the bar is named after St. Elmo, the patron saint of sailors.)

The attempted pickup happens right after Rob Lowe gets off the phone (a payphone in a phone booth at the back of the bar which you can see at the left of the vidcap, and not an iPhone because this was the 1980s before cell phones existed) with his wife. We assume he would have been successful in picking up the girl and having casual adulterous sex with her if Judd Nelson had not pulled him away and then dunked his head in the toilet bowl.


Judd Nelson represents a different kind of alpha. He’s serious about his career, dresses in expensive business clothing, and has an air of imperious arrogance, which can work with girls who may see it as an extreme form of self-confidence. Even though he’s not actually making much money in his career, it’s his demeanor that works with the girls and not money. Many people might describe his character as a jerk or even an asshole, but the movie is realistically telling us that many women like that in men when it’s presented the right way.

In the scene above, after Nelson comes home from work with a present for Ally Sheedy, a sexy red nightgown (how awkward for Andrew McCarthy who is secretly in love with Sheedy), he regales beta nice-guy McCarthy with a tale of sexual conquest while Sheedy is trying on the nightgown:

I innocently go downtown to buy the nightgown and this amazingly leggy blonde salesgirl offers to model it for me. So we wind up doing it standing up in the dressing room in front of a three-way mirror.

Do you know the kind of guy who is always bragging about his sexual conquests? I know someone like that. I find it profoundly annoying.

* * *

These reviews are taking me a long time. I had hoped to be able to write a lot more about this topic.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 9, 2016 at 2:13 pm

Posted in Movies

46 Responses

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  1. “I had hoped to be able to write a lot more about this topic.”

    Well, I have good news for you!


    January 9, 2016 at 2:22 pm

  2. This is really good stuff. I watched the movie (for the first time in years) last night and enjoyed it again but I hadn’t made the game connection per se, but I ‘enjoyed’ the game stuff playing out on the screen. I wonder why watching reality on screen is so enjoyable?

    Anyway, love the product stuff too. Per the Judd bragging scene, it does telegraph that at least Alec doesn’t think Andrew is gay. Straight guys don’t talk to gays like that. I can see trading unspecific stories of this nature under very limited circumstances with very, very close friends and Alec and Andrew (forget his movie name) are allegedly best friends. But, this is weird because Alec knows Andrew doesn’t have stories of his own to tell. In real life would Alec and Andrew be best friends?


    January 9, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    • No it’s not realistic that these 7 people are best friends. But it’s necessary for the purpose of the movie.

      In real life, Alec and Kevin could definitely be friends (based on shared college experience) but probably not best friends because they are too different. In fact, people like Alec (Judd Nelson) often don’t have male best friends because they are too busy having sex with different women and pursuing their career.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      January 9, 2016 at 2:42 pm

  3. Pretty in Pink is the only Brat Pack movie I’ve never gotten around to watching but apparently McCarthy plays the alpha in that one. Just like Ringwald plays the beauty in The Breakfast Club but a less popular girl in some of the other movies. I think it speaks well of an actor when they can pull this off rather than always playing essentially the same character.

    Ryan Gosling is a modern day example of an actor who has effectively played characters on different rungs of the social ladder.

    Jokah Macpherson

    January 9, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    • Being four years too old for high school, this makes McCarthy look more alpha in a high school movie but beta compared to Rob Lowe.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      January 9, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    • I loathe Ryan Gosling.


      January 10, 2016 at 1:32 am

  4. Another consequence of low flush toilets is that cheap donickers have just the same flushing power as expensive ones. They flush using the weight of the water in the tank, which now is set by federal law.

    I’ve told customers at the Major Home Improvement Retailer that they’re better off buying the cheapest terlets whose appearances are okay. Not good for driving sales revenue, I suppose.



    January 9, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    • they’re better off buying the cheapest terlets whose appearances are okay.

      Good Lord, do people care all that much about the appearance of a toilet? No joke, my 4-year-old’s favourite section in the Home Improvement Store is the toilet aisle, and every time we go down there I can’t figure out why there are so many different ones.


      January 10, 2016 at 1:22 am

      • Oh yes, the different styles of donickers are a big deal to many customers. There are a few special features on certain models (no-slam lids, built-in night lights, and just recently the types with no-touch flushing that use a sensor button), but really it just comes down to appearance.



        January 10, 2016 at 8:57 am

  5. Haven’t heard the word Lowenbrau in years. It’s one of those things I forgot existed.

    The Lowenbrau ad is interesting. Do men still where suits to high school reunions?


    January 9, 2016 at 3:42 pm

    • In the 1980’s, Miller Brewing Company held the North American Rights to Löwenbräu and brewed their own version of the beer tailored to American tastes right here in the states. That is why it was so common, but it wasn’t “real” Löwenbräu.


      January 9, 2016 at 6:25 pm

      • You should learn that brands are just names that corporations buy and sell to each other and shouldn’t be taken seriously as meaning anything.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        January 9, 2016 at 6:26 pm

  6. This has been a great series. In some ways, the world of the 1980s was completely different. There was no Internet. There were no cell phones. There was no GPS. In retrospect, everyone was a little tougher and a little more independent then (out of necessity). You couldn’t call anyone at the drop of a hat, and you had to know how to find your way around. You didn’t worry about your kids all day if they left their cell phones at home, and kids didn’t need an electronic security blanket with them at all times. Getting access to all kinds of information was much more difficult.

    On the other hand, things have changed so little that we’re left to contemplate how tight jeans were, the volume of water in toilet bowls, the brands of beer that were available, and neck ties. In 1974, the television show “Happy Days” debuted. It was a nostalgia show about the 1950s, which seemed like another world and ancient history to the people of the mid-seventies. Do we feel as far removed from 2001 as they did from 1959?


    January 9, 2016 at 4:04 pm

    • “In 1974, the television show “Happy Days” debuted. It was a nostalgia show about the 1950s, which seemed like another world and ancient history to the people of the mid-seventies. Do we feel as far removed from 2001 as they did from 1959?”

      Cell phones and the Internet were pretty much ubiquitous by 2001, so the differences between now and then really aren’t that pronounced.



      January 9, 2016 at 10:29 pm

      • It doens’t feel to me that the world has changed much since 2001 except the Twin Towers are no longer around and we have iPhones and iPads.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        January 10, 2016 at 12:34 am

      • I think about this fairly often. The changes in way of life, development of new technology, shifting social mores, the physical appearance of cities, and so forth, were enormous between 1935 and 1975 (I’m old enough to remember 1975). The changes in the subsequent 40 years: personal computers, cell phones, better medical care (not necessarily better health), and what else?

        When I was a kid in ’75, we lived in a house that would still seem like a norrmal suburban house today. We had cars (they didn’t have GPS systems), air conditioned homes, flew on airplanes that looked virtually identical to the ones used today, and blah, blah, blah. Yeah, the electronics of everything that depends on electronics is far improved, but is the texture of life that different?. How much have we changed culturally? It’s hard to say because I’m not 15 years old now, but apart from immigration issues, a lot of the political discussions of 2016 aren’t that different from the kinds of stuff my parents and older brother were talking about when I was a kid.

        ice hole

        January 10, 2016 at 2:02 am

      • e-cigarettes


        January 10, 2016 at 7:13 am

      • To me the world has changed immeasurably since 1975 in the most significant way; in terms of what occurs inside people’s heads. I live among many more people who feel like aliens (not just new foreigners) to me than I would have ever imagined. I don’t think the changes in this regard between 50s and 70s was as great. That respect for science has been replaced with sophistic nonsense like critical theory is a major shift. Watch the ’73 movie The Wicker Man someday. In it, a Christian police officer goes to an isolated Scottish Island where the people have returned to Pagan ways. It affect all aspects of their lives. His shock and horror reflect some of how I now view the world.


        January 10, 2016 at 11:57 am

      • Thanks for the tip. It looks interesting.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        January 10, 2016 at 12:38 pm

  7. This is not what most people would recognize as criticism. Maybe you’ve invented some new type? What does it say about game that we now have game-ist criticism in addition to marxist, freudian, and feminist ones?

    Lloyd Llewellyn

    January 9, 2016 at 4:23 pm

  8. There’s a reason women are attracted by jerks. It’s very simple. I started out being very nice to my co-workers, but I did notice that some people were taking advantage of this, doing politics around my back and so on. Now I’m very sensitive and aware of these. In the beginning I didn’t know how to deal with this. In an academic circle (where I come from), it was much more meritocratic, in the sense that results mattered and people knew where the ideas were coming from. But in a corporate structure, work is less meritocratic (because it’s harder to assign credit where credit is due; it’s not like it’s a clear ideas published first by some people). So I had to adapt to this new corporate environment. The way I did it first was to have help from a friend who was much more experiences in office politics, a mentor if you will. I couldn’t have done what I did without him. But then I had to change myself. Things that made me much more aware were books such as “48 laws of power”, “the prince”, “art of war”, but the more than these there were things suggested by this blog (thank you) such as TGC courses on “art of negotiations”, “games people play”, “art of conflict management” and “influence”. Now I work in a small company, where things are more transparent. But there’s still plenty of politics, and all these things give you a clearer view of things, and allow you to protect yourself, and if you want also attack. I have to say that after all this I am much more prepared politically, and I have no problems on this front.

    And this is where jerks come in. Jerks tend to do better in the office space, especially if people are not equipped to deal with them, and most people are not. Everything else being equal, jerks will just do better in life. It makes sense for women to pick jerks at the expense of the nice guys. I think this observation can be made to most things, not just work, and this is why it’s probably an evolutionary adaptation on the part of women, to pick up the winners. Everything else being equal, being a jerk makes you more of a winner.


    January 9, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    • To me jerks are the folks who are bad at office politics and have to use sheer aggression to seek to dominate. You can definitely increase your profile by predicting their moves and mousetrapping them but you have to have the balls to take them on. If you prepare traps for them and they fall in you look good and they look bad. A lot of this is simply knowing how to frame or re-direct a discussion.


      January 9, 2016 at 6:18 pm

  9. Swingers was the best game movie, rewatching it today is great.

    Bryan Bell

    January 9, 2016 at 4:35 pm

  10. “In the scene above, after Nelson comes home from work with a present for Ally Sheedy, a sexy red nightgown (how awkward for Andrew McCarthy who is secretly in love with Sheedy), he regales beta nice-guy McCarthy with a tale of sexual conquest while Sheedy is trying on the nightgown:”

    Before I learned about “game” and was a white-knight pedestalizing beta, guys like this used to drive me insane. These alphas/ladies’ men who had a hot girlfriend, or a cute girl who was in love with them, yet still hit on/did things with other women. “How could this boor, this brute, do such a thing to these perfect, innocent angels? If I could just get one girl like that, I could die a happy man, yet he’s not satisfied with 2 or 3! It’s not fair!”


    January 9, 2016 at 5:08 pm

  11. Ah, the 80’s, the last great era of romanticism and bleakness. All attempts since have been self-conscious attempts at morose, histrionic expression. New Wave was giddy but littered with dark subtle flavors.

    Sorry for the tangent. The cinema of the period echoed the music.

    Socially Extinct

    January 9, 2016 at 6:12 pm

  12. “Do you know the kind of guy who is always bragging about his sexual conquests? I know someone like that. I find it profoundly annoying.”

    Braggart pick-up artists always strike me as anything but specimens of strong character or secure masculinity. Often I wonder if these are as excited about the actual superficial physical intimacy with the sluts they bang as they are about sharing reports about their conquests with their fellows. Seems pretty gay to me.

    If intimacy is to be any kind of an objective worthy of striving for it should be satisfying in and of itself rather than offering an opportunity for reflected glory by boasting with a bunch of guys.

    I was never one much to brag about my exploits during college but I’ll never forget when I opened up to share with my fellows. One evening while we were all joking around and playing the usual sophomoric swagger trying to project some kind of macho persona, I interrupted and said that what I wanted was some relationship of depth and substance more than any brief kind of superficial affair. Remarkable was how all the guys also broke down and admitted that they wanted the same thing and confessed that a lot of their bravado is a mere act. Nor was I entirely surprised that none of them had all that much more “experience” that I had. I would never have guessed, but the “macho” culture was just as phony as the personae that these fellas put on. I suspect that women are better at seeing through this than young men are… even among their peers. However given how effective seduction game is, women can be “deceived” if the performance is proficient enough.

    I wonder how much of the contemporary hook up culture is really what the individuals who participate in it genuinely want or how much of it is an unfortunate mass psychosis.

    “These reviews are taking me a long time. I had hoped to be able to write a lot more about this topic.”

    I’m probably not the only one who is finding satisfaction with the depth we can direct to the areas we are discussing. Keep it up. I’m going to watch this film tonight so I can contribute some more.

    You’re inspiring me to maybe do some of my own writing and launch a blog. Maybe I’ll invite some of you if you’re interested to have a look while I’m finding my feet and keeping it private.

    Thin-Skinned Masta-Beta

    January 9, 2016 at 6:36 pm

    • I interrupted and said that what I wanted was some relationship of depth and substance more than any brief kind of superficial affair.

      Why? I just don’t see the appeal of relationships.

      Otis the Sweaty

      January 9, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    • Women can respond so differently to sex that I often wonder if guys who appear to need the novelty by fooling around also have boring partners at home? I know that in the past if I was dating a blonde I’d become infatuated with brunettes and vice versa. Perhaps there’s some of that going on.


      January 9, 2016 at 8:43 pm

  13. You basically label Judd Nelson’s character a fraud with lots of confidence. He has many positive qualties also. Most people would like to be his friend.

    A Reader

    January 9, 2016 at 7:12 pm

  14. Jerk behavior signals social status: “I do not need to rely on other people.” It’s also an indicator of authenticity. You know where the jerk stands; he’s not trying to fool you like the kiss-up. Kiss-ups talk the most shit, but they do it when you aren’t around.


    January 9, 2016 at 8:25 pm

  15. I thought that apple pie in the face and head in the toilet are typical of American humor? Why didn’t you like? I haven’t seen the movie, maybe the context wasn’t right? I think what would have been funnier is first pie in the face and after that head in the toilet. Yeah, that would be really funny for an American movie. A double whammy! But you got to be careful lest someone l dies laughing and you get sued. Talk to your lawyer first.

    My dad was playing cards with a dude. The dude lost but had no money to pay my dad. So my dad beat him up. The dude called cops on my dad,but Russian cops didn’t like the dude and they locked him up together with my dad and a bunch of other dudes. The whole night my dad and the dudes played cards in the cell, but the dude who wouldn’t pay was put under a bunk bed next to the bucket used as a toilet and anybody who had a call of nature would kick that dude, spit on him and give him a taste of urine while all the dudes laughed and had a good time. So, without having seen the movie, I think it could be appropriate and funny. My dad was right – your card debts are sacred. I don’t play cards or gamble because I think it’s evil vice, but I agree with my dad about that dude. And my dad was no prole – he was a Physics major at the top University in Moscow until he was expelled in a purge of Jews and then he had to become an engineer because the antisemites would let him be a scientist, but he really loved pure Physics and Astrophysics.


    January 9, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    • all russians are basically prole


      January 10, 2016 at 12:39 am

      • Is prince Charles prole?


        January 10, 2016 at 1:13 am

    • Almost all Russians are sub-prole, no matter how kulturny they try and be. If Pittsburgh were its own country, it would be Russia, only classier.

      When they own their own land, a gun, are moderates, and have a tolerable democracy they move up to yeomen. Not before.


      January 10, 2016 at 1:55 am

      • In Europe most non prole people live in apartments and don’t own a gun, also in NY.


        January 10, 2016 at 7:51 pm

  16. That’s a can of Meister Bräu on the far left there.


    January 9, 2016 at 10:27 pm

  17. BTW – Per the Heartiste angle, Ally’s character ends the movie telling to two boys ‘why don’t we just be friends for awhile.’ What Heartiste calls ‘the friend zone.’ The guys, including alpha Judd, agree (contra Heartiste’s advice). Compare that to Rob Lowe who concedes to Mare Winningham that he won’t be writing her.

    Also, did you notice how many crappy 80s cars there were in this movie? Sure, to be expected, but reminded me of a very bad period in car manufacturing.


    January 9, 2016 at 11:15 pm

  18. I just wanna say that San Miguel is one of the most overrated brands ever. And I’m not even a beer snob, but that stuff was completely tasteless, like Miller Lite with food coloring. Interestingly, I don’t think they managed to fool too many people. Since the ’70s, I’ve spent a lot of time in Mexican restaurants up and down the west coast and I seldom saw anyone order it.


    January 9, 2016 at 11:50 pm

    • Can’t imagine why any Mexican restaurants would bother to serve San Miguel, a beer from the Philippines, when there are plenty of fine beers from Mexico.

      But don’t take my word for it; I may be taste impaired. I actually prefer the clear crisp profile of Mexican beers like Pacifico or Corona. They pair a hell of a lot better with food and life than that dilettantish unbalanced microbrew sludge that seems to be all the rage among the cool kids.

      Thin-Skinned Masta-Beta

      January 10, 2016 at 2:20 am

    • San Miguel is made in the Philipines so I’m not surprised it isn’t ordered much in Mexico. It also is a good, flavorful beer. Perhaps you have it confused with something else.


      January 10, 2016 at 7:15 am

  19. I haven’t seen the movie, but reading your comments here I get a feeling that evolution is true because everything is so beastly. I know intellectually that it’s true, because of all the evidence, but in my heart of hearts I believe that the Man was created on the sixth day, without dising Darvin or anyone. Reading these comments I get a feeling for evolution. Very beastly. Women are beastly too. I remember when I was 12, I was talking to a very nice Russian girl from my class. We were having one of these long Russian conversations that go on for hours and she suddenly goes:
    – ‘I think your wife will be very miserable.’
    – ‘Why is that?’, I go.
    – ‘Because you don’t know how to manage in life and you will never be able to get nice things for her’.

    Basically, without getting into to much unnecessary details, she is thinking like a female and sizing me up as a provider at the age of 12! This is evolutionary behaviour. I knew she more then just liked me, but the practical considerations in her mind were outweighing the emotional. This is an evolutionary female. And she was right – jewry, gold diamonds should be used for the Temple, like Moses said and for the poor, like Karl Marx said – not by a female to parade on the street and turn heads. Dostoyevsky has it nailed down in the first chapter of ‘The Gambler’.

    Of course a man finds new bodies more attractive and desirable, Maimonides dealt with it in his writings, and so did many others. This is the reason that religion organizes man’s sexual behaviour, so that he should be able to focus on the spiritual. It’s silly to waste time and energy on women outside of the framework of what is necessary for health and procreation. Life is for acquiring knowledge and wisdom. Without religion man is lost and can turn into a beast. That’s without seeing the movie, just reading the comments here.


    January 10, 2016 at 12:26 am

    • As a single young man, I think 40% of my day is wasted on thoughts of women, fantasizing about them, etc.

      I would be much more productive to society if I was married.


      January 10, 2016 at 2:58 am

  20. Emilio Estevez as a beta, eh? Amazing.

    Someone like Roissy would be better at this, but I think I picked up enough of the “game” terminology to write this analysis

    Your analysis was actually pretty good, man.

    What always amazes me about movies that get sociosexuality completely accurate is that I don’t understand the men for whom “game” comes naturally, intuitively. These directors, script-writers, etc., they made this film without ever reading an iota about “game” on the internet. Whence this instinctive comprehension? ‘Cause it sure never came natural to me.


    January 10, 2016 at 1:30 am

  21. What makes St. Elmos fire work very well is that the actors are very close to the age of people who would be just out of college at the time.

    It’s probably why Molly Ringwald did not have a role in the movie. She was 17 in the Breakfast Club and could not pull off being a college kid.


    January 10, 2016 at 2:42 am

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