“I was told there was going to be a large-breasted woman!” “Me too!”

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.

bromontage

For added fun, I have included a hastily-made “bromontage.”

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4 thoughts on ““I was told there was going to be a large-breasted woman!” “Me too!”

  1. Are you asking what would need to happen for the couple to be readable as gay? My answer would be to omit the line about coming to the restaurant because of the woman. A viewer could then argue for the gayness of Mac and Dennis relationship. As it stands, that short scene writes their sexuality as immutable or at least not open to interpretation.

    I don’t believe that the dynamic would be changed that much. Then again, I think that the hypothetical change of the dynamic depends upon how the couple is rewritten as gay.

  2. Nice Bromontage!
    I would agree that for the couple to actually be widely readable as gay, it would take a lot more than omitting the “large-breasted woman” line. Becker points out that today’s bromance culture uses the “post-closet era” logic that “all gay men are out and that any man who is not out is straight” (18).
    Mac and Dennis could of course be read as gay easily, but it would be pretty damn radical to actually just make these characters admittedly gay on the show. I agree that the dynamics between them in this episode wouldn’t change enormously. But, I do think that unless the show’s producers were coming from a queer or ally perspective and specifically trying to break down stereotypical gay characterizations, the characters of Mac and Dennis would be written to make sure everyone knew they were supposed to be GAY.

  3. I agree that many if not all gay men are “exclude[d] from the privileges of hegemonic masculinity by reinscribing certain rigid gender norms” (Becker, 10) as seen in all three shows that sort of have the tag lane you mentioned: “don’t worry, there’s nothing romantic here”. But then you go on “to an extent that they are unable to participate in “bromantic” relationships without fear of jeopardizing the premise of the “bromance”. However, Becker points out near the end of his article that the character Max in Happy Endings, who is gay, is part of a bromance, gets a long fine with the guys, and doesn’t feel left out of classified male heterosexual activities. He is participating in the activities that adhere to the “bromantic” relationship. However, as Becker points out, his acceptance into the bromance by the other straight males might be costing him his “true” self. I guess I’d like to go the other way and ask, “Maybe Max actually likes sports and stereotypical straight male bonding subjects, but is comfortable with being gay?” Yes, it could very well be Max acts straight because he fears that by expressing his “true” gayness” he’s “jeopardizing the premise of bromance”, but something to consider is maybe Max actually likes sports, playing poker, and having a beer with the guys as a gay man because that’s who he is? Isn’t it possible to perform “masculine” and also be sexually attractive to males? I guess we’d have to ask Max to find out his view.
    Also, props to the bromontage-especially the Frodo and Sam picture.

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