As Becker’s points out, bromances pervade media culture. They are unique because they underline the platonic love between two men without writing either of the characters as gay. This fine line between straight-love and queer-love reaffirms and legitimizes close same-sex (re: male) relationships while it further marginalizes the gay male from “bromance “culture while preventing him from holdingthese types of platonic relationships.
Let us consider Mac and Dennis’ relationship in It’s Always Sunny. Mac assumes the more passive role as the worrier and the caretaker, while Dennis seems to be more of the provider (Dennis goes out and gets the DVDs and groceries while Mac stays at home calling Dennis to make sure that he’s okay). Lest the reader overlays his/her own homoerotic fantasies onto these characters’ relationship – after all, two attractive white men living together and well into their 30s is begging to be read in a queer fashion – the show makes their heterosexuality abundantly clear. When Mac and Dennis fight, the two only meet by promise of a “large breasted woman.” Mac and Dennis may be close and live together, but because they are constantly in pursuit of a heterosexual relationship, any alternate readings are immediately dismissed as incongruent with the very nature of the two characters.
This obvious heteronormalizing of both characters quite literally sets the viewer straight on the nature of Mac and Dennis’ “bromance.” The writers are then free to explore, and play for laughs, the love between these two men. There are almost infinitely many examples of this phenomenon. Barney and Ted on How I Met Your Mother, Pete and Clark on The Office, and Brennan and Dale from Step Brothers are a few examples.
That these portrayals of “bromantic” relationships are dominant and occupy the vast majority of male-male friendships renders impossible the inclusion of an openly gay male in such a televised relationship. It is not so much that current media culture rejects the gay male – in fact, one would argue that it embraces it. Rather, this exclusion stems from the universal necessity for each show or movie to all but say, “Don’t worry. There’s nothing romantic here.” There is simply no room for a gay man in this dynamic insofar as the mentioning of a male character’s gayness (or even the not mentioning of his straightness) undermines the entire foundation of the “bromance.” Thus, gay men are “exclude[d] from the privileges of hegemonic masculinity by reinscribing certain rigid gender norms” (Becker, 10) to the extent that they are unable toparticipate in “bromantic” relationships without fear of jeopardizing the premise of the “bromance” – that is, as something so heterosexual that a queer reading is impossible.
For added fun, I have included a hastily-made “bromontage.”