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The Living Room Relationships Bromances and Homosexuality
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Bromances and Homosexuality
When did bromance take over the world? I think it must have something to do with Judd Apatow and his never-ending well of bros. And in so many flavors! But I think movies like "I Love you Man" and Hump Day and superbad are actually an indication of a recent and fascinating societal shift. In her post about The Doll's House, Hanna mentions walls being shattered and roles being reexamined. And I think we're crossing a point, in America at least, homosexuality is being reexamined and old roles are being dropped. And I think movies like the ones I listed and the "bromance" itself are an offshoot of a greater level of acceptance to the gay community.

Men have always been closeted in a very certain way. We are expected to close off emotions because it is considered a weakness and strictly a female reaction to their enviroment. Basically we've always had roles. We've fit into them like a hand into a very tight glove. And now we're becoming more and more comfortable with our naked hands. It's becoming alright to be openly yourself, be it gay, straight, or otherwise. And now our at one time closeted and disguised homoerotic straight male relationships can now be displayed proudly in public.

I don't think bromances are anything new really, but now they are entering a new dialogue. I mean there have always been men's clubs right? And through a lot of cultures? Aren't those the ancestors to today's movies? I think we are at a point in history where the once-established role of the gay community is finding new meaning and movies that display straight male relationships are helping promote that shift.  It's an indication that we are removing the stigma from the subject matter and where once a gay member to a group of straight males had to hide his sexuality, now we're learning not to care.

Homophobia has always been driven by men. You rarely hear hate generating from females and when you do, it is almost always religous. But men fear homosexuality. Why? Why is so much hate attached to it? Is it a fear of the disentigration of family and home? Or does it go back to Hanna's post about fragility? Are men afraid that the roles we have built over the centuries for ourselves will collapse and we won't be left with any sort of order? If that is the case then bromances are making the first steps in altering the male's consideration of homosexuality. I think we can only expect more of these movies until gay marriage is completely legalized. That doesn't sound bad to me.
I would have thought the opposite: that what distinguishes bromances from buddy pictures (which have been around for a long time in American movies) is precisely the degree of hysteria they exhibit concerning homosexuality.

There are probably exceptions, cases where the hysteria is mixed with more nuanced moments; and I also admit that there have recently been a lot of bromances that I haven't seen.  But I use the term 'hysteria' advisedly.  Isn't the core of the bromance, insofar as it's a bromance and not just a buddy picture, the awkward moment when the friends have to negotiate around the possibility of love?  When the relation between male bodies onscreen gets invested with the same kind of narrative affect that, in a romantic comedy, would be produced by dramatic irony?  Isn't the outcome always a feeling of relief that this has been negotiated in a nonsexual way?

In a buddy picture, we might say that the fundamental relation is "homosocial": when women do show up, the men's relations to them actually develop and cement the relationship between the men.  This structure resembles that of the men's clubs that you've mentioned.  Doesn't the bromance turn this structure into a nervous joke?  Even in movies like The Wedding Crashers that avoid showing the kind of dangerous physical intimacy I described a moment ago, the sexual relations to women have to be heightened beyond anything in a buddy picture: you need to actually show the sex scenes, even though the movie isn't really interested in the women.  Where the classic homosocial relationship can't be absolutely disentangled from homosexuality, I suggest that the by speaking explicitly about homosexuality, the bromance develops a narrative necessity to make the separation final.

It seems true that bromances rely on the possibility of talking openly about homosexuality, or what you've called a greater level of acceptance in popular culture.  But I think you've made two further assumptions that might be false: first, that this is an acceptance of the gay community, and second, that the movies not only rely on the possibility of explicitly speaking about homosexuality, but are themselves in some sense "open" to it.  The first point is tangential, but I would only suggest that if a community is represented at all in these movies (usually in comic peripheral characters), this could be a way of taming homosexuality.  The second point is more central, and I've already suggested that there is something akin to the idea of "gay panic" in these movies.  Because this notion itself can now be spoken, we sometimes get a few levels of pseudo-reflection: the characters themselves are aware of the possibility that they are panicking.  In the movies that I've seen, this has not led to a better understanding of men's relations to each other, but to a higher order of panic -- again, the anxious joke at the core of the bromance.

***

There was recently a movie called Humpday that tried to use the bromance formula to treat these questions more seriously.  I'm not sure it was very successful; but if you haven't seen it, you might still find it a worthwhile counterpart to the less conscious efforts of most bromance films.
I haven't seen humpday but I've heard it's great. The premise of the movie is two best friends who haven't seen each other for sometime reconnect and in a state of inebriation they commit to having sex with one another (as two straight males) and filming it as a form of artistic porn. The movie is centered around the buildup to the moment, to the hump day. So while most bromances skirt the issue of actual homosexual sex, humpday embraces it to great effect.

While humpday might stand apart (I haven't seen it yet, but it sounds unlike the archetypal bromances) I think for the most part bromances do not speak on the behalf of a larger gay community. As Jeremy said bromances hardly even recognize the issue of homosexuality except to reject it and the gay characters that are in the movie are usually there as a sort of concession to not accepting the homosexual roles. In I Love you Man, the gay character is Paul Rudd's brother played by Andy Samberg. It is actually an interesting role in regards to the bromance because he is played very stereotypically straight and has a job in a gym where his homosexuality would historically not be seen as okay. Beyond that he makes a game of turning straight guys gay and prefers them to outted gays.

That Andy Samberg plays a more stereotypical male character than his brother who is in the bromance is a comical twist of the movie. I don't exactly know what to make of it in regards to the issues you two presented, but I think it is as Jeremy says used to tame the gay community. It seems like it was mostly used as a role reversal which has been a comedic institution for millenia. I wonder if anyone else has seen this movie who might comment as I can't completely figure out it's implication in regards to our relationship with homosexuality though I feel there is something to it...
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Latest Post: August 28, 2009 at 11:16 PM
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