It’s the insufferable, overused-before-it-even-achieved-ubiquity buzzword of the moment: “Bromance.” Supposedly—and if so, fittingly—coined within the insecure macho skateboarding subculture of the mid-Nineties, the term is loaded with a defensive irony it vainly pretends to preemptively strike. By linking male friendship with romance the neologism at once mocks the “gayness” of open male affection and the perceived “gayness” of open male affection. It’s the perfect passive-aggressive salvo for the enlightened liberal homophobe.
I’m surprised more people haven’t called out the rampant idiocy of this word. “Bromance” doesn’t suggest our culture has become more comfortable about male bonding; instead its euphemistic qualities suggest a greater sense of embarrassment and self-consciousness about it. How is it that in 1941 Rick Blaine could, without a shred of sarcasm, tell Captain Renault, “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”—possibly the most famous line celebrating unromantic male companionship—while more than six decades and several gay rights campaigns later the straight male protagonist has become so increasingly anxious about being decoded and derided as gay that he consistently invents deflections, projections, and self-reflexive, self-deprecating jabs to make sure he never be accused of that.
Casablanca is an appropriate touchstone because “bromance” began its meme ascendancy in the movies. Even in the age of Madea, when non-white (specifically, black) audiences are gaining as much clout at the box office as white audiences, the movies are still a cultural bastion of white, heterosexual male privilege that constantly demonizes and mocks his various Others. From Some Like It Hot to Bachelor Party, film comedies have played a significant role in reinforcing that focal bugaboo of white male anxiety—homosexual panic—but what’s disconcerting is that the contemporary mainstream comedy is now the primary upholder of this fear. Where in the past the action movie and the psychological thriller were the two most popular venues for containing the threat of homosexuality—in the former through a “no sissies” macho heroism and in the latter through portraying gays as mentally deviant perverts—these genres are now transparent laughingstocks. Click here to read the rest of Michael Joshua Rowin’s essay on I Love You, Man and the Apatow Comedy Factory, “Bromicide.”