Homosocial Masculinity in Workaholics

Homosocial male environments have tended to perpetuate a conventional hegemonic masculinity, one that subscribes to traditional and specific gender scripts. It is for this reason that ‘bromance’ often excludes gay men. Because gay men are seen to have a difference gender than straight men, a normalized hegemonic masculinity cannot be negotiated or maintained. This is why Michael felt uncomfortable in Bromance and also why Max can have a bromance with Brad and Dave. As long as traditional notions of male masculinity are perpetuated, bromance can apparently exists between men with different sexualities. The reason it tends not to exist, in television and in society, is because masculinity is so narrowly defined. The problem, therefore, is not homosocial relationships, but the type of masculinity they tend to perpetuate. Workaholics both challenges and reinforces hegemonic masculinity and therefore can be seen to complicate Becker’s analysis of bromance. 

Becker uses Kiesling’s model of assessing hegemonic masculinity. The characteristics being: “gender difference (that men and women are “naturally and categorically different in biology and behavior”); dominance (that men ought to be “strong, authoritative, and in control”), male solidarity (that men want and need homosocial bonding); and heterosexism (that men are heterosexual)”(Becker 3). The assumption most clearly challenged in Workaholics is that of dominance. The show continuously pokes fun at Adam’s ideas of manliness, portraying him as a goof for lifting weights on lunch break and being in a body builder’s competition. During the body builder’s competition, Adam begins to cry because of the taunting audience, demonstrating his ‘weakness’.

The show also challenges traditional notions of masculinity through having Adam be the submissive partner in his relationship with the older woman. By presenting the woman as having masculine characteristics (“strong, authoritative, and in control”), the show challenges the assumption of gender difference. However, this gets complicated, for the show frames Adam’s relationship with the older women as negative and emasculating, therefore simultaneously reinforcing hegemonic norms. The heterosexism that exists in traditional notions of masculinity is also challenged in Workaholics, most notably in the scene where Anders and Adam get aroused while wrestling. Although in the show their arousal is explicitly said to be ‘not okay’, it still complicates notions of heterosexism.

Bromance has traditionally excluded gay men because it relies on an extremely narrow conception of masculinity. In order to make bromance more inclusive, hegemonic notions of masculinity must be challenged. I think Workaholics presents characters that simultaneously challenge and reinforce gender norms. Therefore, Workaholics does little to progress traditional bromance.




2 thoughts on “Homosocial Masculinity in Workaholics

  1. I liked your discussion on Workaholic’s helpful but sometimes contradictory portrayal of masculinity. The playfulness or at least different interpretations of dominance throughout the episode is an interesting way to look at the shows we watched. The bodybuilding scenes particularly, I agree both add to Adam’s manliness and makes him look silly. But I think with the other characters although watching other episodes might help this, their masculinity is not so rigidly defined and I think many men (regardless of sexuality) could relate to what happens during the show (helping out a friend in need, working together, having the same hobbies).

  2. Workaholics represents such a complicated space in terms of reinforcing and challenging hegemonic masculinity — which is in part why so many of you chose to write on it. Is it the nerdiness, the “workaholic-ness,” that allows it to perform this role so effectively?

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