Strippers and Homophobia in The League

Rather than simply privileging hegemonic masculinity by reifying gender norms, bromance simultaneously enforces certain norms while breaking others, creating an overall more complicated frame between gender norms, expressions of masculinity and sexuality.

In The League, a group of friends goes to a strip club. However, instead of watching strippers, they are engrossed in talking about the draft. Seemingly annoyed at their conversation, the stripper (Ambrosia) tells them they are wrong in their assessment of the draft and reveals herself as an authority on fantasy knowledge. One of the men then asks her the rate for “one on one” time and when she refuses his suggested payment, clarifies that he only wants information and that she can keep her clothes on. When his friend then suggests an also too low counter offer, Ambrosia asks why they do not simply pool their money. Both men respond with revulsion saying “God no, that is disgusting. We don’t cross streams.” When one of the men eventually arranges to go to a private room with Ambrosia, he spends the entire time asking her draft tips, even refusing her when she tries to give him a lap dance.

This scene both reinforces and deviates from gender norms. To begin, the scene reinforces hegemonic masculinity through both its homophobic perpetuation of men sharing sexual experiences and its subject matter. The friends’ illogical refusal to share time with Ambrosia can be read as a move to deny any possible queer connotation. Despite the fact that “sharing” Ambrosia in this case has no sexual connotation (she is only sharing sports facts) the men still feel that any shared male interaction at a strip club would cross the acceptable line of masculinity. Additionally, the space of the scene itself is extremely masculine.  It represents not only the hyper-masculine arena of football but also the heterosexual strip club where men express dominance over women through the act of visually objectifying them.

However, this setting ultimately only serves to increase the ambiguity and parody of gender norms. Hegemonic masculinity demands strict and active heterosexuality. Yet the scene demonstrates inactive heterosexuality. Despite the fact that the men are literally being bombarded with images of women in sexualized positions, they fail to even look at the women until football is mentioned. Further, one man actively rejects Ambrosia’s advances in favor of talking about fantasy football.

Ultimately this reveals the assertion of hegemonic masculinity’s stricter norms (repudiation of homosexuality) and an erosion of other norms (active assertion of heterosexuality). This is consistent with Becker’s argument that “constructions of hegemonic masculinity may remain thoroughly linked to heterosexuality, but the bromance discourse suggests that the perceived tension between the imperative to bond with other men and to be heterosexual is abating” (Becker 18). The League then shows male relationships in a state of transition. Although some gender norms may be breached, others must remain intact.

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