Indirect Interactions

“Bond with other men and be different than women, but be straight and remain in control” (Becker 17)

In the opening scenes of the episode “Mac and Dennis Break Up”, Mac and Dennis are presented standing at the door of Dee’s apartment. Both men look as if they are a couple, but reassure Dee that they couldn’t have come over to get a large bowl without the other in case of an emergency. Mac and Dennis remain in control and explain to Dee: it isn’t abnormal that two heterosexual men cannot be without each other because they work as a “team” and won’t let the other person down.

Mac and Dennis’ relationship coincides with Scott Keilings study of male bonding in a college fraternity, which relied on a wide range of  “indirect speech genres, acts, and stances as a way to negotiate the contradictory imperatives of hegemonic masculinity” (Becker 17).

Social Indirectness: Kieling notes that “men created homosiociality and expressed a desire for male bonding” by translating conflict via insults, boasts and competitions (Becker 17). Mac and Dennis spend a lot of time with each other, but their affection is turned into conflict when Dee brings up how much time they actually are spending together. Mac takes the break up almost as competition by making his own living condition better than Dennis (by cleaning and trying to change Frank’s lifestyle) and checking in on Dennis indirectly through Charlie.

Topic Indirectness: Keisling explains that another form of indirect speech is how people “talk about impersonal subjects like sports” (Becker 17). Although it isn’t entirely in the episode, topic indirectness is exemplified by the extensive conversations Mac and Dennis have on the movie Alien. More specifically when Mac goes into detail about the physique of the different characters within the movie.

Addressee Indirectness: Keisling adds that “expressing affection for a guy by talking positively about him to someone else while he is present”. The closest example I can connect this to the show is when Dennis talks about the video store clerk and Mac gets extremely aggressive about it.

By having these indirect methods, the two characters Dennis and Mac have a way of expressing their affection for each other but in a heterosexual way. Both Dennis and Mac’s relationship could possibly be seen as homosexual bonding, but because of their indirect communication it offers “straight men another way to express affection for other men” (Becker 17).


2 thoughts on “Indirect Interactions

  1. I also think in the category of social indirectness, the guys’ insistent joking and ridicule of the female in the episode reflect one of the ways they communicate and bond as heterosexual males. Boasting, competing and insulting people outside of each other but doing so together, seems to be a common ground that asserts hegemonic masculinity-agression, dominance, arrogance-yet provides opportunity for male bonding. The fact that these jokes/insults were aimed towards a female, even though they were not degrading, particularly affirms heterosexual masculinity because it enables males to together “access patriarchal privileges” of dominance, and perhaps even attract the female or other females.

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