Even to someone who has never seen a single episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the relationship between Mac and Dennis is obviously “bromantic.” At the beginning of the episode, “Mac and Dennis Break Up,” Dee points out that Mac and Dennis spend an unusual amount of time together. Dee asserts: “It’s like you’re an old married couple,” to which Mac quickly retaliates: “No Dee – we’re more like a dynamic duo.”
As soon as Dee closes the door to her apartment, Mac and Dennis share a laugh about Dee’s comment. However, the mood takes a sudden turn from light-hearted to uncomfortably awkward. Both men seem to come to the same realization: perhaps Dee’s comment has a grain of truth in it!
I think this moment, and the ensuing break-up/make-up between Mac and Dennis in the course of the episode, illustrates Becker’s definition of bromance as a cultural discourse. As Becker explains, contemporary film and media operates within an openly gay space in which traditional gender signifiers have become ambiguous. Therefore, as in the case of Mac and Dennis, straight male characters often feel the need to defend their straightness. Furthermore, the bromance discourse “works to exclude gay men from the privileges of hegemonic masculinity by reinscribing certain rigid gender norms” (Becker). In other words, bromance discourse is a catch-22: it is a “distinct kind of straight male friendship” that applauds homoeroticism between straight men in order to reaffirm traditional notions of heterosexual masculinity.
Throughout “Mac and Dennis Break Up,” Mac and Dennis attempt to disarm Dee’s “married couple” comment and prove to their friends (and perhaps themselves) that “there’s nothing gay going on” (Becker). However, when Dee sets them up for a dinner date, Mac and Dennis let go of the initial tension between them and accept their bromantic feelings. In my opinion, Mac and Dennis seem to come to an unspoken consensus: their relationship is more important than what everyone else thinks. But here’s the catch – by acknowledging their affections, Mac and Dennis prove that they are indeed heterosexual males. In Becker’s words, “bromance discourse is actually about acknowledging and validating straight male bonding.” “Married couple” aside, Mac, Dennis, AND the audience can rest assured that this is a bromance, not a homosexual relationship.