Some Problems of Bromances in “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”

I think the idea of a bromance is really interesting; especially, in respect to what it does to the idea what it means to be queer and how queerness functions in society.

Ron Becker addresses some of the problems of a “bromance.” He writes, “Some critics have focused on the way jokes or scenarios involving straight men presented in gay contexts can work defensively to re-establish (rather than problematize) a character’s heterosexuality. Such humor, Margo Miller asserts, functions as a form of “ironic dismissal,” and the increase of such comedic situations on 1990s television, she argues, ‘reflected a new hostility toward queerness in straight male characters'” (Becker, 15). In a way Becker is right, the bromance contrasts the heterosexual and homosexual and that contrast allows the heterosexuality to shine through. However, like Miller argues, the “ironic dismissal” reflects the fact that homosexuality is still not completely accepted in the media or society.

Like others have said and is, I think, abundantly clear in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, it is easy to mistake Mac and Dennis for a gay couple. While in a way, bromances show an acceptance of homosexuality because homosexuality is being shown on television and isn’t completely ignored like it was just over a decade ago. And yet, there is something about witnessing a bromance in the media that makes me uncomfortable. The idea of a bromance, in a way, seems to be poking fun at or  delegitimatizing homosexuality because it suggests that a bromance is the only time when two guys can indulge in more emotional bonding. Becker supports this when he says, “By playfully translating homosocial bonding into the cultural codes of homosexual bonding, the bromance discourse functions similarly, offering straight men another indirect way to express affection for other men” (Becker, 17). Bromances give men a way to express affection for other men, which even when innocent becomes queer. I find this notion troubling because it drags a lot of negative stereotypes of women and what it means to be a man into the picture which perpetuate negative stereotypes of gay men. I also think that the idea of a bromance creates heterosexual anxiety which led to the popularization of the phrase “no homo” which I honestly find horrible.  This video is a parody of the phrase but serves as an example of how “no homo” is used. “No homo” is used to rebuff the idea that an emotional connection or really anything that would make a man less of a man (interest in fashion, men’s bodies, musicals, attention to appearance, etc) are homosexual and therefore require the phrase “no homo” to assert their heterosexuality.

Also,the bromance in this show seems to adapt some of the negative stereotypes of women and throw them onto Mac (insinuating that he’s more of a woman? Or, that in a gay relationship one of the guys is more “feminine”). This is evident in the scene when Dennis hasn’t checked in with Mac and Mac freaks out and calls the cops to report a missing person–which is pretty clingy, a trait that is stereotypically female. The bromance also adds a comedic factor… it’s funny watching Mac and Dennis interact; but, what does the fact that we’re laughing mean?



3 thoughts on “Some Problems of Bromances in “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”

    • I think that Lonely Planet is satirizing the phrase because as the song continues the examples get more and more absurd and show some of the problems of the phrase and thereby homophobia. But, as we talked about in class, I think some people could read it as reifying the ideas which is problematic and I’m not which reading does more good/harm.

  1. Reading this post made me think about what the alternative to “no homo” and other overt methods to disassociate emotionally based male relationships would actually be. While I agree that “no homo” is extremely problematic and excludes gay men, is failing to have a space that allows intimate non-sexual male relationships really better? Phrases like “no homo” allow some men to be able to have these sorts of connections without feeling that they are breaking a taboo of masculinity through aligning themselves with homosexuality. Main stream contemporary understanding of the links between sexuality and masculinity has not progressed to a point that queerness is an accepted and non-stigmatized part of a relationship. This means that without bromances distancing themselves from queerness, they probably could not exist. Obviously “no homo” is not an ideal outcome, but it can be seen at least as a step that opens the possibility of intimate male friendships that ultimately expands conceptions of “acceptable” masculinity overall.

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